By Linda Serck
Hungerford's Will Young has undergone an image sea change - from an airbrushed Pop Idol to a respected singer-songwriter in his own right. BBC Berkshire gets a rare insight into Will the laidback lad with a razorsharp wit...
Will Young is a busy man. His manager grants BBC Berkshire a short interview before his gig at Oxford, even going as far as to indicate with her fingers that interviewer Rory McAllister has only two minutes left.
There isn't even time for a quick photo with producer Katie, who is a fan.
But while this frenzied media circus is perhaps befitting of a high calibre pop star such as Will Young, the man himself is remarkably calm.
Dazzling friendliness and a soft eloquence is telling of a confident young man who hasn't let fame get to his head.
His affable dry wit is immediately disarming, as are his own put-downs.
Rory asks: who would he pick to play himself if there was ever a musical written about him?
"That guy from Are You Being Served," comes the first of a volley of deadpan suggestions, "or Larry Grayson. Frankie Howard, all the greats, Kenneth Williams.
"Someone's just shouted Frank Spencer, a bit harsh that one!"
But while he's probably always been of charming character, one development is clear. Here is a 29-year-old songsmith who has come of age with his new album, Let It Go.
"I was the most relaxed writing this album and I feel I'm really proud of my song-writing," he says.
"I think they're really great well-formed pop songs.
"I set about trying to embrace pop a bit more in my writing and I'm really pleased with that.
BBC Berkshire's Rory McAllister and Will Young
"I feel like a fully-fledged writer now as well as a singer."
It's now hard to imagine that back in 2002 he was a talent show winner on the inaugural Pop Idol, releasing the single Evergreen and moulded into an image that screamed: the white man of soul.
Does he feel he's shaken that tag now?
"I think to maintain a career that it's definitely about evolving," he says, "and I'm still evolving in my career in terms of: I've only just done festivals this summer.
"Me and the guys were up for an award for best pop act which I'm really proud of because we only did four festivals.
"Just all those kind of things colour a career - taking on acting - I think it's important to do that, having side projects, working with interesting people like Nitin Sawhney. All those kind of things enable you to have a long term career.
"I've always set out to do that."
He goes as far as to say that "manipulated pop dolls" don't exist anymore.
"I think pop has changed so much since I started, I think that brand of pop has changed, but definitely for me it's about collaborating with people rather than working under people or against people.
Will Young in 2004
"I think even from the show people realised that I had a strong mind and would say what I thought, so I never really experienced that.
He adds: "I was just saying to a friend that the no's are the most important things, not the yes's when you make decisions. And luckily I think I made some right no's along the way."
And his right decisions have launched him not only in the world of pop as a respected artist, but also the world of acting.
He starred as Bertie in Mrs Henderson Presents, and played the lead role in Noel Coward's The Vortex at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
He was invited on Question Time and presented a talk on 'celebrity' at the Oxford University union in October 2008.
With so much going on in his career, does he ever find time to head back home to Hungerford at all?
"I don't go back masses but that's just with being 29 and you don't always want to go home and see your parents, he says frankly, "and I'm sure my parents don't always want me to come home!"
He is however taking time out to celebrate his 30th birthday in style with his twin brother Rupert.
"My brother and I are going to do two or three things each that we've always wanted to do," he says.
"I think he wants to go monster trucking and I want to see the Northern Lights and I want to go diving. I plan to have about three parties, very similar to the Queen!"
Will Young on Pop Idol 2002
At the same time his affluent lifestyle is countered with an eye for a bargain.
"I'm a big bric-a-brac shop man," he says, "in fact I've just bought this today (referring to his green T-shirt) from this vintage shop which I've been going to since I was 15.
"I love buying vintage clothes, I got a really good old record player quite cheaply recently. I'm not very good at bargains to be honest, I'm probably the one they fleece!
"I'm the guy who buys the wine on special offer at the end of the aisle because it's about to go off."
More of his dry wit kicks in with a probing question about whether he, like the rest of us, likes to stay in with a tub of ice cream watching telly on occasion.
"Yeah, with a crate of beer," he grins.
How often? "Most nights," comes the quick reply.
So we're expecting some 'personal' songs on your tour about beer and ice cream and watching the telly then are we.
"What have you seen the gig? That's what it is, it's a Powerpoint presentation. No music in it."
The manager's fingers indicate that we're out of time and we're hurriedly catapulted back into a world where Will is, in fact, a huge pop star.
But that is thankfully easy to forget when faced with a charming young man who is at heart still a laid-back lad from Hungerford.
last updated: 05/12/2008 at 13:55