ONE is the funnyman who has taken the US by storm, the other ranks among our greatest pop musicians.
Now old pals James Corden and Gary Barlow have teamed up for a banter-filled duet on the Take That singer’s new album.
Late Late Show host James, 42, has written jokes for a track called The Kind Of Friend I Need on Gary’s album Music Played By Humans.
Gary, 49, said: “He stuck his vocal . . . all the banter bits . . . I thought it came out really well.”
Michael Buble, Beverley Knight and Alesha Dixon also feature on the record, released on November 27. They are all pals of Gary and have duetted with him for his Crooner Sessions on Instagram during lockdown.
Meanwhile, James, 42, stars in new comedy musical film The Prom with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, which will be streamed on Netflix from December 11.
Here are the pair chatting on Zoom . . .
JAMES: Talk to me about Gary Barlow’s life during the pandemic. I’ve spoken to you a few times. How’s everyone been coping?
GARY: Not bad, actually. We are very fortunate, we’ve got a nice house, we’ve got space, all the kids are at home. We’ve got a 20-year-old now [son Daniel] so imagine him being at home for 12 weeks by choice.
JC: Bet he loved it.
GB: He did but by the end he’d had enough of us all, but we did try and make the most of it.
I was speaking to my mum a lot. That generation are funny, they just get on with it. It’s like: “That’s what we’ve been told to do, we’re just going to get on with it.”
So we cut the moaning out early and we tried to make the best of it.
I think, like you, I got lots of writing done and tried to make the most of the peace and quiet, and the fact it probably won’t happen again in our lifetime. Well, let’s hope so.
You try to learn from it and make the most of the time.
JC: How many Crooner Sessions did you do in the end?
JC: 61! Wow! Best standout?
GB: Everyone was brilliant but the one that got me was early on.
I contacted Chris Martin [from Coldplay] and he was like: “I’ve done a couple of these things, I’ll come back to you.”
When someone says that, especially someone as big as him, you just go: “Well, that’s the end of it.”
We cut out the lockdown moaning early and tried to make the most of it. I spoke to mum a lot, got lots of writing done
So when we were just coming out of lockdown, we were going to do our last week of Crooner Sessions, when my phone rings and Chris went: “I’ve heard it’s your last week,” and I’m thinking: “How have you even heard it’s my last week?”
He said: “Can I do it?” I said: “Mate, of course, this is amazing,” — and we sat and rehearsed.
So often, the stuff off-screen was more fun because you’d sit and decide who was singing each bit and who changes chords. It was just brilliant, such a sweet thing to do.
JC: I think the duets were as much for you as they were for us watching them. It’s the very lifeblood in your veins that keeps you going — would that be fair?
GB: I did my first gig at 11 years and two months. Then I was playing every Saturday night, and after six months it grew to Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so by the time I was 14 I was playing nearly every night of the week.
Then fast-forward to when I joined the group [Take That] when I was 19. At that point I had done thousands of gigs, then of course joining the band I did thousands more. It just feels so natural to me to do it, I love it.
JC: Do you think this absolute hunger to keep trying to create — whether it’s Broadway musicals, West End musicals, online duets, big TV shows, new solo albums, stuff with the band — comes from that period of time when you weren’t making music?
GB: Yeah, it did. There were probably two years when there was just no way back, it just wasn’t even considered at that point that I’d ever get the chance to be on stage again — and part of that was me. I felt embarrassed.
Being embarrassed about something is one of the worst things because it breeds more emotions that restrict you.
So at that point even if someone said: “Hey, come up on stage,” I wouldn’t have got up because I just wasn’t prepared for it.
So fast-forward to the point where you’re given a chance again — I feel it every day, I wake up and I don’t want it to go anywhere and, as you know because we spend time together, I love it so much.
JC: I think you love seeing the impact your songs have on fans, it’s quite intoxicating when I’m around you.
How long ago did you know you were going to make this solo record?
GB: I always feel like I’m planning and racing ahead and it’s the one thing if you were to speak to the other lads or [Gary’s wife] Dawn, they’ll always say: “Oh, you’ve always got the next thing ready to go.”
So we did our big [Take That Greatest Hits] tour last year, with Mark [Owen] and Howard [Donald], who are like my best mates.
There was just no downside and I thought: “The one thing I’m deciding before I do this tour is I’m not going to plan what’s next. I’m going to love every night.” So every night, whether it was Newcastle, Glasgow or The O2, I really loved every show.
But about four shows before the end, I got this idea of doing a record with an orchestra. And you know — because you’re one of the few that do know — to stand in the middle of an orchestra, oh my God, it’s amazing.
It’s the most incredible feeling and sound. Really talented people, playing together — not only that but they’re playing my music. So I was like: “Wow, when do we start?”
JC: Picking up on what you were saying about standing in the middle of an orchestra, I don’t know if people know this but you wrote the opening number for the year I opened the Tony Awards.
We were in New York with an orchestra recording it and I remember thinking: “If I don’t do everything I can to enjoy this moment, then what’s the point?”
