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Soldiers boyband at the Towngate
TOURS of Afghanistan are the norm for a serving soldier – but tours of the UK’s theatres and music venues? It’s a little more unusual.
But for soldiers Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Staff Sergeant Richie Maddocks and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi, it’s become business as usual. The rather alternative “boyband” have scored album chart hits – with their first album going double platinum and their second silver.
The Soldiers bring their show to the Towngate, Basildon, on Friday and they’ll be performing their usual blend of songs and banter.
“We don’t think of ourselves as popstars,” admits Ryan. “More ambassadors for British forces. We get a lot of bad press in the papers and we want to show the good side of it. To be the good face of the British Army.”
Ryan was singled out to be part of the band after a separate brush with music stardom – he appeared on X Factor in 2007. He reached the bootcamp stage and lost out to classically-trained Welsh singer Rhydian Roberts.
“I never wanted to be a singer,” says Ryan, who says he only entered the TV talent contest as a joke.
“Simon Cowell wanted to keep me, if I’d been in his group I probably would have stayed there. But look at me now, who needs the X Factor!”
Shortly after getting the boot, Ryan headed out to Afghanistan and thought no more of his brief flirt with popstar fame. But on his return there was a letter waiting for him and he opened it just in time. He explains: “I came back early because I got injured and I found this letter – a handwritten letter from a guy called Jeff Chegwin. I was lucky because he was about to give up on me.”
Music entrepreneur Jeff had teamed up with Grammy-nominated and multiple Classical Brit Award-winning producer, Nick Patrick. They had the idea of putting together a group of singing soldiers and, because of his X Factor background, Ryan was an obvious choice.
Once the group was assembled, it did not take long for them to gather a loyal fanbase. Ryan explains: “The first album was all about connecting with people. That went really well and the second album was quite similar. Then the third was all about reflection and remembrance.”
The group’s fourth album is set to have an optimistic, forward-thinking feel, with more upbeat numbers and a positive vibe.
Despite one tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq, Ryan says his new life as a touring popstar is far more exhausting and challenging for him. He admits: “This is a lot harder. I’ve never been so tired in my life.”
He doubles up his duties as the musical face of the forces with his current role as a member of the Army recruiting team in Brecon.
Although his work as part of the Soldiers is still closely linked in with promoting the forces, he could still get a call that would take him back to Afghanistan or elsewhere.
He says: “I’m a soldier first and foremost. If I get a call it’s my job, but I’m very lucky. If we didn’t enjoy this, then why the hell would we be doing it?’
The Soldiers, the Towngate, St Martins Square, Basildon, on Friday at 7.30pm. £23. 01268 465465.