Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Gary Go: Take That's top tip

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

Take That have hand picked up-and-coming pop star Gary Go as the opening act on their summer stadium tour.

The London-born singer spoke to the BBC News website about his concert plans, his debut album and the patronage of the world's biggest "boy" band.

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Gary Go sings Wonderful

The first thing you notice about Gary Go is that, well... he looks a bit like a school swot.

Dressed in a jacket and tie, his freckled face framed by a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, he looks sharp and likeable - but he hardly embodies the essence of rock and roll.

Gary Go
The singer worked in several recording studios before his big break

Maybe it does not matter, though, because the quirky, geeky image is instantly recognisable. After all, can you name a pop star since Elvis Costello who has made a virtue of wearing, rather than causing, spectacles?

"It's so funny. People say: 'You're making glasses cool again,'" laughs the 24-year-old, who has a stigmatism in his right eye.

"And I say: 'Well, I think seeing is pretty cool!' I never thought of it as anything else. I need them to see."

'Inspirational'

This summer, the singer will be looking out at thousands of Take That fans, after the band personally selected him to open their 19-date stadium tour.

The pop group said they had fallen in love with his "amazing voice and inspirational songs". "He really is quite wonderful," added Mark Owen.

Gary Go is particularly excited by July's London dates, for one special reason.

Take That in concert
Take That's tour kicks off at Sunderland Stadium of Light on 5 June
"I get to play Wembley Stadium, which is where I grew up," he says. "So that's a bit of a dream fulfilled."

Indeed, Wembley played a formative part in Gary's musical upbringing. He heard the distant strains of Live Aid from his back garden - and he went to his first concert at the stadium.

"It was Michael Jackson's History tour," he recalls.

"I'll never forget, he came on in a spaceship that shot through the bottom of the stage - and he was standing there still with the big pilot glasses on and everyone was just going nuts.

"I'm still a huge fan. He's just a genius."

But the singer, whose real name is Gary Baker, owes more to the power ballads of Elton John than Jackson's soul-infused pop.

His debut single, Wonderful, is a shimmering slice of sing-along songcraft. If you can imagine a more uplifting version of Coldplay's Yellow, you'll know exactly what it sounds like.

I'd like to do something special, some sort of props or something that makes it different,
Gary Go on his tour plans

The lyrics: "You've got to look yourself in the eye and say, 'I am wonderful'", were the singer's personal pep talk after he flunked a job interview at Peter Gabriel's Real World recording studios in Bath.

"I went in to speak with the man himself," he explains, "and I made the mistake of saying I wanted to write my own songs."

"He looked me in the eye like Yoda and said: 'You should concentrate on your own music.'"

"Afterwards, I was like, 'I've blown this amazing, world-class opportunity'.

"I was so distraught that I went home, got a little drum machine and just started recording tracks."

Homesick

Those initial demos caught the ear of a US producer, who invited Gary to use his New Jersey recording studio free of charge.

"He has this huge studio space where people like Beyonce and Alicia Keys and people rehearse," Gary says.

"But there's a lot of days off, so I was able to get a lot of good studio time."

The offer came with a downside, however, as the youngster found himself alone, de-motivated and homesick in the commuter suburb of Hoboken.

Gary Go
The singer's father was a key member of Jim Henson's Creature Workshop
In So So, he works those frustrations out over a melancholy piano figure: "Take me back to the London town that brought me up, 'cos it's bringing me down".

Things improved when the aspiring star discovered he was renting a room in the house where Frank Sinatra grew up. "It had a plaque inside - but I didn't discover it until I'd been there a few days," he says.

The revelation inspired Gary to write a jazzy, string-drenched homage to the borough of Brooklyn and the breakdown of a long-distance relationship.

That song attracted the attention of Decca Records - former home to Peter Gabriel - who offered Gary a recording contract last spring.

Over the last 12 months, the singer has been groomed for stardom with showcase gigs in London (where his A&R manager sat, rapt with attention, at the front of the audience every night) and a support slot with The Feeling.

Props

On stage Gary sits, swaying behind an electronic piano, but the show is anything but reserved - his delicately-crafted songs gaining surprising heft from a four-piece backing band.

Does he have any plans to scale up his performance for the Take That gigs?

"I'd like to do something special, some sort of props or something that makes it different," he says.

"And - I don't know if this is confirmed - but I've got a feeling that I might be in the round."

His heartfelt power ballads are perfectly-suited to the UK's gargantuan football pitches - but the singer says "it's news to me" that people think his album is commercially viable.

"I love songs that connect," he admits, "but I can't calculate that before I write them".

His CD is destined to live alongside James Morrison and Snow Patrol in glove compartments up and down the country.

But in the future, he says he plans to write more challenging material - citing noise-experimentalist Trent Reznor and film composer Hans Zimmer among his influences.

"This is just the introduction."

Wonderful is out on 16 February. Gary's debut album, Gary Go, will be released later this year on Decca.



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