I’m just getting started says pop star Will Young
- Credit: Archant
It’s the dying seconds of my chat with Will Young. Asked to wrap things up by his PR, the ever gracious singer-songerwriter lets me ask one more question. It it true he was approached to become a judge on The Voice?
“I didn’t even know that was a rumour, not true from my end,” he answers. Would he consider it if asked when the show switches from the BBC to ITV next year? “Hard to say because it hasn’t happened,” he adds.
Picturing him in one of the big red chairs isn’t a stretch. He’s been where the contestants are, getting his break on Pop Idol. He’s taken breaks from music before, telling me there may have been times over the years that he’s thought he prefers acting and writing.
“There probably will be again... It’s like going on holiday with one friend for the rest of your life. However much I would love that friend there would be a time when I would want a break and hang out with someone else. It’s the same in my work and my art. If anything, doing stuff outside music keeps my passion for it alive.”
Vice versa, music fuels his love for acting and writing.
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“Very much so. I’ve been doing some writing, I’ve got some acting stuff coming up that I’m really looking forward to. My appetite for acting does get sated when I do my music videos, that’s why I’ve always found them a challenge in terms of being a performer; I’ve never really done a straight music video,” says Young, nominated for an Olivier Award for his role in the London revival of Cabaret.
He doesn’t believe you ever have to be one thing. Nor should you do something because you feel it’s what you should be doing.
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“I always want to be doing something that’s in my heart. It doesn’t matter if that’s not the norm, it doesn’t even matter if that could be to the detriment of earning more money or things like that - I don’t see any point in doing stuff and being miserable. I always check in with myself to see what it is that I really want to be doing at any one stage and then I act accordingly. I might in five years time do a complete turn around and go and do something completely different.”
Right now it’s all, says Young, “good in the hood”. He was really excited about getting back on stage after a three-month break, including a stop by Newmarket Nights. It’s a different vibe to being in the experimental, calculating, environment of the studio, constructing songs.
“A stage show is calculating in a different way; working out what moves an audience, what doesn’t... I tend to modify the shows pretty much as I go along anyway. I tend to stay quite true to the songs, particularly the big singles; my thought process being they are always going to be higher energy, more like 3D when you go and see them live,” says the singer, whose debut single Evergreen/Anything Is Possible is one of the bestselling singles of all time in the UK.
“I know when I love songs I always love to hear them similar to the record, it’s more about the presentation, that changes every time and I think it gets better and better actually. The whole show’s probably quite surprising.”
The tour followed closely on the heels of sixth studio album 85% Proof, his fourth number one album. It’s not something he takes for granted; while definitely a form of validation his rule of thumb is he’s happy with it even if it doesn’t sell any copies. Once a record’s out there, he says it’s not really his any more.
“It’s really out there for interpretation, interest and enjoyment. Once it’s kind of formed and it gets an audience it takes on a different life. What’s brilliant is doing a live show, the songs take on another life so they go through this constant evolution - from the beginning stage to being released and then worked out how it is to play them live.
“I don’t tend to have many, if any, samples when I play - 95% of everything is live and I’ve always tried to keep it that way. Lots of people don’t, which is fine; sometimes you do need it because it’s very hard to recreate a sound. Most of the time you can recreate it live or find something even better.”
Writing has got easier over the years says Young; admiting he never found it that pleasureable.
“I always found it a bit of a struggle, but now I feel like I’ve found my writing voice. That’s really come with doing a fair amount of writing - be it a book, talks or commentary pieces which I do every now and then so I feel through that I’ve found my lyrical voice.”
I wonder whether the struggle was born out of not wanting to bare too much of his soul, to retain some semblance of privacy? Was it a confidence issue, not that he seemed lacking in that respect when he famously took Simon Cowell down a couple of pegs during a harsh critique on Pop Idol.
“No, I think it’s more about maturing and learning as a writer and certainly a performer; my performance now has moved on light years in terms of where I first started. I think that comes down to experience. It also comes down to the acting and Cabaret was certainly a big leap forward in terms of recognising and remembering what I can do as a performer because it can be inhibiting being a pop star because I’m always playing the same character.
“I’ve realised I can still be me and I’ve kind of embraced the aesthetic side of things. For these gigs, aesthetically the way I look and the way the band is going to look is quite different and my point on this tour is you can kind of wear anything and still be the same person. I’m kind of approaching this show as I would’ve when I was six discovering a dressing up box. That’s the kind of vibe of the show, pure childish enjoyment.”
You’re never too old to delve into your imagination and fantasy and be what you want to be?
“No, I’m just getting warmed up.”