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21 Minutes with Take That’s Gary Barlow

By Milou Staub

When we heard Gary Barlow was in town, we knew we had to think out of the box with our interview. As a member of the UK band, Take That, there is very little we don’t know about him. So, we opted for a playful approach. With a pile of questions laid out in front of him at KFM’s studios in Cape Town, all face down like a deck of cards, Gary dived in, randomly picking a few questions as if he were on a treasure hunt.

What were you doing when you last lost track of time?

It happens every day, in the studio, you lose complete track of time. Like yesterday, I arrived there in London at 8 am. My flight to Cape Town was at 6pm, so I knew I had to be home by 1pm. I looked at the clock: 2:30pm! Lost track of time. Six and a half hours gone! Music is like that.You get lost.

If you could spend a month living in any city around the world, where would it be?

I always wanted to live in New York. I’d just like to try it. I’ve only just briefly visited New York, I was there for maybe two weeks. But getting a house there and living there, I think it would be very interesting.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

(Laughs) I would say I’m 40. 40 was good. I’d just joined the band again and times were good. 40 to 50 was the quickest decade of all. My new and ambitious goal is to slow down the 50s. I’m not doing very well! I’m already 53! Failing, failing miserably. It’s hard to slow down; the key to slowing time down is not to do so much.

What’s the most breathtaking natural wonder you’ve encountered during your travels?

The Grand Canyon! There’s so much to do there, it’s incredible. If you were to ask my kids about their favourite holidays, they would mention white river rafting or the Grand Canyon. We often go there as a family in summer, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s run by the Hualapai tribe, the experience is unforgettable. From signing in to boarding buses and boats, you’re constantly mesmerised by the stunning views. It’s truly the most incredible experience and one of the best things to do!

When did you last laugh so much it hurt?

Last week, during band rehearsal, we had a good laugh. Howard, Mark, and I, our bond goes way back. We’ve been best friends for a long, long time. We have this unspoken connection; when someone new enters the room, a glance between us says it all! It’s moments like these that I cherish.

What travel activity or experience do you find yourself longing to repeat?

Skiing, in France or America, it’s my favourite holiday. Lying on the beach is not for me. I love swimming in the sea, love it, but lying on the beach in the sun, it’s not for me, it’s boring. I want to ski, first on the slope in the morning, hard snow, big lunch, I love it! Going to bed at 8:30 pm cause you’re tired…I love it!

What’s the wisest thing you have ever heard someone say?

My mentor, a professor at the Guildhall School of Music in London, listened to one of my songs when I was about 16 or 17. Instead of offering direct feedback, he played me some music by Bach. It hit me, I needed to simplify. He emphasized the importance of simplicity, and ever since then, every time I write a song, I remember his words: simplify, keep it simplified.

“South Africa’s steaks are unbeatable!”

If you could go on a road trip with any two people, living or dead, who would they be and where would you go?

It would definitely be my best friend Elliot, who’s here with me in South Africa right now. He’s not only a close friend but also a talented songwriter; actually he’s written a lot of songs you would know! As for the second person, well, I’d have to go with my wife. Can’t forget to mention her, just in case she’s reading this! Wouldn’t want to get into trouble later on!

Do you have a favourite local dish or cuisine from your travels that you can’t get enough of?

I’m a huge foodie! In France, it’s snails; in Italy, truffle pasta; in America, meat. But my top pick? South Africa’s steaks. They’re unbeatable!

What is most important to you in life? Are you giving it the time it deserves?

For me, family takes the top spot in terms of importance. But finding the right balance is crucial. Music is a significant part of my life and it demands its share of time and dedication. However, I often grapple with a sense of guilt, feeling like I’m missing out on pivotal moments in my children’s lives. It’s a constant juggling act, trying to give each aspect the attention it deserves.

When was the last time you tried something new?

(Grins) You know, my son is bizarrely mad about oysters. I never fancied oysters, but I had one the other day for the first time. While they were okay, I couldn’t quite grasp what all the hype was about. Interestingly, the only thing I could taste was the vinegar.

Are there any hidden gems or lesser-known travel spots you’ve discovered that you’d recommend to your fans?

We went to Auckland, New Zealand. There’s this small island called Waiheke, with 52 beaches and 7 vineyards! What’s truly unique is the island’s limited development, only 100 houses scattered across its landscape, each resembling something straight out of a magazine cover.

As we wrapped up our chat with Gary Barlow, we went well over the 15 minutes we were allocated with him. His down-to-earth responses gave us a real sense of who he is beyond the spotlight. It showed us the Gary behind the music, and it’s been a blast! Make sure to grab your concert tickets as soon as possible from ticketmaster.co.za. IB

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