For a bloke who used to work as a landscape gardener, local lad Tim Clarke hasn’t done too badly for himself.
He has performed on West End stages more than 800 times and has written an opera with Neil Hannon.
But not content with that, he is now making an attempt to launch a career as a singer-songwriter and has released an album of his own songs.
“I’ve always had this love of making my own music but the strange thing is there’s more pressure releasing an album and gigging, than there is performing a major musical at a big theatre in London,” said the 54-year-old.
“In a musical there’s a cast of 30 and the audience are in to have a good time. But when you’re in a pub in Macclesfield on a rainy Tuesday night and no one knows who you are there is no hiding place.”
Clarke’s life story is fascinating. He grew up on Green Drive in Lytham (his mum still lives in the area), went to St Joseph’s College (near Stanley Park, now a housing estate) and then, devoid of ideas about what to do as a career, started playing bars in Blackpool in the nattily-named cabaret band Bazooka Joe.
Next came a few years abroad in France and Germany, which is where the gardening comes in. “I worked as a landscape gardener during the day and went to music sessions at night,” recalled Tim. “I had this bizarre lawnmowers and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.”
Tim eventually returned to Blackpool and did a performing arts degree as a mature student, then got a post grad in electronic composition. All the while he played the hotels and clubs and had some success, winning the Viking’s Talk of the Coast competition and representing the resort on the old BBC show Top Town, performing some of his songs.
His big break came courtesy of Bill Kenwright. “I went to London to audition for a show. I sang Reet Petite – which I was singing in my act in Blackpool – and Kenwright said he loved it and asked me where I’d been all this time,” said Tim.
A role in the UK touring a version of Jesus Christ Superstar followed before, in 1989, Tim got the part of Norman Petty in a new musical called The Buddy Holly Story.
“It was the first biog musical and no one really expected it to be a hit, but the theatre was packed every night and it was a fantastic time,” said Tim.
The rest is history. He starred in the show for more than three years (including a stint in Germany), and has since appeared in an array of West End shows.
In the last few years he’s combined that with writing an opera with Neil Hannon, the hugely respected frontman of The Divine Comedy. “He has a fantastic ear for music and I learned so much from him,” said Tim. And now he’s taking the plunge and embarking on a songwriting career of his own.
Debut album To Love And Be Loved has been released and Tim is taking it so seriously he’s even stopped auditioning for shows.
“I want to give it my best shot,” he added. “The album is very personal and aimed at a more mature audience, 35 plus, as they will relate to what I sing about.
“Hopefully people will like it but I’m under no illusions. I’ve been in the business long enough to know it can either kick you in the teeth or be marvellously rewarding.”
To order the album, or for more information about Tim, go to www.timclarkemusic.com or email him direct at email@example.com