Herald on Sunday



Kiwi singer-songwriter and actor Barry Conrad is nailing his star to the rigging in his latest single, Ocean Road, while also becoming a heart-throb on Neighbours.

South Auckland-raised Conrad has had more than a decade of success across the Tasman with musicals, featuring in the movie The Sapphires, making the final 12 on X Factor Australia in 2013 and has released numerous singles.

Conrad also had a brush with death in 2017. He almost lost his life when he suffered a pulmonary embolism and lost half a lung, and now looks at life through a very different lens.

“The doctor told me that if I wasn’t in such good shape, I wouldn’t have survived,” he said. “Afterwards, I could hardly speak two words without gasping for air, let alone sing or work out. Suddenly I was confronted by the thought that I may never perform again. It was so scary. I worked hard to rehab myself . . . I still feel my limitation­s now but I’ve come so far,” Conrad tells Spy.

He got back on his “theatre wave”, doing five shows on the road back-to-back (Violet, Hairspray, Grease, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Madiba) over five years.

His last theatre performanc­e was Madiba to a home crowd in Auckland in 2019.

“It was an honour and so meaningful to help tell the story of Nelson Mandela, especially as a black mixed-race South African man,” he says.

Conrad was initially offered the role of dangerous bad-boy Kane Jones on Neighbours as a one-off but found the character appearing over and over.

Aussie entertainm­ent headlines lit up at the beginning of this year at the latest storyline to bring Conrad’s character back to the show and fans are now asking him for selfies.

The TV acting schedule has suited his music writing skills more than musicals. He wrote Ocean Road while “Covid cooking” last year. The song is inspired by someone very special to him and its launch in February ended a long musical drought.

“It’s really the most honest thing I’ve done so far, as both a singer and songwriter. The music video was filmed in Byron Bay and directed by ARIA winner Matt Sharp, who has worked with Guy Sebastian and The Veronicas,” he says.

Conrad is looking forward to coming home to see his family after the transtasma­n bubble opens at midnight tonight.

What kind of project would bring Conrad home to work long-term, a musical, Shortland Street or a music show?

It’s a no to the stage and a yes to the screen from this Tasman-hopping star, so let’s hope Shorty producers are paying attention.

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Barry Conrad

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