Waitrose and Partners Weekend Issue 579

12 25 NOVEMB ER 2021 NEWS&VI EWS with this amazing audience that have been with us for years and years. That’s kind of the headline for me, along withmy family.” There has been heartache along the way, of course: the sudden death of his dad Colin in 2009 and, most devastatingly, the 2012 loss of Gary and Dawn’s fourth child Poppy, who was stillborn. Then there are the well- documented crisis years of the late 90s and early 2000s when, during the vicious backlash that accompanied Gary’s post- Take That career slump, his weight ballooned to 17 stone and he didn’t leave the house for sixmonths. After the band (minus Robbie) reformed in 2006 for what proved to be an extraordinary – and somewhat unexpected – all-conquering second act, Gary often said he would never take success for granted again. Is that still the case – does the shadow of the lean times still linger? Or has the fact that the second act has now long outlived the first allowed him to relax and accept that, to coin a phrase, he really is back for good? “You knowwhat? I am relaxed,” he says. “I’ve definitely settled into these shoes. Like I say, my expectations now are more low-key, even compared to 10 years ago. I’mnot waking up in themiddle of the night dreaming of new horizons. I’m happy where I am right now, I really am.” Fuelled by a brace of sublime singles such as Patience and Rule theWorld , Take That’s revived success sawGary’s stock soaring so high, he even got the call from the palace to organise the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert. The public, meanwhile, seemed warmed by this zero-to-hero comeback story – though Gary came close to squandering some of that goodwill with 2012’s tax avoidance controversy, revealed in the samemonth he received the OBE for services to entertainment and charity. How does he think people view him today? “People are always so nice tome,” he says. “When someone comes up to your dinner table and tells you they played your song at their wedding, or whatever, that’s lovely. I’ve got friends who are footballers, and they get the worst of the British public. But I get the best of it. People always say kind things.” What, even on Twitter? “I’mnot including social The Dream of Christmas (Polydor) is out on 26 November. For Christmas tour dates, see garybarlow.com media,” he smiles. “Most people on Twitter would have a heart attack [if they saw how nice people are].” As a teenage songwriter looking to catch a break, Gary would often get the train down fromRuncorn to visit music publishers in London. “I’d arrive at 9am, sit in reception ’til 5pm, then get the train home again,” he recalls. “But one day, this guy said he’d seeme. He listened to five songs onmy tape – I was getting so excited. Then he just picked up it and went…” – hemimes tossing the tape – “…threw it out of the open window. It was brutal. I live near that o ce now, and I often look up at that window.” Gary has now been writing songs for 40 years. “It used to be out of hand,” he admits. “Not that long ago, to be honest – I was obsessive, in a negative way, really. It’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s like a train set, and it’s very hard not to play with it. But over the last three or four years, I feel I’ve got more of a grip on it, found a better balance. “But it’s a lovely life, to be able to do what you love,” he says. “I remember when I was 11, playing a song to the neighbours, who were all up and dancing, andmy dad saying, ‘If you can do that, andmake people feel like that, you’ve got a job for life.’ And he was bloody right.” This year, Gary’s looking forward to a jollier Christmas with the family and his mum, Marj, and he’s already sorted the festive playlist. “My vinyl is ready. I’ve got all my Christmas albums – Bublé, Rod Stewart, Robbie’s… and I’mgoing to be includingmine this year,” he adds, with a grin, “whether the kids like it or not.” ‘I’ve definitely settled into these shoes. I’m not waking up in the night dreaming of new horizons. I’m happy where I am right now, I really am’ ruling the world Take That in 1992 with ( l-r) Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow, Jason Orange and Howard Donald ( far left); receiving his OBE from the Queen in 2012 (above); the image Gary posted on social media celebrating 20 years of marriage with wife Dawn (below) Photography: Tim Roney/Getty Images, PA Images/Alamy, ofäcialgarybarlow/Instagram