This article first appeared in Attitude issue 286, August 2017.
Words: Adam Duxbury
Photography: Markus Bideux
When did you first become interested in fitness?
I’ve been going to the gym for a while now, probably five years, but I never took it too seriously until about a year ago. I was appearing in Footloose in front of a thousand people every night and halfway through the show ‘I Need a Hero’ comes on. I’m wearing a pair of dungarees which are ripped off me to reveal a pair of gold hot pants underneath. That’s enough to scare anyone to the gym.
So, what’s a typical day in your fitness routine like?
I try to go to the gym every day. With Footloose, most days it’s just the one show but I’ll be in a different town or city every week. So, I do two things every day: I go to the gym and I manage my business. I often have a day off on a Sunday so I spend that with family. But the rest of the time it’s working out and that’ll usually be just lifting weights. I’ve got quite a fast metabolism, so I don’t need to do much cardio but I might do the occasional run. The show itself is quite energetic — that’s my cardio really.
What inspires you to keep fit, apart from those gold hot pants?
[Laughs]. It’s become a way of life. I feel better when I’m working out and that makes me eat better which makes me feel even better. It just makes me much sharper; the fitness side of things shapes the business side of things because I’m more focused and more driven. Once you have a small taste of being in shape, you want the next level. In my head, I’ve still got a long way to go. I want to put on at least half a stone more in muscle. I’m naturally quite skinny. Before going to the gym, I was this tiny, skinny rake and I definitely don’t want to go back to that.
You’ve recently launched your own range of coconut tea called Cuppanut — where did the idea come from?
Again, it was fuelled by my healthy lifestyle. Just over a year ago I was playing around with ideas in the kitchen. I recognised that coconut is huge at the minute; coconut oil, coconut water, but there wasn’t a coconut hot drink. So, I messed around with desiccated coconut and developed it from there. Holland & Barrett heard about it from an interview I’d done and loved the idea. They gave me a full listing in all their stores. We’re now moving into an area of cooking sauces nd also coconut-based soups called — wait for it — Cookanut!
How does musical theatre compare with making pop music?
I like the live element of theatre. Every night you get a crowd, Footloose is a very popular show and it’s great to be in it. Having that instant feedback is wonderful. I play a comedy role and I get the laughs and that’s very satisfying. Sometimes as an artist in the charts you spend so much time in the recording studio. I enjoy that too but you’re performing to a producer, or else on TV it’s a handful of people in a small space. Yeah, you get to do the big venues and I’d love to be a pop star again and make another album but for now I’m loving theatre.
Wherever you find musical theatre you find hordes of gay men — do you have a gay fan base that you’re aware of ?
Yes and it’s great, I love it. Theatre attracts lots of different people, I get to meet so many people at the stage door and at gigs. I’ve done G.A.Y. lots of times and I do lots of the big gay clubs around the country. It’s always a great crowd and they love their music. Most of my best friends are gay and most of them are in the performance industry.
You have to tell us about that amazing drag look you recently debuted on your Instagram account!
I was asked to perform as part of Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief. Myself and four other guys formed a band called Boys Aloud — a take on Girls Aloud, and I was Cheryl. I loved it and went all out. Maybe I took it a little too seriously but I’ve dressed as a girl a few times and I’d do it again!
Do you ever think you’ll return to the studio and release a full album again?
I’ll definitely do that in the future, although I’m not sure when. But the more theatre I do, the more I love it. Acting has been a great release for me because of my stammer and the struggle I go through because of that. I adopt a different persona when I learn a script, I practise that and then speech just isn’t a problem on stage. As soon as the lights are on, I breathe, walk and speak in a different way. I’m somebody else, not me. For some reason that just works.
And you have done lots of work to raise awareness of communication disabilities, even qualifying as a speech coach for The McGuire Programme. Tell us a bit more about that work?
It’s been a big part of my life. I’ve instructed 10 courses now and it’s great to give back. Most of the time it’s a struggle, though. Particularly recently because I’ve been so busy. As a result of that, my speech has taken a back seat which I hate. I wish that wasn’t the case but that’s life and sometimes other things have to take priority. But one of my greatest achievements was to heighten awareness of people who stammer.
Do you and Will Young keep in touch?
Yes. Will and I went through a hell of a lot together. [Pop Idol] was the first of its kind, well before X-Factor, nobody knew what it was going to become. We speak whenever we can, text each other every now and again and hook up when we can. He’s a good friend and a great performer.
You seem to have a lot on your plate at the moment — what’s next?
I’m constantly working on ideas. The coconut range is taking up most of my time, I’m in Footloose until the end of the year and then straight after that I’m in panto. I’m always doing my own gigs, too. I’ll never stop performing, it’s what I love to do the most.