Seeing Gary Barlow astride the music and television scene today it’s difficult to imagine a time when he wasn’t at the top of his game.
Mentoring young hopefuls on X-Factor it’s easy to forget that as recently as 2005, when the documentary ‘Take That: For The Record’ was aired, he was a faded force.
When he, Howard Donald, Jason Orange and mark Owen announced the group would reform there were sneers all round at the idea that the foursome could survive without Robbie Williams, one of Britain’s biggest-selling solo artists.
Their 2006 comeback single, ‘Patience’ silenced those sneers, but why the doubt? After all, Barlow had penned some of the biggest hits of the 1990s. His solo efforts during the break from Take That were more mixed, although his debut record ‘Open Road’ sold three million copies and spawned two number ones, his follow up, ‘12 Months, 11 Days’ peaked at number 35 and then disappeared.
“I was in a rotten place back then,” Barlow says now.
“It was written by committee, that album, with [producer] Clive Davis in the US telling me who I should be and who I should work with, then the UK label telling me something different over here, and there’s actually very little of me on there.
“I promised myself this time around that I wasn’t going to listen to anyone else, or be swayed,” he adds. “The first time the label heard the [new] album was when I’d finished it.”
The new album is ‘Since I Saw You Last’, his first as a solo artist in 14 years. The title track, he says, is one of the most literal things he’s ever written, summing up exactly where he, Williams, Orange, Howard and Owen were all that time ago.
“It’s about where we are today, too,” he continues. “It’s a celebration, saying that even though all that stuff happened, it led us back here, to this great place we’re at now.
“I see the solo album as a lovely little hobby for a year, and it’ll mean I can release some music and do a tour, but the main job is always going to be Take That.”
The group is set to reconvene in January to start work on their seventh album. Right now, it’s unknown whether Robbie Williams will take part, although the invitation is there.
“It all needs organising,” says Barlow. “We’ve all got families and there are lots of things that need moving around to make it happen.
“I’m really, really looking forward to getting back with the guys though,” he adds. “It’s our first [record] in four years, and that’s daunting and exciting. I’m very excited about my tour too. So yeah, it’s going to be one hell of a year.”