It made me think about my dad who was a musician.
It made me think about the first time I saw Take That — standing in the back row at Wembley Arena with nine girls from school.
There’s so many collaborations on the album, what made you think about these recording artists?
I wanted an authentic album so it’s no surprise Michael’s on it. And Beverley and Alesha. All my favourite people in one place
GB: I wanted this album to be wholeheartedly enjoyable and authentic. So it’s no surprise that Michael Buble is on there. He’s a friend, we’ve been talking about doing something for ages.
There’s also my great friends Beverley Knight and Alesha Dixon.
You’re a great friend of mine. It feels like all my favourite people are in one place.
JC: In these challenging times, will you tour this record?
GB: Yeah, definitely. Next year I’m really hoping that we get out there.
It has to be safe, I don’t want to socially distance the audience, so I’ll wait till it’s safe and do it then.
JC: Do you want to go out with a full, big orchestra?
GB: Big, full orchestra, yeah.
JC: Wow, that will be incredible.
GB: I’ve never done it.
JC: You’ll be broke at the end of it. You’ll finish the tour and you’ll go: “Right, guys, how much have we made?” They’ll say: “Just enough for an Uber home.”
JC: Were you not tempted to squeeze a Christmas song on the album? When are we going to get a Gary Barlow Christmas song? I consider it a rite of passage that humanity needs, and I’m saying this as someone who has already listened to All I Want For Christmas Is You three times!
GB: I must say if Rob [Robbie Williams] hadn’t done a Christmas album last year, you may have had one on this album, but you might have to wait for a couple more years. Watch this space!
JC: What were the differences between recording a solo album and making a Take That album?
GB: It’s very insular. Take That is like mates, we’re laughing all day, there’s lots of people around.
Doing a solo album, you’re over-thinking things because there’s only you making decisions. It’s much easier being in a band, it’s much trickier doing a record by yourself.
I’m very strong-minded on what I eat. It’s 90% sensible, 10% fun. For me, something bad is a piece of sourdough bread
JC: Can I talk to you about dieting, because I consider you to be the inspiration on that?
The question is, how have you managed, because I know in my core that you’re the same as me?
You love nothing more than to have a cheeky Cadbury Dairy Milk in the car with no one watching, hide the wrapper in the glovebox and no one will ever know. You seem able to go: “Well, I’ll do that once in a blue moon.” For me, blue moons seem to appear hourly. How have you managed to do this and what’s your advice for me, as I am intending to enter a new period of physical wellbeing in my life?
GB: I had a rough period with food that I’m not proud of, where I really lost control of myself.
I remember one particular day just thinking: “How have I got here?” I was just so disappointed with myself.
So coming back from somewhere like that is a bit more serious than: “Oh, I want to lose a couple of stone here.” It was more of a condition that just couldn’t continue.
So it started there for me and I turned my brain on to sorting out what I ate. The trouble is the food I love — Chinese, chips, crisps. They were giving me a couple minutes of a food coma, taking me out of the real world. It’s just not good, that.
So I decided not to have cheat days, and just stay away from those foods. I’d love to have the odd cigarette now and then but I can’t. I can’t start smoking again.
I’ve just not got the personality where I can tease myself every so often with something I love because I just end up going down that road again.
So I’ve been very strong-minded about how I live and what I eat, and in general I work on a 90/10 — 90 per cent sensible-choice food and ten per cent fun choices.
For me, something bad is a piece of sourdough.
JC: Sourdough, just bread in general, I don’t know what I’ve done to bread, but bread hates me. Over the last few months I’ve realised going on a diet and then coming off a diet and thinking: “Well, I’ve lost that weight now so I’ll do this” doesn’t work. I’ve got to retrain my mind into thinking: “Well, this will be for ever, now.”
This is something men never talk about, it’s almost seen as not very cool to talk about — like you’re not a man if you’re not eating a kebab and having a pint.
GB: I’ll give you one piece of advice — a thing that now and again I come back to and it’s surprising how helpful it is.
Buy a nice little writing book, one you’ll feel good about holding and keeping on you at all times. Do a food diary for every day, and look down and you’ll see what you’re doing wrong.
It’ll also make you go: “Oh, I could eat a Cadbury’s but I’ve got to write it in the diary if I do.”
It’s a good way of making you think before you do something, but also looking back to see: “Where have I made mistakes today?”
A food diary will also show you what you’re missing in your diet. If you want to get serious and go to a dietician, or to a friend and seek help, you can show them the diary.
Whenever I’ve asked people to do food diaries, it’s hilarious what comes back. “I had steamed fish for lunch with vegetables.” You didn’t! You didn’t have that for lunch!
JC: Mine would say: “Breakfast: Black coffee. Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, broccoli. Dinner: Piece of salmon, salad.” Then it would say: “Midnight: Four KitKats.”
That’s what it would look like. You’d be going: “You’re doing really well, James, this is fantastic. Why have you had nine Twix bars?” I’ll go: “Well, they were fun-size.”
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