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'I should have taken ten years off'

These days Gary Barlow is on top of the world: the Take That reunion has seen him stroll back to the top of the charts with a series of delightful pop ditties, and is now going on the sort of money-spinning tours that they should have been doing when they were first famous (the boys famously missed out on the sort of money that The Spice Girls made only a couple of years later thanks to less aggressive management and promotion). However it wasn't always like this, especially post-split, when Barlow suffered from writers block and chronic confidence issues. But now he says he's over that, and back in the song writing groove – hooray!

Barlow says that moving out to California and living like a normal human being for a while saw him become a proper writer again, which offers a solution to anyone struggling with the pen/keyboard: have a kid and do normal things, and your creativity will come flooding back.

'It was great. I was doing stuff I hadn't done for ten years,' said Barlow. 'I would walk into a supermarket and go, 'Wow, look at all the brands of toothpaste - this is unbelievable.' I had a year of getting my life back and I watched my son cough, sneeze and walk for the first time.

'I don't know if it was writer's block, because I would come up with stuff but it was just rubbish. I've always had a good ear, my intuition is good with new music, but I knew straight away that nothing I was coming up with was any good. Most of what you do - the big part of you - is gone, it's evaporated. Your question is, 'Is it going to come back?' I ended up with no confidence as a writer.

'It's like taking confidence away from Premier League winners. They play properly but the luck doesn't come their way - and it's exactly the same as a creative person. You are not going to come up with anything without confidence. Doing something with all your confidence stripped is hard - it would have been better to take ten years off.'

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