As Take That start their Greatest Hits tour, Gary Barlow opens up about family life. By Katie Wright and Lisa Salmon.
He was only a teenager himself when he first found fame with Take That. And now, as the most successful boy band in UK chart history embark on their 30th anniversary tour, lead singer Gary Barlow has teenage children of his own.
The singer-songwriter, who’ll be performing across the UK with bandmates Mark Owen and Howard Donald for the Take That’s Greatest Hits tour, has three children – Daniel, 18, Emily, 16, and Daisy, 10 – with his wife Dawn. The couple also had a stillborn daughter, Poppy, in 2012.
Barlow – who was also recently announced as the new face of Osiris Eyewear at Specsavers – admits Dawn has taken care of most of the day-to-day parenting, as he’s been away on tour so much since the kids were born, and acknowledges there are highs and lows to everything.
But he says being a father is “brilliant”, and valuing friendship, having a supportive network and trying to keep balanced are all things he hopes to pass on to his kids.
Here, Cheshire-born Barlow, 48, tells us more…
You’ve got two teenagers now – does it feel like they’re growing up too fast?
“I always feel they’re growing up too fast, it’s weird. It’s all going to sound like someone’s said it a million times as parents, but it feels like a race, they’re doing this and they’re doing that, and all of a sudden you turn around and they’ve grown up!
“But at the same time, it brings a new era of ‘our 18-year-old’ – we were out for lunch with them the other day, we were laughing our heads off. They’re so funny and smart and quick, so you then start another relationship with them, an adult relationship, and it’s just brilliant, it really is brilliant – all the stages are great.”
Do you have any tips for parents whose kids are approaching the teenage years?
“We found the teen years harder than the baby years. I think some have it easier than others. It’s the fact that when you say stuff to them, they’ll remember it forever and they’re probably going to use it as a weapon at some point in the future, so you’ve really got to watch what you’re saying.
“But I have good days and bad days – some days I’m a terrible parent, other days I’m good. But I owe it all, their upbringing, to my wife, because I’ve been on tour for most it, travelling around and making records, and she’s been the one who’s gone to all the parent evenings and done all the stuff, so it’s all because of her.”
Did you meet your wife on tour?
“Yes, but we met before that though. It was in ’88 that we first met, on a video shoot together. But we properly got together on tour in ’95.”
You started your music career very young – what would you say to parents whose children want to be a pop star?
“My parents are the perfect example – they’re responsible for everything, they’ve encouraged me so much. There was even a point where I was thinking of going to music college, but I then had to tell my mum I’m not doing that because I want to be a pop star. So, if one of my kids said that, it would be like: ‘What can I say?!
“For whatever they want to do, you’ve got to just support them and believe in them. Even if you think they’re getting it completely wrong, you’ve just got to be there for them. [Ours are] good kids as well, and when I see their friends, they’re all good kids. They just need a bit of support, and me to tell them I’m behind them. I don’t know the answers to all this – we’re all guessing at it!”
Social media is such a big thing now – do you talk to your kids about how that can affect self-esteem and mental health?
“None of our kids have gone through that, though we know of ones who have. It’s a worry that stuff, it really is. Our son especially has a big group of mates. I always say to him, ‘Keep your eye on so-and-so’.
“If I think about where we [Take That] all started, five of us in 1989, when we all first met, we’d all had different childhoods so we were already all different. Then this incredible thing happened to us all, which tipped our lives upside down and sent us off on this incredible journey. And if you look at all of us, we’ve all been caught by something – something got every one of us.
“But that’s life, and it’s the way you deal with it and the way the people around you support you, which is why I’ve always been lucky in that I’ve got an amazing wife, a great family, a great group of friends – and when you have all those things, it’s probably going to be all right.
“But when you haven’t, that’s when it’s tricky – and I don’t know how important my friends were, or what I thought of their importance. I try to look after them all now, because you realise how important friendship is. I try to encourage them [my children] to have their friends round and that stuff, but it is a different world now, no question. There are good things, but also, as with anything, what comes with good is a bit of bad as well. Everything has a flip-side, so it’s just that lesson.
“Social media is dangerous, as we’ve seen so many times, but also brilliant and inspiring, and it will bring out ambition in you to see other people. It’s taking all those factors and making them do the right things.”
Do you ever find yourself scrolling on Instagram a bit too much?
“I’m pretty balanced on it, to be honest. I’ll have my periods when it just goes in the drawer at night and I try not to check it, but it’s part of our job now, isn’t it, checking your phone? No one does nine-to-five now because you’re on 24/7. That’s the world now, so you’ve just got to get on with it. And keep it healthy, if that’s possible.”
The new Osiris Eyewear collection is available from February 14 at Specsavers (specsavers.co.uk)