Barry Conrad Southgate has been soaring high since wowing Australians on The X Factor in 2013, but it is the Hills that grounds him.
With the world his oyster, the down-to-earth 32-year-old likes coming home to Kellyville,where he can kick back with his “Australian family”.
“It is a lot saner here in the ’burbs; it is quiet and friendly, a real family area,” Barry told Sydney Hills Living. “People think I should be in the city all the time, and that is fine, but when I want to think, to write, I like the vibe of the Hills.”
South African-born Barry, his parents and two brothers moved from Cape Town to New Zealand when he was 12.
“The growing crime rate was the reason we wanted to move,” he said.
Arriving in Sydney in 2003 with singing-dancing group Jireh, which disbanded a few years later, Barry captured a wide audience on The X Factor, in which he came in the top 10.
Soon after arriving in Sydney, Barry moved in with his “second mum” Audrey Phillips and her family in Kellyville.
Sadly, Audrey died of cancer while he was performing on The X Factor, and he continues to live with the family, making frequent visits home to New Zealand when he can.
Back then, and until recently, Barry’s surname was Southgate. It was as Barry Southgate that he performed on The X Factor, so it was a brave move to change his name to Barry Conrad as he was gaining recognition in Australia.
“It didn’t really fit any more, and Conrad is my middle name so it wasn’t really much of a change. It suits me more — Barry means sharp and Conrad means brave and wise, and that is what I want to carry with me,” he said.
“Besides,” added Barry, assuming an upper-crust English accent, “Southgate sounds so English professor — ‘oh, hello Dr Southgate’.”
The young performer does have a spot of English in his mixed heritage, along with African, German and Indonesian, explaining his exotic good looks.
Tell him he’s good looking — and pardon me, but I couldn’t resist — and he gives a head-tilting “aw, shucks”.
Aw shucks indeed, but there is something self-effacing about this young man — as self-effacing as a talented artist can be. He is comfortable with interviews, from TV to metropolitan and local press, and is very giving of his time.
It is a wonder he has any down time, what with releasing songs, writing, mentoring and appearing on stage in the role of Flick in the musical Violet at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point. He has already spread his acting wings, in the well-acclaimed movie The Sapphires, starring Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman.
“I would like to do more acting but singing and songwriting remain my priority at the moment,” Barry said. “After Violet, I will be performing in Hairspray Arena Spectacular, the largest production of Hairspray staged in the world.”
Building up his fan base in Australia through his recordings and stage appearances is his focus for now, but mention the United States and his face lights up.
“Of course, I would like to try my luck there and I am sowing the seeds for that,” he said. “It is kind of a Hollywood tradition for singers to straddle singing and film-making — look at Elvis.”
While the former model is clear about his path he had, as a youngster, taken his talent for granted even though he had been singing in his family for as long as he can remember.
“Music was part of my family and it was natural for me to sing, but I hadn’t thought of doing it as a career,” he said.
With his father and brothers playing guitar and singing and his mother a recorded gospel singer, music was the obvious choice for Barry.
“I didn’t have the confidence to start with but had worked behind the scenes until I decided to give it a go,” he said.
The young man was already building a reputation as a songwriter, having penned songs for artists such as Paulini, Stan Walker and Sasha-Lee Davids when he appeared on X Factor. But he almost did not make the audition, so busy was he with songwriting and mentoring.
“In fact, I missed the Sydney auditions and made it to the last day of the Melbourne ones,” he laughed.
However, while X Factor helped accelerate his career, there is no doubt that he would have made it anyway. After all, he had already performed before the Pope for World Youth Day 2008 in front of a televised worldwide audience of half a billion people.
As for his musical style, Barry does not want to be categorised, although he accepts that he is regarded as a soul singer. “People like to call me that because of the way I look I guess,” he said, but agreed that is where his sound comfortably fits. He is happy that his music appeals to a wide age range, from teens through to “older people”, he said as he looked my way.
I have to agree that his style of beautiful music and clear lyrics does sit well with baby boomers — well, this baby boomer for sure. Aw, shucks.
His smooth sound is most evident on his latest release, Anywhere You Go, a beautiful love ballad. Comments made by fans on YouTube praise his excellent diction, a compliment he takes to heart as he prides himself on a clear delivery of his lyrics.
A giving artist happy to offer advice to aspiring performers, Barry said that hard work was the key to making it in the tough world of music. That, and looking after yourself and not partying too hard.
“I don’t diet but eat whole foods most of the time, allowing myself one day a week when I can eat what I want,” he said.
Obviously a robust specimen who works out, Barry tries to get eight hours sleep a night.
“I don’t mind going out with friends but I’m not into late nights — or not too many of them,” he said.
And does he have a special lady in his life? Coyly, Barry said he is too busy for a regular relationship. Modesty prevents this gentleman from saying how many young ladies vie for his time. ☐