THEY might be 30-something men with wives and children, but interviewing McFly still feels like a teenage dream come true.
It’s been more than 16 years since the multi-platinum-selling boy band released their No.1 debut single 5 Colours In Her Hair, launching Tom Fletcher, Harry Judd, Danny Jones and Dougie Poynter to chart success both at home and internationally.
And yet the four guys who stand before us today, promoting their new album Young Dumb Thrills, somehow still have all the boyish charm that won them so many fans all those years ago.
Back then they had huge success with classics Obviously and All About You in 2005, a UK No.1 album with Wonderland and even took on Hollywood with their cameo roles in Lindsay Lohan flick Just My Luck in 2006.
Then they surprised everyone by joining forces with two-thirds of friendly rivals Busted to create super-band McBusted with James Bourne and Matt Willis in 2013.
Individually they pursued their own passions – Harry won Strictly in 2011, Tom and Dougie made the bestsellers’ charts with their children’s books and Danny became a judge on The Voice Kids in 2017.
But they all agree that being in McFly trumps anything else they’ll ever do. Danny says: “You go through highs and lows, but it’s still the best thing in the world.”
Clearly, this reunion is about reigniting the fun of being together and writing songs that create, as the first single from the album puts it, Happiness.
We chatted to the boys about their craziest memories, coping with lockdown and why family will always come first.
Tom Fletcher, 35, and his author and presenter wife Giovanna, 35, are parents to sons Buzz, six, Buddy, four, and Max, two.
Did you worry you and the boys wouldn’t be close again following the band’s hiatus in 2016?
I think we pushed it to its limits. It’s the people you love the most who are the ones you can take for granted. It’s easy to not address any issues and it’s definitely been challenging.
We’ve been together for 17 years, so it goes through phases and a whole evolution – we grew up together. Now it’s a new phase of our lives, with kids and families.
McFly was our baby before that, so it goes from being this one thing that’s the most important thing in our lives, to realising that we all also have separate things.
How come you never tried to make a solo career work?
I realised that’s not really what I enjoy. Being in a band is fun because you’re doing it with your friends. I just didn’t want to go on tour without these guys or another band.
The thought of going out and doing promo and performances and TV shows on my own fills me with anxiety and fear. I’m not very sociable, I’m more suited to hiding away in a room on my own writing books.
Who is the wildest at a party?
We’ve all had our moments, but I reckon Danny overall. Closely followed by me. Mine are less frequent but more extreme! Though parties these days tend to involve some sort of children’s entertainer and party bags.
Are you worried about juggling the band stuff with being at home with your family?
I read the other day that the key to [getting the balance] is realising that some of the balls you’re juggling are made of rubber and some are made of glass. I feel like that’s so true. Your family and your kids are the most precious thing in the world and that’s the one you have to look out for the most. Everything else falls into place around it.
You first met Giovanna when you were 13…
It’s crazy. When you know, you know, and I knew straight away. You become a new person when you meet someone like that. When you’re together in any long-term relationship you go through phases with ups and downs and difficult times.
But ultimately everything is easier when you have someone to experience that with – especially someone that has context on your entire life. Often there’s a whole lifetime that you’ve had before you meet your partner so you need to have a certain amount of sympathy and understanding for that, but we’ve always been there.
You lost your childhood friend Neil to cancer during lockdown. How are you doing?
It was the first time I’d lost someone who was my age, and he was my best friend growing up. It’s one of those times where you realise you’re getting older and that you kind of have to deal with those things.
It’s like you enter a new stage of your life when your friends start getting engaged and married, then there’s the next stage when you start having babies, and now there’s a stage of having to deal with your own mortality. We realise that we’re fragile as a species and that this life is precious.
Have you found it difficult to grieve through lockdown?
Since being a dad, I’ve found [coping] easier. I don’t know if it’s a distraction, but it gives you a reason to hold your s**t together. It’s not just about you any more, you’re holding it together for your family. Before, I struggled a lot with my mental health, but since having kids it’s made dealing with things easier.
You have something to focus on and to be strong for. At the same time, though, my kids have seen me cry so many times. I let them see my flaws. Seeing flaws in someone you idolise allows you to accept your own imperfections. That’s a really important thing as a father.
Dougie Poynter, 32, lives with his model girlfriend Maddy Elmer, 24.
You’re the only one in the band who’s not married with kids. Do you enjoy being a free spirit?
I wouldn’t say I’m a free spirit, but I’ve got more free time than the guys. It’s just the same as anything else they talk about that I’m not interested in, like football or Formula One.
I obviously can’t relate to something that I’m not into or don’t have, but it doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, nothing else has really changed. It’s the same personalities, there’s just that huge element of responsibility that’s different.
Do you want a family at some point?
I do, but, honestly, with the state of the world, I’m like, I’m thinking more about [doing] it in the right way. I used to want a huge family with 8 billion kids, but now I’m a bit more like, maybe one. The population is a huge issue. Maybe I’ll adopt or something else. Anything I can do to help have the tiniest positive impact. The recent Attenborough A Life On Our Planet really hit home that s**t doesn’t always go our way and we don’t know best as a species. But I do feel optimistic about big changes happening for the greater good.
Are you pleased to be back together with the band?
You don’t realise how easy and fun it is until you’re not doing it, or until you go and do something by yourself. Being in McFly, the more you mess around, the better. Ultimately we just like escapism. There’s so much crap going on in the world, and not much of our music has ever touched on that.
