INTRODUCING GARY BARLOW
We catch up with the music legend and our new Music Director of The 710 Club on Iona
WORDS LUCY RYAN
PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS FLOYD AND GREG FUNNELL
You’d think it would be hard to impress a global superstar like Gary Barlow. As the lead singer of Take That, one of the world’s most successful pop bands of the nineties and noughties, he’s had his fair share of excitement. Then there’s all the glitz and glamour of his subsequent career as an award-winning solo artist, music producer, composer and songwriter – he’s among Britain’s most successful, having written 15 number one singles and 9 number one albums including his latest release, Music Played By Humans. The record sees Gary add a contemporary take to the orchestral and big band music he fell in love with as a child with an album of original compositions. However, when the British music legend arrives at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on a distinctly chilly day, he’s full of boyish enthusiasm. He dons a hard hat and rubs his hands with eager anticipation. ‘Aha, I’m the new boy on the job!’ he laughs. Indeed he is. It’s Gary’s first day in his new role as Music Director of The 710 Club on Iona for P&O Cruises and he’s here to take a tour of the new ship in the countdown to her launch.
The sight of a shed housing the UK’s largest ship is enough to inspire awe in anyone, and Gary is no exception. As he enters, Iona’s liveried prow towers proud over a scene of industrial activity on an unfathomable scale. Gary stops in his tracks. ‘For once, I’m speechless. My eyes can’t take this in. Iona’s so beautiful. I’ve played in some spectacular places but this is something else.’ As Music Director of The 710 Club (so called after the yard number on Iona’s hull) Gary is keen to check out the venue. The club on Deck 6 will be a secret hideaway for music lovers with a unique late-night vibe. Gary’s been involved in the design and style of the venue (from curating the music to creating the club’s signature cocktail) from the start. It’s a project close to his heart. ‘Music’s taken me on so many journeys and adventures,’ says Gary. ‘And I love live music, so one of the first conversations I had with the P&O Cruises team was how do we make the music at The 710 Club live and exciting? I want it to be a celebration of great music and great talent.’
Gary’s passion for music started early. He recalls being mesmerised by Depeche Mode on Top of the Pops when he was 10 and cites Elton John as inspiring him to learn the piano. By the age of 11, he was playing in working men’s clubs and after reaching the semi-finals of a BBC Pebble Mill at One Christmas song competition at 15, he started performing on the northern club circuit, singing cover versions and his own songs. He believes this exposure to audiences as a youngster and having sound advice and strong support gave him the confidence to succeed as an artist and performer. He laments the fact that today’s young talent don’t get the same opportunities to perform live as he did. With so much experience in the industry, Gary wants to give something back to the next generation of singer-songwriters. His vision will make The 710 Club a stepping stone for young stars of the future, and he plans to share his tips and tricks to help them develop their own performance technique.
‘Working with new talent is something I’m really looking forward to,’ he says. ‘These youngsters are really good at what they do. I want to help them with a little bit of my experience and give them the opportunity to perform in front of a live and appreciative audience. I want guests who come to the club to feel as if they’ve seen something special on a nightly basis. That’s what these young people will bring to the stage.’ On this occasion, getting to The 710 Club involves scaling Iona’s mighty flank in a vertiginous cage lift (not for the faint-hearted) and navigating the ship’s interior – a maze-like building site teeming with workers of all trades.
‘So here it is, The 710 Club,’ says Gary, taking in his music venue for the first time. He’s keen to review the interior design scheme and pores over the plans and design moodboards. ‘The décor’s brilliant,’ says Gary. ‘I want there to be a sultry vibe where you can feel the music at the heart of the room. I love the dark reds and dark blues. It’s moody. It’s intimate. It’s all about the music. This is where you’ll find me when I’m on board.’ Gary and his family are no strangers to cruise holidays, and he loves the mix of adventure and total relaxation they offer. ‘I love to travel,’ says Gary. ‘But the idea of going to only one place on holiday just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I like to see many places – you can get that on a cruise. Every part of the day is exciting. And I love the evenings. For me, part of the excitement is getting dressed up. Then the ship sets sail... You wonder what you’re going to wake up to every day.’
Gary’s eager to spend time on the fleet’s most innovative ship. ‘Iona’s so modern and is going to be amazing to explore,’ he says. But as Music Director of The 710 Club, he’s on a mission to give guests unique experiences to take back home. ‘I love making memories,’ says Gary. ‘I think music does that extremely well, and cruises do too.’
THE 710 CLUB: A NIGHT OUT TO REMEMBER
ATMOSPHERIC AND LOW-LIT, The 710 Club will serve up live music with an unmistakably vintage vibe, stylish cocktails and the most important ingredients of all – a little escapism and good times that continue long into the night. Exclusively for adults, the club’s stage will light up to the sounds of its talented resident band, a group guided by Gary. Gary will also choose music for the club, guide future performers, compile playlists and even help create signature cocktails. Every month, the club will showcase a new guest performer, giving new talent the chance to shine, while the resident band will weave its magic with numbers inspired by Gary’s life, loves and musical style, creating atmospheric sets crafted for true music lovers.