Matt Willis Interview - Solo show for ex-Busted member
EMMA LEE He’s gone from being one third of the teen punk pop band Busted to king of the I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here jungle. Now recovered from bungee-jumping out of a helicopter, Matt Willis is playing a solo show at Norwich UEA later this month. Emma Lee spoke to him.
“I was scared about it,” admits Matt Willis. The singer is talking about his decision to venture into the I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here jungle in November. But it wasn't the legendary Bushtucker Trials that the former Busted member was worried about, despite him having a fear of heights and creepy crawlies.
“I was thinking: 'I'm pretty sure I'm not a dick, but how do I know? Maybe people will think I am'. I don't talk in my sleep or anything, so I thought I'd be ok.”
But as Matt, who plays a gig in Norwich this week, says “It couldn't have gone better”, as he ended up being crowned champion - ahead of Gorleston girl Myleene Klass and former Neighbours heart-throb Jason Donovan.
He's quite candid about what prompted his brush with reality TV.
“Well, you know, they asked me and I said no - I said no four times. Then I thought 'I've got an album coming out, what can I do to raise the game?' I didn't really want to do a reality show, but then I thought 'you only live once'. I want to get people buying my records. And I don't regret doing it - I won.”
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As well as confronting one of his biggest fears by bungee-jumping his way into camp from a helicopter, he also had to take part in one of the nastiest Bushtucker Trials, which involved him having to eat parts of a kangaroo's anatomy that don't bear thinking about.
“You can't really prepare yourself for the trials,” he says. “For the last one where I had to eat all that stuff I had thought to myself that I wouldn't have to do it, because that trial had already been done. I thought I'd have to do one where I got covered in insects, so I covered myself in insect-repellent, arrived there and had to do an eating trial - and all I could taste was insect-repellent,” he laughs.
But he discovered that the biggest problem was the times of inactivity between tasks.
“I got bored, but in fairness I knew I would. There were quite a few things that made me think 'why am I doing this?'”
He did make some friends - despite not really recognising some of them. Although being in his early 20s he can be forgiven for not knowing who Faith Brown and Jan Leeming are.
“It was very surreal. I didn't know who Phina [Oruche] was, or Lauren [Booth] or Jan Leeming. Or Faith Brown. I knew who David Gest was. I still don't really know who Scott Henshall is. It was fun, though. It doesn't matter who's the most famous because you're all in there together - there's no competition.
“I see David all the time. I speak to Jason and Myleene. I even speak to Toby [Anstis]. David really was such a great guy - and he's doing really well out of it. He's got his own TV show. I've watched the first episode and the last episode of I'm A Celebrity, and I can't wait to watch the rest,” he says.
Now back in the real world, it's back to his day job of trying to establish himself as a solo artist, with his fingers crossed that he's found some new fans thanks to his stint on prime-time TV.
Matt shot to fame in Busted, alongside Charlie Simpson and James Bourne.
The teen heart-throbs enjoyed numerous top 10 hits, including Year 3000, Crashed The Wedding and What I Go To School For, before disbanding at the beginning of 2005.
Something of a hedonist, he openly admits that he “can't remember most of my life” and during a brief hiatus from the music business following the band's split he had a well-publicised stint in the Priory.
Earlier he's said: “In rehab, they talk about you hitting rock bottom, but I saw it more as prevention against becoming a total arsehole. I was there for two weeks, but you're supposed to be in there for a month. I did the whole going to meetings thing, I stopped drinking for a while… but it was like, 'do you know what? I don't want to spend four nights out of my week in a church hall listening to people talk about getting drunk'. I listened to everyone talk about how dark it was and I was like 'wait a second, I had a wicked time'. I might have had a bit of a dark moment but I think everyone does.”
Talking about that time now, he says: “Being in Busted was a bit of a whirlwind sometimes. It was just non-stop. I was pretty upset about it all [the split]. I was down about it and it drove me crazy. I'm not very good left to my own devices, I get into trouble. I went a little bit mental, then got my head back together. I still speak to James all the time and I speak to Charlie when I can.
“I had a really good time in Busted,” he adds.
Now he's a solo artist - and comparisons have been made to a certain Robbie Williams.
The result is Don't Let It Go To Waste, a huge-sounding stadium pop album, which includes the gloriously daft singles Up All Night and Hey Kid. He collaborated with Jason Perry and Daniel P Carter from the Suffolk band A on the record. But Matt says he's not so sure that he's going to permanently take the solo route.
“When I was in Busted we worked every day and had a ridiculous schedule. So I took my time. I never wanted to be solo. You hear a lot of people saying 'I dreamed about this', but I always wanted to be in a band. I'm still not sure whether I want to be solo. I might go off and try different things. I haven't got a plan. They say 'never say never',” he says.
“I tried to make a real stadium sound for my album. I love bands like Van Halen,” he adds.
There's also hints of Green Day and, perhaps, if you listen really closely some Vanilla Ice.
“Ice Ice Baby was the first record I bought. I still know all the words. I love it,” he says.
Matt's looking forward to playing his date in Norwich as some of the Norfolk branch of his family could be in the audience. And with that in mind, he's going to be on his best behaviour the night before.
“It's on the 22nd, isn't it? See I'm well prepared for the interview. It's the night after London. It means I have to be well behaved after my London show and go to bed early.”
t Matt plays UEA on Thursday, February 22. For ticket information telephone the box office on 01603 508050 or visit www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk
t His album, Don't Let It Go To Waste, is out now.