Let him en­ter­tain you

Fa­ther­hood and fidelity, the fu­ture of Take That, and his tat­too wars with One Di­rec­tion. Fol­low­ing Rob­bie Wil­liams’ sell­out con­cert at the Aviva Sta­dium, Guy Gill­field met him

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - COVER STORY -

A few months ago, back­stage be­fore the Brit Awards in Lon­don, Rob­bie Wil­liams spot­ted One Di­rec­tion’s Harry Styles down the cor­ri­dor and shouted out a greet­ing. ‘I used to be Harry Styles,’ he mur­mured to me, then re­turned to his dress­ing room to re­hearse a dance rou­tine he was still learn­ing for the song he would per­form that night, his num­ber one Candy, a song that has be­come his third-big­gest-sell­ing sin­gle ever.

Wil­liams has been go­ing to the Brit Awards for over half his life — in that time he has re­ceived a record 17 awards. Later on that evening, sit­ting down to talk back at his home, he says that he had just been read­ing the novel Kill Your Friends by John Niven. ‘He’s got a very cyn­i­cal view of the record in­dus­try,’ Wil­liams noted, ‘but it res­onated with me.’ As he read the book, he also stum­bled across a pas­sage about him­self, de­scrib­ing a young and newly sober Rob­bie Wil­liams in the 1990s. ‘He says, “Now there’s a guy that’s been handed all the sevens,” Wil­liams re­counted. “Who has been handed the cards.”

‘And it re­ally struck a chord with me. Yeah, this could have hap­pened to any­body and it hap­pened to me. And that I’m a lucky son of a bitch, and so is ev­ery­body else in the record­ing in­dus­try. Apart from Prince. And a cou­ple more that don’t come to mind. I just look at all th­ese peo­ple, in­clud­ing my­self, and just think we’re all so very lucky.’

Lucky Rob­bie’s lat­est killer hand dealt him all the aces: first he fi­nally hung up his bach­e­lor boots and mar­ried Ayda Field, a 34-yearold Amer­i­can ac­tress, then be­came a fa­ther for the first time when his new wife gave birth to their daugh­ter Theodora [ Teddy] last Septem­ber. And his lat­est tour, which in­cludes a four-night run at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, is his big­gest yet. Not bad for a Take That tearaway...

So, what hap­pened to wild Rob­bie? Did you ever ex­pect at this point in your life to be mar­ried and set­tled down with a baby? No, I ex­pected to be child­less and wife­less. All the way through my 20s I wanted some­one to be my maid and look af­ter me, and I just wasn’t in the right place to ac­cept any­body’s love. And then, to­wards the end of my 20s, I started to re­alise I ac­tu­ally quite liked this life of bed-hop­ping and shar­ing my prob­lems with many peo­ple. I thought that’s how my life would be and I was happy with that.

Then Ayda came into my life and I loved her and I re­spected her and I wanted dif­fer­ent things. So I de­cided to fol­low that path in­stead. I made a com­mit­ment, she made a com­mit­ment to me. I also no­ticed the fact that my heart was lighter, my head was lighter, and that’s not a bad thing. We’re a great cou­ple, we’re the best of friends, and I like her. It might be a triv­ial thing but I do no­tice that a lot of peo­ple who are mar­ried or hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship look as though they don’t like each other. The love bit’s quite easy; it’s out of your con­trol. The like bit’s the dif­fi­cult bit.

But you still weren’t sure you wanted to be a fa­ther? It was some­thing I had to get my head around. But it was some­thing that Ayda wanted and I love her. And thank God I did have a kid be­cause I’m to­tally in love with Teddy and it’s clichéd but it gets deeper and deeper each day. It just makes ev­ery­thing make sense some­how.

When you left school, what was your goal in life? To have a white Porsche Turbo Car­rera with a spoiler on the back and I wanted to pick up my mate, Lee Han­cock, from his house. And I wanted to get Richard Kirkham some track­suits — he was born on the same day as me. I wanted to be a B-Boy [break­dancer] and have a Troop or Bri­tish Knights track­suit, which was the height of cool then. And that was about the height of my am­bi­tion.

Did you man­age to do those things? I did send Richard a cou­ple of track­suits many years later but they were minia­ture track­suits as a joke, and a crate of beer and some Em­bassy No. 10 be­cause he bought me loads. And at one point I had a black Porsche GT. I bought loads of sports cars one day in Los An­ge­les. Five cars. And then I got them back to the house and they sat there on the fore­court and I felt re­ally bad. In­stantly it was, ‘What have you done? What a k***head.’ Not for the fact that I couldn’t drive; it was just a waste of money.

