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24 August 2022, 10:37
Gary Barlow has talked about his battle with bulimia during the 'dark' years after Take That broke up.
Gary Barlow has given insight into the years after Take That broke up and the private struggles he dealt with behind closed doors.
In an exclusive interview The Sunday Times the singer says he hid away in his house and "self-medicated" with food and cannabis after a terrible pre-Grammy performance started the decline of his career.
The insight comes as Gary Barlow embarks on a two-hour theatre show, A Different Stage, which sees him narrate his life story – a performance critics have praised as 'a wonderful emotional rollercoaster'.
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The star reveals that in 1997, a year after Take That broke up, he was invited to perform at Clive Davis’s famous pre-Grammy party.
It was a huge moment for Gary Barlow's future – famous stars in attendance included Whitney Houston and the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.
Davis was courting Barlow for a solo career in the US, however, the performance went terribly and he suspects cost him ten years of his career.
Gary sang Love Won’t Wait, a song written by Madonna and that Davis had had specially remixed for the event.
“I was the worst. I didn’t just sing it bad with a couple of bum notes, it was a wreck,” he says.
“The guy in the pub next door on Broadway would have done a better job. All the people that mattered were there — Aretha, Whitney, MTV …”
Gary Barlow - Love Won't Wait
Two years after the performance he was dropped by both his US and UK labels.
“It cost me ten years,” he says of the damage he believes it caused to his future career
“Every night [on stage] when I recite it, I feel stupid, ashamed, angry and it all comes back, every bloody night."
Barlow goes on to reveal that the Clive Davis party not only cost him years of his career, it started to effect his mental health.
“I knew something had changed that night. It [was] the start of the end," he says.
"Because when that decline starts, the mind takes a big hit and starts to second-guess things you never even thought about in the past. When self-belief goes, it’s a slippery and steep slope.”
Back in the UK, the press was taunting the star with the infamous 'Robbie vs Gary' feud and as Gary's put on weight, he was labelled a 'has-been' and became more and more isolated in his Cheshire mansion.
He would 'wake and bake' - smoking cannabis from the moment he woke up – chain-smoke, drink Southern Comfort and eat “beige food”.
After "wearing a succession of bigger and bigger dad cardigans" Gary said he went on to develop bulimia, an illness he describes as a conscious act of self-harm.
"Being sick was a punishment for me. I didn’t want to mend it," he says.
Bizarrely, I wasn't unhappy doing it. It was good that it hurt."
Once Gary's bulimia was under control, a series of yo-yo diets followed and his weight fluctuated dramatically.
Then in 2005, nine years after Take That split, the band were offered a deal to get back together – one that Gary initially thought was a terrible idea.
However, as soon as the tickets went live and sold out within two minutes, he realised the love of Take That had not only never wavered but was stronger than ever.
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All of Take That's new music has been a huge commercial success and their 2011 tour Progress Live – which saw Robbie Williams' return – remains one of the best-selling in UK history.
"It was all built on hard work. We got up and rolled our sleeves up, dug in, put the work in," Barlow says.
Gary – whose stage show is taking him all across the UK including Runcorn, just ten minutes from where he grew up – credits his northern roots for his solid work ethic.
"I never celebrated winning awards, I just went straight back to work", he says.
"My work muscles have always helped me, more than talent or anything. It’s my work ethic that has got me through, not slapping myself on the back.”
Gary Barlow's A Different Stage runs until October 30, 2022. Tickets are available here