This interview was so much more than your standard interview, and Barry Conrad is so much more than meets the eye. Here is a guy who has worked on fulfilling every part of his being and genuinely wants to leave his mark on the world. Not only is he undeniably talented, but he has a good head on his shoulders that would make any mother proud. So much has been going on for Conrad, but he still makes time to work out, enjoy food and give back. We’re going to hold you to that joint work out next time you’re in Melbourne, Barry.
It’s been an emotional week for the whole world, but The Tony Awards happened earlier this week, which was such an amazing celebration for our industry. What were your sentiments of the day?
It was bitter sweet. Obviously, it was great show. And I’m a massive fan of Hamilton, so I was stoked that they cleaned up. But at same time, you’re feeling devastated for everyone affected by the Orlando attack. I loved that there was this genuine underlying thread of positivity and hope in everyone’s speeches though. Like Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s. I think using your platform to do something like what he did is amazing. Because he made what could have been a self-indulgent moment about others. And what he said was powerful: “Love is love”.
What do you want to use your platform for?
I lost my second mom to cancer while on I was on the X Factor, and my grandmother to it on my birthday as well. That led me to getting on board Cancer Council Australia as an ambassador. I’m also an advocate of R U OK?, because I’ve been through bullying and depression personally. Basically, I want to use my platform to give a voice to everyday people who may feel like they don’t have a mouthpiece, or a voice loud enough to be heard. Anything that’s positive and lifts somebody up, I’m all about it.
You’re starting to really extend your musical theatre credits first with Violet now Hairspray. How are you finding this new found avenue of expression.
I love it. To be honest, I was hesitant at first to do musicals, ’cause I have a lot of mates who do them and they’re on these long contracts. That huge commitment kinda scared me! But when Violet came my way, it was a shorter run, and the character and story jumped at me straight away. Again, it had that underlying message where it’s not just about: “Hey, look at me perform”, but more about the fact that beauty isn’t just skin deep. That was important to me, and I fell in love with the role. It was the perfect first show for me, because it was super intimate and raw. There was no other option than to just do the work. I couldn’t hide behind gimmicks or my profile.
Your performance in Violet was really quite amazing. You made me, and I’m sure the whole audience, really notice you and what you offer to the stage. Why is now the time for you to explore this avenue?
I studied acting for film and TV and spent plenty of time in front of the camera, but never professional theatre. I find theatre more vulnerable compared to screen though. It’s just one take and you have that immediate reaction from the crowd. Now is the time, ’cause I’m done being scared of being vulnerable. And I think doing X Factor was the catalyst for that. It really started breaking down my walls and layers, and made me realise I had to show more of who I am. That it’s actually OK to not control everything and be perfect. And musical theatre has been the best way for me to not only show my acting side, but just be human and let people in more.
Are you peeling off the layers like Donkey and Shrek talk about?
Hell yes! That’s what is it. I’m peeling, peeling, peeling.
You’re very lucky to have the best of both worlds; being a recording artist and a musical theatre performer. Does the feeling differ between the two mediums of artistry?
It definitely differs, because with musical theatre you’re just not yourself. So I’ve got to take my Barry Conrad hat off and be the character, not just act it. It’s such an awesome release and rush, I love it! Getting to be someone else and tell their story is an honour and so much fun, for real.
I noticed some similarities to Guy Sebastian – especially with the fro and then not the fro. Did you hear him feature on Paces’ Like A Version covering L D R U’s ‘Keeping Score’.
No I haven’t. I gotta get onto it.
If you were to do a Like A Version, what would you do?
You can’t ask me that! Give me choices.
Which genre would you pick?
Oh man. I’d go straight indie or country, and flip it up! I used to work for Guy back in the day and he’s a beast. One of the most talented guys I know. Such a perfectionist too. Even when he’s sick, he gets up on stage and kills it.
When can we expect some new music from you? Are you working simultaneously on recording new music as well as doing Hairspray?
I’m actually in that zone at the moment and writing again. I had to wrap my head around making space for this new entity that is musical theatre, so now that I’m navigating my way through that, I’m writing again. I’ve definitely got new tunes coming it’s just about switching hats. I’m not a good multi-tasker, I’m actually really terrible at it.
We’ve got some fun, quick fire questions to wrap up.
Ideal first date? For starters it has to be with good food cause I’m a foodie and the girl has to eat, like if she’s scared to eat it’s a deal breaker.
Favourite brunch dish? I can never go past a big breakfast. Anyone who knows me knows I love poached eggs, avocado, haloumi, bacon, salmon; the works. Oh, and with two long blacks on the side.
Have you got a favourite place to go eat when you come to Melbourne? Yep, Pillar of Salt. I’m still exploring but the cafe scene is popping. I love it. I also love Trei.
Barry White or Barry Manilow? Barry White c’mon! How fast did I answer that question. It’s the only answer.
Marvel or DC? Marvel! I’m actually obsessed you don’t understand. I have hundreds of comics in storage from when I was a kid. I’m a fan boy, fan girl, everything.
Have you been to Comic Con or Supanova? No! I need to do it!
Who would you cosplay as? Wolverine. That is me. It’s actually a dream of mine to be in a superhero movie, even if I play the ground.
Best show to Netflix and chill to? It has to be Game of Thrones c’mon. Can’t go past it. It’s more just the background anyway, lets keep it real. It’s just for ambience.
What music would you have on in the background? We could do a Like A Version playlist.
Hairspray The Big Fat Arena Spectacular kicks off its national tour next month in Newcastle. You can get your tickets from http://www.hairsprayarenashow.com/#!newcastle/kwbpg