A les­son learned, then? The les­son was: I don’t want for much. Don’t be waste­ful. I have a chef, I have 24-hour se­cu­rity and I have peo­ple that look af­ter me: those are my lux­u­ries. There’s my five cars, there’s my jewellery. Apart from that I don’t need any­thing.

What were your mu­si­cal goals? Well, ev­ery­thing got ful­filled kind of quickly. I got way past any­thing that I could have ever dreamed about by the time I was 20, 21. Ev­ery­thing else was a bonus. The Take That thing was amaz­ing, then I left and pretty in­stantly I went on to sell 60 mil­lion al­bums and per­form to mil­lions of peo­ple. So I think all my boxes got ticked very quickly. And now I’m try­ing to in­vent more boxes to go out and tick but I don’t know what they are yet.

You’ll be 40 next Fe­bru­ary — how do you feel about that? Are you wor­ried about be­ing ‘past it’? It’s a mixed bag of nuts, re­ally. Right now I have a bit of trep­i­da­tion. I’m in a young man’s game. Ev­ery­body seems to be a lot younger than me now in my place of work. And I’ve al­ways been the youngest. I was the youngest in Take That — I still am.

Will you have a big party to mark it? The plan is to go all out, yes.

Look­ing back, how do you feel about the Take That re­union? It was a tremen­dous suc­cess on all counts. Per­son­ally, I got to be a friend to four other boys and they got to be a friend to me. Ar­tis­ti­cally we made a record that our fiercest crit­ics seemed to re­ally like, and then com­mer­cially it sold a bunch.

So can you tell us that you’ll def­i­nitely do it again? Yep. Yeah, I will. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily know how or when. There’s four other boys, there’s wives, there’s chil­dren. But there are more things con­spir­ing for it to be a yes rather than a no.

Did the Take That tour change how you felt about go­ing back on the road again? It gave me my con­fi­dence back — I was in sta­di­ums do­ing a 27-minute spot by my­self, and that was enough for me to re­alise, ‘Oh, I can still do this.’

When you gave One Di­rec­tion their award at the Brits, you called them your ‘ five

show­biz broth­ers’. They are. I sang She’s The One with them on The X Fac­tor, so I’ve seen var­i­ous stages of their growth.

And I’ve been a mem­ber of One Di­rec­tion, as it were. So I like see­ing how they’re do­ing. Fol­low­ing Harry and his many ro­mances and be­ing slightly en­vi­ous. Check­ing out their new tat­toos and me show­ing them my new tat­toos. I’m in the One Di­rec­tion bad tat­too club. I have bad tat­toos — so do they.

Who’s win­ning? They’re win­ning. They’ve got some hor­ren­dous ones.

But you see some of your young boy band

self in them? Yeah, of course. It’s hard not to. It seems as though there’s no Ja­son Or­ange and Gary Bar­low there to tell them off and give them, iron­i­cally, a bit of di­rec­tion. It would seem that it’s a band of Rob­bies and Marks. It’s go­ing to be fas­ci­nat­ing to see what hap­pens. You know, it’s their jour­ney. If they need my help, I’ll be there. But I’m sure they’ll be fine. I’m sure there’s go­ing to be some mirac­u­lous mo­ments and some hellish mo­ments, but that’s life.

You stopped work­ing with Guy Cham­bers af­ter five al­bums when you fell out but you re­cently blogged that you’d writ­ten

your first new song to­gether. I am go­ing to do my next pro­ject with Guy. I can’t say one hun­dred per cent what that is yet be­cause I’m still in the mid­dle of this one. We’ve been in the stu­dio and it is amaz­ing how well we work to­gether.

What’s the most im­por­tant thing you’ve

learned since leav­ing Take That? Men­tal sur­vival. I’m still learn­ing it. The most im­por­tant skill, I sup­pose, is not to self-de­struct. But my 30s, apart from a lit­tle blip, have been the most suc­cess­ful decade, spir­i­tu­ally and ro­man­ti­cally and head­wise. It’s the hap­pi­est I’ve been. I sup­pose ev­ery decade’s a huge tran­si­tion, but this time it’s been into rel­a­tive peace and tran­quil­lity and hap­pi­ness and safety.

How do you feel about your cur­rent solo

sta­dium tour? At the start of ev­ery tour you feel as if you’ve never done it be­fore — it’s an ex­treme sport. I want to have my tri­umphant mo­ment in th­ese huge places be­cause I don’t know if I’ll want to, or if I’ll be al­lowed to do this again, this big. What do you think you are best at? [A very long pause, then...] I don’t know. Re­ceiv­ing luck?

Above (l-r): Rob­bie, Gary Bar­low, Howard

Don­ald, Mark Owen and Ja­son

Or­ange on the Take That re­union

tour. Far left: Rob­bie with baby daugh­ter Teddy and, op­po­site page, with his wife, Ayda Field

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