Ex-Corrie star's new music career

Robyn Greenacre Former Coronation Street star Richard Fleeshman talks to Robyn Greenacre about his new music career ahead of his Norwich gig.

Robyn Greenacre

Wailing off-key ballads, inappropriate outfits and dignity left firmly behind at the door is a common recipe for soapstars desperate to break out of the acting mould and on to the pop scene.

Often a dizzyingly hectic promotional schedule of appearances at best warrants an ever so faint entry into the lower end of the charts.

And within a month the person in question has packed up their belongings into the latest Mulberry bag and caught a one-way train back to soapsville where the only stop is plenty of parties, and a regular wage.

It would be a blatant lie to say those celebrities who tried the tricky transition had the nation's full support in fact the opposite is true.

The image of someone trying to convince the world they can hold a tune while stumbling across the stage is always worth staying in of an evening.

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But now it looks like one person is set to ruin the fun.

Richard Fleeshman was catapulted into the limelight and on to the Coronation Street cobbles in 2002 when he was just 12, playing Craig Harris.

He grew up in front of the camera changing from fresh-faced youngster to a goth with a penchant for eyeliner who had to endure the turmoil of his sister murdering his father with his mother falsely imprisoned for the crime - and was the only member of his family to escape the axe in 2005.

A year later he captured the hearts of the nation's teenage girls when he appeared on Soapstar Superstar, in which as the title suggests soapstars compete against each other in a karaoke-style contest in order to win money for charity.

It was a move he did not take lightly.

“I knew the programme could be quite damaging. But on the same token it was a perfect opportunity to break into music.

“I had to ask myself, will I ever get the chance to do this again. To sing live in front of 10 million people every night for two weeks. Even on the X factor you're only singing once a week. That's why I did it.

“I've been playing and writing music since I was young and I wanted to be able to show what I could do.

“The problem is in this country people don't believe a person can be good at more than one thing. It's as if they think 'Well they can do that so they won't be good at anything else'.

“America doesn't have that issue. There, one day someone will be in front of a camera, then singing, then presenting, then performing live. There isn't the need to categorise over there.”

Despite his reservations and being the dark horse of the show - fellow entrant and Neighbours star Dr Karl Kennedy has been performing with his band Waiting Room for years - Richard beat off the competition to be crowned the winner.

And with the offers of record deals flooding in, many tabloids hinted that he would take the predictable route of a quick album release followed by an even quicker descent into obscurity.

Instead he surprised everyone, turning down offers to take time out to finish filming Coronation Street, his last episode aired in October 2006, then in January spending nine months recording album Neon at West London's Kensal Town Studios collaborating with producers who have worked with respectable talent such as James Morrison, Take That, and KT Tunstall.

“When I finished the show my head was such a mess. I was only 16 I didn't know how to cope with it all.

“There was all this attention on me. I had offers to record albums immediately. I needed time to think about it.

“A career with longevity was important. I didn't want to release an album of covers and then not know where to go from there. I know it works for some people and I respect that but it wasn't the right thing for me to do,” he said.

“From a young age I've always written songs and I wanted something to have my mark on it.

“I realise I'm on the bottom rung of the ladder and I've gone down further than I could have. But this way I've had time to assess what I want to do and to reach the sound I wanted. I wanted to be proud of this album.

“I'm aware that it's going to take a lot of time to get recognition. I don't have unrealistic expectations that in the next few years I'm going to have best-selling albums worldwide.”

To find this sort of maturity and awareness is rare enough in an 18-year-old who has already accrued a hefty amount of success, but Richard is also incredibly humble.

His debut tour kicks off on Tuesday and will give fans their first chance to see the album Neon performed, and instead of worrying about being booked in the smaller venues he is relishing it.

“Performing in a small venue makes it a much more intimate experience, much better. It means I can meet the fans as well. I plan on staying around after the gig to chat. I can't wait to see them all.

“This business is all about the fans. They've been there for a long time and I'm very grateful for that. Some of them have been with me since Coronation Street and some since the music. It's why I do this.”

Looks like this teenager is set to challenge the stereotype.

t Richard Fleeshman's next single Hold Me Close is out now. He will perform at Norwich Waterfront on Monday, March 3. Tickets are £10.50 - telephone the box office on 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk