IT’S hard to believe that it is 17 years since millions of TV viewers cheered on an unknown Will Young as he swept to victory in Pop Idol beating Gareth Gates in the final, writes JOHN ANSON.

But Will, now a successful West End star and with a string of hit albums behind him has never forgotten those fans who voted for him and gave him his chance to follow his dream.

Now 40, Will is getting ready to head out on tour with dates at Manchester Apollo and Blackpool Opera House this month.

“For me whatever it is I am doing always comes down to the audience,” he said. “I think I’m slightly obsessed with it whatever I’m doing - who is going to see it? Who is going to listen to it? Who is going to experience it? It’s never a question of doing something just for myself.”

For all his success - he’s won Brit Awards, had number one singles and albums and his most recent album Lexicon has seen him get some of the best reviews of his career - Will refuses to take his success or his audience for granted.

“I struggle with the fact that some people become such big brands that they try and get more and more out of their audiences,” he said. “I think audiences know and appreciate good music and like people who are authentic and aren’t trying to manipulate them and that’s why I love touring.

“For the tour I am offering a VIP ticket which I really had to think long and hard about. If I have a ticket which just earns me more money then I’m just using people and that’s not what I want to do.

“Eventually I settled on a price and an offering which I was comfortable with and we sold them out so quickly.

“But I couldn’t sell an album or a ticket if didn’t think it wasn’t worth the money. That would be ripping people off. I wouldn’t have had a career if I was like that to be honest.

“Before Pop Idol no one would have given me a record deal, but the amazing thing was the public gave me a record deal which is so cool. It’s so rare - that never happens.”

In 2016 Will was forced to pull out of Strictly Come Dancing due to anxiety and depression but he’s clearly in a good place these days.

In part he puts this down to being totally in control of his career. Unlike many major artists, he has dispensed with the need for a manager and handles everything himself.

“In think I can do it because of the length of time I have been doing this job,” he said. “I’m certainly not anti-management, it’s just a question of what works for me. After all we have changes in our jobs or careers over the years.

“It’s certainly the case that I’m really enjoying getting stuff done. I don’t like barriers, particularly if someone says I can’t do something but I know what I’m doing and I know what I like. I don’t need to give someone 20 per cent to tell me that.”

But isn’t he worried that by ‘going it alone’ he could become overconfident?

“I think you get to tipping point in your life when suddenly you think ‘I can do this’. That’s confidence not arrogance,” he said. “I remember a psychologist once said to me the difference between confidence and arrogance is gratitude and I really like that idea. If you are grateful you will never become arrogant and I’ve always remembered that as I’ve gone along.”

For most artists, the prospect of a 21-date UK tour would be enough to occupy their mind, but for Will it's just one of a number of plates he’s happy to keep spinning.

“To be honest I’ve been quite busy with just lots of things that come in,” he said. “I’m writing a book (he’s already written a children’s book) and been doing some songs for various jobs. I’ve had meetings for some possible TV projects too so it’s been nicely busy.

“But now, what I love is building towards the tour. I’ve worked out what I want to do creatively and am starting to get the clothes made for the show.

“I’ve got a set list and I’ll meet my musical director and we’ll talk through it. It slowly builds up and then it gets quite intense in rehearsals.

“What is nice is that we have done some gigs over the summer so we are half prepared in a way.

“When it comes to the old songs, I’ve had pretty much the same band for 10 years so we pretty much know them - at least I hope we do,” he laughed.

“It’s not too big a leap to do those again. It’s more a question of introducing the new songs and then working out how the material will fit into the set.”

Will said he hopes to play a some songs from his new album Lexicon but added: “We’re not going to do loads of new ones.

“I’ve got quite big back catalogue and I think it’s really important to do the hits for people and I love performing them.

“We’ll probably swap around some of the new ones dependent on the night. That can be really fun. For the band it keeps the energy up and means we’re not doing exactly the same thing every night.”

Although he is keeping tight lipped about the show as a whole he did give a little teaser.

“I’m really pleased with the opening of the show,” he said. “It’s not a magic trick as such but it will certainly surprise the audience. I’m not going to say any more, you’ll have to come along and see it for yourself.”

Will Young plays Manchester Apollo, on Friday, October 18 and Blackpool Opera House, on Tuesday, October 29.

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