Gary Barlow: ‘Take That fans are like an army’
Gary Barlow opens up about the incredible highs and crushing lows that brought him to where he is today
Revealing all in his memoir, A Better
Me, Gary Barlow, 47, tells how far he has come, from struggling with his weight – which ballooned to 17st at one point – to dealing with the pain of his daughter Poppy’s death in 2012. With an army of fans behind him, the pop star’s journey back to health and chart success is inspirational… On growing up… Music is all I ever wanted to do. As a teenager, I’d do gigs and play five hours straight, then get home, put earphones on and play until I fell asleep. It’s tough telling your parents you’re going to be a pop star at that age! But they believed absolutely in what I was doing. My dad worked in a factory – we weren’t wealthy at all. But I remember dragging him to a music shop, where we saw this keyboard. It was £400, an unbelievable amount of money in 1984. My dad said to my mum, ‘ You know all that time off I’ve got [from work]? I’m going to ask if I can be paid not to take my holidays and buy this.’ I spent six months playing it every night, until I mastered it. My dad always said, ‘If you work hard enough, the luck will find you.’
On fame and friendship…
I started out just wanting to perform music, then this other thing arrived in the room – being famous. Take That were adored, screamed at… I ended up believing it all, and it’s wholeheartedly unhealthy. Before our record label dropped us and it all went
wrong, my Filofax was full of friends. They all disappeared overnight, except for six people. Those six people are still in my life today, and they mean the world to me.
On his fans…
They’re like an army! Me and the fans all started out together in 1990, and I know so many of their first names now. We have this crazy, long relationship and they’ve been through the ups and downs with us. Our audiences range in age from six to 80.
On facing failure…
I counted 18 months’ worth of horrible daily press at one point. I’d love to say it doesn’t bother you, but every word does. I started to think the answer lay in just staying in the house. I stayed inside for four months once. I realised that, if I put on a bit of weight, fewer people recognised me and the more invisible I was. This happened over two years. By the end, I was 17st 2lb.
On his weight issues…
At my largest, I was unrecognisable, but I was also in heaven because no one bothered me. Food numbed everything – it was like a big hug. The day it all changed, I call ‘Fat Day’. It started with me trying to get enough momentum to roll out of bed. I just sat there, 5st heavier than I am now, and thought, ‘This isn’t me.’ My wife, Dawn, said, ‘Maybe you should go to the doctor.’ He told me, ‘ You’re not just obese, you’re quite far into that bracket – you’ve got to do something, or it’s going to affect your health.’
On finding happiness…
When Take That came back, we shot straight to No. 2. I’d had a few kids [Daniel, Emily and Daisy], and I wanted to hug every one individually! I just felt this big change. With every single show, I always give 150 per cent. I never see it as, ‘Let’s get through tonight.’ If I were to leave behind any kind of legacy, I’d like to be thought of as someone who made people happy.
A Better Me by Gary Barlow, £20 (Blink).
Signing for excited Take That fans back in 1992
Take That today: Gary with Howard and Mark Performing with Cheryl at the 2012 London Olympics
With mum Marjorie and daughter Emily Son Daniel looks just like his famous dad