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

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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).

W o rl a b y r a g ffi l a i c o @ / m a r g a t s n I

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

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