Watching Gary Barlow on The X Factor, mentoring and dishing out advice to young hopefuls, it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t at the top of his game.
But as recently as 2005, the year the documentary Take That: For The Record aired, he was a faded force.
It seems ludicrous now, but when he, Howard Donald, Jason Orange and Mark Owen announced they were getting back together, there were sneers all round. The idea that the foursome could pick up where they left off, without Robbie Williams seemed impossible.
One listen to Patience, their 2006 comeback single, and the sneers stopped.
But why the initial doubt? Songs Barlow had penned, after all, had been among the biggest hits of the Nineties, breaking chart records left, right and centre.
His solo efforts during the group’s break, though, hadn’t been so successful...
“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.”
There’s a duet too, with his old pal Elton John. They see each other about four times a yearbut when Barlow had a song he thought they could sing together he sent it over. Within 10 minutes he had an answer.
“He wanted to record it as soon as possible,” says Barlow. “Three weeks later, we were in the studio.”