You got sober after a stint in rehab in 2010. How’s that been?
It’s been almost a decade. I definitely found it harder for the first five years, when I was younger, then part of me just grew up. I don’t even really feel major urges any more, I know I have better things to do with my time.
You know when you’re a small kid, and you used to go past the off-licence and you wouldn’t even look at it? That’s what I’ve reverted back to. I didn’t even notice there was a really high-end wine shop on my street until recently, and I’ve lived there for six years.
I’d never want to say I’m in the best place I’ve ever been, but I’m definitely in the safest position and the most productive I’ve ever been.
You’ve always been really passionate about environmental issues. How are you feeling in the current climate?
It does get to me. I wish those problems didn’t exist and then I could just do music and creative things. That’s the dream world, but that’s not the case. I feel a bit of responsibility to encourage people to change their mentality. You have to make people aware of the problems, but there has to be a solution.
Harry Judd, 34, is married to Izzy, 36, and they’re parents to Lola, four, and Kit, three.
What has fatherhood taught you?
Patience, I guess. I’m still struggling with that one. You’re not number one any more and you have to give a lot of yourself. Being able to organise that time in your mind to be able to be present when your kids need you, and not let other stuff in life get in the way.
And another thing that parenting brings is a hell of a lot of diary organisation. Me and my wife are always sitting down with our diaries sorting out pick-up and drop-off.
Would you like to expand the brood any further?
That’s a question I’m unable to answer. Some days I’m like: “Two is enough!” and then other days I’m like: “Yeah, why not?” Then the next day I’ll be like: “No, no more.” I’m undecided, so to be continued…
How did you find being apart from the guys?
We were always part of each other’s lives, but I really missed being in the band. I didn’t like doing stuff on my own, but didn’t really have a choice.
At the beginning it was difficult, because it was like, I’ve been Harry From McFly for 15 years and now I’m just Harry, and I was thinking: “What am I gonna do?”
Thankfully I was lucky to have opportunities and had some work, but I’m not going to lie, I much preferred being in the band.
What do you love about McFly so much?
It’s a very intricate dynamic between four people that allows the band to work. We all have our moments but our personalities balance each other out. It’s just fun and we get on well, that’s what I can put it down to. We laugh when we’re at work.
How did you find lockdown?
It wasn’t easy, but it was hard to complain because you knew that everyone was in the same situation. There were people less fortunate and in way worse situations, whether they were suffering with the illness or had loved ones who they had lost. It was hard to sit at home and moan
Did you find it hard having the tour and album launch postponed?
Yeah, I was really gutted. Again, it feels wrong to complain about it. It’s a shame, but when is good timing for a global pandemic? You try to look at the positives and for the band, that was that we had finished most of the album before lockdown. Obviously we’re gutted we can’t play shows at the moment, but at least we can give the fans the music.
You stopped drinking around the same time as Dougie. How do you find being teetotal now?
It has its positives and negatives, just like anything. There are times where I’m really pleased that I don’t drink and others where I miss some of the things about it – but things that are really fun are often not good for you! My idea of a good party these days is a pub beer garden in summer with close friends, chatting and laughing. Super chilled.
Danny Jones, 34, and wife, former Miss England turned YouTuber and podcaster Georgia Jones, 33, are parents to two-year-old Cooper.
Do things in the band feel different than they did before?
Of course, you do a lot of growing up. You learn a lot from your mistakes and other people’s mistakes. I feel different because I’ve got my own family now, so it’s nice to have that stability. And we’re a bit more appreciative about what we are doing. Then obviously it’s all different with streaming, and we have to work out how we do it. We’re used to being in HMV signing CDs!
We love you on The Voice Kids!
I was quite scared when I first got that job. I was thinking: “How do I make that chair mine and how do I coach kids how to sing?” But your experience is the teaching and that’s more than what a singing teacher can give them.
Was it frustrating when filming got disrupted by lockdown?
A little bit. We were lucky because we were the first production back from lockdown. We managed to film the final. It was weird though, because we had to film without an audience and the kids wanted to feel that experience. But they did amazingly considering the circumstances…
How did you find lockdown overall?
I found it quite hard, but there were brilliant moments, too, like seeing Cooper grow every day. We would go on walks each morning to see the boats on the river. Now it’s amazing because we get on so well and you can talk to him and help him understand his feelings. Those moments are special.
Do you and Georgia want any more children?
Right now, no. I don’t think I could bring a kid into the world right now. I don’t think my mentality is right, and we are too busy to even think about it. Georgia’s work just went through the roof. We don’t want to rush it, but do it when the time is right for us. We don’t want to go by what other people do, or the system everyone else believes in.
How are you dealing with the uncertainty the pandemic is causing right now?
Not very well. I’m normally optimistic and always believe that something good is around the corner, but one thing I do not have is patience. Now for the first time I have a real gut feeling every day of wanting this to be over. It’s really draining. I’m normally the happiest, loving life person so it’s hard when you wake up and it’s still the same.
How do you plan to balance being a dad, husband and member of McFly?
I feel like I’m at this stage in life where what is important to me is going for a walk in Kew Gardens with the family, or playing football or golf with Harry. You have to find time to do that.
The Voice is important to me, so is McFly and the studio and being a dad. When something needs to take priority, you make it work. Georgia’s always been there and been supportive. She would drop anything to let me do what I love. She’s amazing like that.
- McFly’s new album Young Dumb Thrills is out on Friday.
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