They were the teen pop stars who, between them, went on to win Strictly and I'm A Celebrity, as well as battle drugs and depression. Now, McFly want to be taken seriously
22:46 GMT, 16 November 2012
This time a year ago there was speculation it might be the end of the road for the hugely successful band McFly.
After selling over eight million records since they became the youngest band ever to have a debut album go straight to No. 1 in 2003 – beating The Beatles – the teenagers had grown into men before our eyes and seemed to be pursuing their own careers.
Muscled heart-throb Harry Judd quickstepped his way to victory on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing. Dougie Poynter became just as popular as the surprise winner of ITV’s reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Danny Jones launched new projects as a fashion designer and DJ, while Tom Fletcher was carving out a successful niche as a songwriter, providing tracks for One Direction.
After selling over eight million records since they became the youngest band ever to have a debut album go straight to No. 1 in 2003 beating The Beatles
However, their solo successes have only made the band – famous for number one hits like All About You and Star Girl – more determined to make the tricky transition from teen idols into respected man band, something only Gary Barlow’s Take That has managed in recent years. A
new single Love Is Easy, their first in 18 months, is the first step.
Today they’re looking back on the past year, and it’s obvious they’ve been through something of a coming of age, dealing with everything from drug addiction to depression.
‘We’ve grown up now,’ Harry, 26, reflects.
‘Two of us don’t drink any more. One of us is married. We’ve done all the fun things worth talking about!’
But they admit the pressures of childhood fame created huge psychological problems for them. ‘I’ve had serious issues with anxiety over the years,’ Harry admits. ‘For us as a band, it’s not a taboo. We talk about it openly.’
The band’s main songwriter Tom, 27, who had battled dramatic mood swings for years, has now been diagnosed as bipolar.
‘It’s manic depression,’ he explains. ‘When I’m manic I’m inspired. That’s where the best creative stuff comes from. But the downs are horrendous – you can’t remember what it’s like to feel happy.’
Harry adds, ‘The diagnosis explained Tom’s behaviour over the past five years. He could be horrible to us, so it was a relief because we all understood what he’s been going through.’
Dougie, 24, has spent years battling his own demons with drink and drugs.
A suicide attempt following a high-profile split with girlfriend Frankie Sandford, a member of girl band The Saturdays, saw him admitted to rehab facility The Priory.
Between them they have achieved great things and insist that they've all grown up
‘I’m an addict,’ he admits. ‘I have been for many years. I’d struggle as soon as I was left by myself and left in my own head. That’s when the demons would come out. Then I’d get so high I’d end up crashing back down. It was out of control when I was 19. But I had to get to a point where I realised, “I have to do something about this because I can’t go a day without getting off my head on something.”’
Six months after leaving rehab Dougie went into the I’m A Celebrity jungle, having just met the girl he now lives with, artist Lara Carew-Jones.
‘We got together two weeks before and it was quite intense,’ he says.
‘I’ve never got on as well with anyone as I have with her. It’s like she’s inside my body. I didn’t realise how weird I was until I met her!’
Likewise, Tom’s personal life is contented after he married childhood sweetheart Giovanna Falcone in May. ‘It works fine because the boys have known her from the start. It’s our nine-year anniversary today.’
Danny’s love life has been more complicated. In 2009, the 26-year-old ended a relationship with Miss England 2008 Laura Coleman, to start dating Miss England 2007 Georgia Horsley.
‘Through one Miss I got another Miss who’s now my missus,’ he says, meaning his current girlfriend.
Harry, meanwhile, is planning his wedding to Izzy Johnston, the violinist who found fame as part of electric string quartet Escala who were signed by Simon Cowell after making the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2008.
Apart from a brief flirtation with Lindsay Lohan (‘I guarantee she won’t remember me’), he’s always known he would marry his girlfriend of seven years.
‘There’s a bit of pressure on the first dance for the wedding,’ he admits after his Strictly success last year. ‘We’re planning something because I’m so happy to have dance in my life now. Forget winning Strictly, for me the highlight was the actual dancing.’
His friends from the show Robbie Savage, Jason Donovan and Russell Grant will all be invited to the wedding.
McFly say that One Direction remind them of a young version of their band
McFly took time out earlier this year to pass their boy band baton to X Factor stars One Direction, now one of the hottest pop acts on the planet.
Danny invited the band to write and record new material for their album at a recording studio he’s installed at his house. ‘They remind us so much of what we were like when we were younger. And they look up to us,’ he explains.
Harry adds, ‘You forget you might have made a mark on their life. But we can’t fully relate to what they’re going through because they’re having worldwide success.’
In fact, it’s still a sore point for the band that their record company didn’t launch them in the US while they were at their peak. ‘You can’t have any regrets because we’re happy with the success we’ve had. But there’s still a question mark there,’ Harry concedes.
After the release of their greatest hits, the band will focus on a new album to be released next year. ‘It’s easy for pop bands who don’t write their own songs. They only have to sing the vocals. The new album will all be written by us. We’d never rush something out just to cash in,’ says Tom.
McFly are determined to follow in the footsteps of Take That by releasing credible material. ‘We won’t compromise. We’re four genuine friends whose creativity comes from the band,’ Harry insists.
Tom adds, ‘It’s hard getting people to take us seriously. But there’s no chance of us breaking up.’
McFly’s single Love Is Easy is out now. The album Memory Lane: The Best Of McFly is out on 26 November.