Will Young heads to Knutsford for Pub in the Park

Will Young (c) Steve Schofield 2019

Will Young (c) Steve Schofield 2019 - Credit: Archant

Will Young is making a return to the music scene, and we have Pub in the Park to thank

Will Young - Lexicon album (c) Cooking Vinyl 2019

Will Young - Lexicon album (c) Cooking Vinyl 2019 - Credit: Archant

In 2017 Will Young announced that he was putting his music career on hold while he gave himself time to focus on other things - namely writing (his book, How to be a Gay Man, will be published in spring 2020) acting and his podcast, Homosapiens, which is - in his own words - seeking to be a version of Radio 4s Woman's Hour for an LGBTQ+ audience.

In 2019, he launches a new studio album, Lexicon, released just a week after he appears at Pub in the Park, Knutsford. And it was, he tells me, his appearance at Pub in the Park in Marlowe, in 2018, that triggered his desire to make music again.

This relaxed festival for foodies is many things, but I hadn't realised it could inspire a retired musician to start writing again. I am first intrigued to learn how he even came to be at the festival, if he had retired from music.

'There are very few things I have to do in my life, apart from eat, sleep and walk the dogs, but this was a one-off gig, and I thought why not - and I really enjoyed it.'

And was it this, the live audience and the immediacy of it, that pushed him back towards music and song-writing?

'Yes, I think it probably was! It was just lots of fun and I was doing a show at the time where I was sticking to the script and I wasn't interacting with the musicians on stage (because you don't, when you're in the West End) and I missed working with the guys - so it was really all based on what makes me happy.

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'Me and the band were saying, you know, it would be great to do more and I said well, I'll go on tour and I'll do a song for that - and then I wrote the song that became the first single and I enjoyed that, so it really became like a series of enjoyments.

'Then the Pub in the Park people said do you want to do some more and I thought yes, that will be brilliant. I'm not touring fully until October, so I thought that will be fantastic to do over the summer.

'There's a big difference with this and doing one of the big music festivals; what's great is that the music's at the end of the day, so you're like the special act, just in your own musical world. I wander around the festival, tasting all this amazing food, from local restaurants and local brilliant chefs and makers. I think it's just such a pleasurable way to spend the day, to go and enjoy being outdoors, with all the different food craftspeople and then enjoy music from someone at the end of the day.'

Since he became a household name in 2002, he has released seven albums, played serious acting roles in television shows, taken the role of Emcee in Cabaret in three touring productions, appeared in Strictly Ballroom the Musical (I get the impression that this wasn't his favourite gig, whereas he describes Cabaret as the role of a lifetime), joined the celebs on Strictly Come Dancing, launched his podcast, written a book… so which of these things was his original career dream?

'I always wanted to be a pop singer - and an actor. I wasn't really interested in musical theatre at all. After my politics degree I didn't want to move to London with no game plan, so I studied musical theatre and then Pop Idol just came out of nowhere.'

Has he more West End work lined up?

'I find that people generally don't think that much out of the box. I would love to do a new musical, but perhaps I am seen as a bit of a cash cow and they probably look at that first before asking if I could do the role. I see myself more as an actor for those roles than just a pop star who's rocking to sell tickets.'

Having received an Olivier nomination for Cabaret, you couldn't argue that he's 'just a pop star' in any respect.

Does he find theatre more pressure than touring, where he's in front of fans of him, rather than the play?

'It's actually the opposite for me; it's the song-writing, it's the singing, it's the formulating a record, it's doing the artwork, the video, the touring - that's my creation. It's not pressure, exactly, it's more a necessary vulnerability.'

And he can be sure of a rapturous, non-judgy reception at Pub in the Park, closing the session to a well-fed, well-watered, happy crowd of party people.

Will Young plays on Sunday 9 June at Pub in the Park, Knutsford