Just over a year ago the prospect of interviewing Lee Mead would have been a little worrying. He was nervous, very guarded and unsure of his own self when you chatted about his promising career in showbiz. But what he lacked in personality back then he made up for in talent.
Right now Lee is pretty much unrecognisible from the fresh fledgling reality show winner of BBC’s Any Dream Will Do. He’s dressed fashionably, is clearly revelling in finishing his role as Joseph on the West End and promoting his solo album and he’s head over heels in love.
In fact, he’s newly engaged and he’s so excited about making Denise Van Outen, 34, the new Mrs Mead – and it’s going to happen this year. Lee, 27, beams with delight saying: “I honestly couldn’t be happier right now. Den and me are so happy about it all. The wedding will be this year – probably fairly small and private. She’s everything to me – and my best friend at the same time. I can wear the trousers now and again – and so can she. We are equal – I guess we’re one.”
And whereas in the past Lee would nervously skip around questions about his private life he is now confident of his relationship with Denise, whom he met when she judged his performance week in week out on the BBC1 show Any Dream Will Do. “I’d love to have children and hope we can start a family,” he says blushing slightly in an adorable way. “We’re so happy and it’s a really exciting time. Marriage for me is for life. This isn’t some sort of celebrity couple that is fairly doomed from the start. We’ve moved to a country pile in Kent and we even have sheep. Life with Denise is just fantastic.”
The star does admit that the relationship with Denise was tricky at times saying they “often had conflicting work schedules that led to time apart”. But since they moved in together in Kent all’s going swimmingly. “We’re making sure we spend a lot more time together now and it’s just brilliant,” he says. “People like Tess Daly and Vernon Kay are always working – but they make their schedules work so as they spend as much time together. And that’s my priority. We don’t want to live married life working so hard and never seeing each other.”
The star’s physical appearance is noticeably different too since he hung up his Technicolour Dreamcoat for the foreseeable in December last year. “I’m allowed to let my chest hair grow now, look,” he says, pulling down his All Saints t-shirt to reveal a stubbly chest. “I’ve put on a little bit of weight and my arms are not quite as big as they were. But I’m not tubby. As long as the belly is nice and flat I’m not worried.” He also freely admits he looks after his appearance like the next metrosexual. Lee says: “I do use moisturiser. Maybe a lot of men would disagree but I think as a modern man you have to look after yourself, don’t you?”
Lee’s enviable frame and six pack was shown off in its best way during Lee’s year and a half run on the West End as the lead in Joseph. But a buff celebrity body like his he was always going to attract some bizarre female attention. He says: “I do have a few super fans from being in the show. I remember saying one time that I was a fan of steak and onions and I started to get fans dropping around fillet steak and onions. One lady even turned up with a Lee Mead doll. It was a perfect mini version of myself – it was a bit weird really.”
Now that Gareth Gates has taken over the role on the West End Lee can relax and spend more quality time with Denise – as well as start his new career as a solo recording artist. But he’s not straying too far from his squeaky clean roots of working on the London stage. He jokes: “I think as an artist you have to be realistic about your audience and try to grow as well and learn and I think that’s pretty near the mark to be honest with the new album –it’s somewhere in the middle. I didn’t think that I wanted to make a musical theatre album and equally if I tried to be like and Indie star or like Marilyn Manson or something then it would just look really contrived. I’m just me.”
As well as building a recording studio in his country pad with Denise, the star got his first taste at writing his own songs for Nothing Else Matters. “I co-wrote 25 songs and two made it onto the album,” he smiles. “I was proud of that. Record companies are always a bit dubious about letting you write your own songs. But I was pleased they liked the tracks. I worked with the guys that have worked with people like James Morrison and Gary Barlow.”
And with this second album Lee hopes it kicks off the start of a long career in music – he hopes to tour the album and be around for up to five more albums in the future. “I’m not going to put so much pressure on myself for this to work,” he admits. “I hope I get to make a third album, and a fourth and a fifth. What I do know is for this album I have given a hundred percent. I’ve worked really hard on the writing and being involved. If it sells really well then great and if it doesn’t than you reassess the situation. But I’m not going anywhere.”
And after a hugely successful run in Joseph we may even get to see him back on the West end stage again one day. He reveals: “I have lots coming up. There’s of course this album – but I’d never rule out a return to the West End stage, I’m hoping to do more acting, I should be working again with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber sooner than you’d think and I’ve got a wedding to plan.”
Lee Mead’s brilliant new album Nothing Else Matters is out now.