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Peter Andre on pop stardom, keeping chickens and Lingfield life

PUBLISHED: 11:35 23 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:42 23 April 2018

Peter Andre is looking forward to performing at Hampton Court Palace (Photo HCP - Dan Kennedy)

Peter Andre is looking forward to performing at Hampton Court Palace (Photo HCP - Dan Kennedy)

Dan Kennedy

Singer-songwriter, presenter and coffee aficionado, Peter Andre is used to being in the spotlight – yet these days, he’s also busy embracing the good life with his young family in Lingfield. Home, it seems, is definitely where the heart is…

The concerts at Hampton Court are always a fabulous occasion (Photo HCP - stephen@positive-images.co.uk)The concerts at Hampton Court are always a fabulous occasion (Photo HCP - stephen@positive-images.co.uk)

While many pop stars seem to live on another planet when it comes to their backstage demands – from rare orchids to vintage Champagne to ‘mao feng’ green tea – Peter Andre has just one small request prior to our interview: “Do you mind if I feed my chickens while we talk? It’s just I forgot to do them earlier...”

It’s asked with all the silky smooth charm you’d expect from the man whose gyrating six-pack saw him burst onto the 1990s music scene with two No.1 albums and a string of hits, including the chart-topping Mysterious Girl. Yet, it also quashes, in one foul swoop (no pun intended), the image of the high-profile heart-throb 
who in 2004 sparked the love interest of fellow contestant Katie Price on the TV jungle caper I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, before living out his life for several years in the Trumanesque-like glare of a reality show saga.

Now, it seems, keeping chickens at the Lingfield home he shares with fiancée and recently qualified doctor Emily MacDonagh, together with their 17-month-old daughter Amelia, comes pretty close to the top of the pecking order of his favourite things. And while he may have recently put the £1.7m house on the market as they look for a new place prior to their wedding, a home that is suitable for their burgeoning brood will no doubt be top priority.

“I’ve got five chickens in all; I’ve had them for about a year and I love them,” says Peter. “They’re giving us some great eggs at the moment. It might sound sad but I think it’s really fun.

“We have names for them but it’s a bit complicated because these keep changing. Currently, we’ve ‘Junior’, ‘Princess’ or ‘Pringle’, ‘Harvey’, ‘Tony’, and I’ve forgotten the other one. The kids {that’s nine-year-old Junior and seven-year-old Princess Tiáamii from his earlier marriage to Katie P} choose some funny names, don’t they? They called my pug dog ‘Porridge’.”

And, as Peter goes on to describe it, the menagerie doesn’t end there either. “We love our fish, although I don’t have names for those, and there’s ‘Peanut’, a little dwarf hamster that my daughter absolutely adores. We did have a python but he became a bit aggressive, and having a baby, it wasn’t a good idea to keep him.”

 

A doting dad

Being the doting parent seemingly comes naturally to the 42-year-old, who is not only a double winner of the Celebrity Dad of the Year award, but grew up within a big family as the youngest of six siblings. In fact, he credits both his gospel-singing grandfather and older brother and talented musician, Chris, for sowing the seeds of his own ambitions. Not that this takes anything away from the achievement of signing a recording contract at the tender age of 16, following an appearance on Australia’s version of the talent show New Faces, whilst the family were living Down Under.

And now, encouraging children to be creative (and not just his own) is something that Peter is passionate about. Having been invited to be a judge on CITV’s Share a Story Competition 2015, 
he’s keen to talk about why it matters. “Kids sometimes think what they are trying to say will sound silly,” says Peter, who has also published two children’s books of his own. “What we’re aiming to explain to them is that it isn’t. The more creative you are, the better it is.”

With the winners set to have their tale made into a professionally animated film, Peter’s thrilled to be involved in another cartoon-inspired project, having released his single Kid after it became the UK’s official track for last year’s hit movie, Mr Peabody & Sherman. And he admits to being a big fan of the late Surrey illustrator and author Roger Hargreaves, whose numerous Mr Men stories count amongst his older children’s favourites.

“Every night without fail when they’re with me, we go upstairs and we read,” says Peter, who has also teamed-up with one of Britain’s biggest-selling newspapers to encourage more children to read regularly. “It’s our routine and they love it. It can be their choice but I also encourage them to make up stories. I’ve created one for them called The Emerald Planet.”

Another cause that’s close to his heart is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Awareness Roadshow. It’s a tie-up that amounts to more than a celebrity endorsement however. After the devastation of losing his brother Andrew to kidney cancer in 2012, following treatment at Sutton’s Royal Marsden, The Peter Andre Foundation was created to spur-on his huge fan base (he has 3.3 million followers on Twitter alone) “not just to dip into their pockets and donate, but to be part of the fund-raising themselves”. These so-called ‘Pete’s Champions’ are central to achieving the £500,000 target, together with special events held at the Andre chain of New York Coffee Club shops and a percentage of NYCC sales made through supermarkets.

Perhaps it was this brush with mortality that encouraged Peter to face up to one of his own fears over the last year, thanks to hypnotherapy. “There are ways to defeat fear and I’m living proof of that,” he says. 
“I wouldn’t go anywhere near a roller- coaster and used to avoid going to a theme park so that I wouldn’t be pushed on to one.

“When you have such a state of fear, you automatically think that it’s going to get progressively worse. Then, all of a sudden, you find a way to break a link in that chain of thought. What I’m trying to say is that if you are feeling anxious, and if you feel that you can’t do this and you can’t do that, well maybe you can’t right now, but you will, and you have to know that you can.”

 

A home concert

Clearly, having played 23 sell-out concerts up and down the country on last year’s Big Night tour, performing in front of a live audience holds no such worries for Peter. And as this month’s Hampton Court Palace Festival approaches, he says it’s “a real honour” for him to be one of the headline acts.

“I’ve been there before but have never performed there. For me, it’s a great live show as we get to play swing, jazz, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s original material but we also throw in some of my favourite songs of all time – from Elvis Presley to early Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. I’m really looking forward to entertaining the Hampton Court crowd and getting them involved. It’s going to be good fun.”

In the meantime, back in Lingfield, will there be time to nail any of the DIY skills he learnt whilst presenting the TV series 60 Minute Makeover? Especially given the forthcoming house move?

“Look, I’m a typical guy; I think ‘I could do this myself’ and I try it out, and disaster usually strikes,” he laughs. “Just now, we live in a brand-new house that’s beautiful, although I also love history in homes too. I like the old and the new.”

Whatever kind of house he ends up buying next, having firmly established his Surrey roots over the past five years, it’s unlikely to be far away – especially as there’s every sign that Peter plans to make this rural lifestyle permanent. “I love being out here in the country so much,” he says. “My fiancée’s family has a lot of land and is quite self-sufficient. I have that dream, of one day being able to produce all of our own food – now that’s the ultimate!”

I’d wager there’s already a pair of green wellies propped up by the chicken shed.

 

My Favourite Surrey...

Restaurant: We’re obsessed with our cooking, Emily and I, but we also love going out to a good Italian restaurant (or an Indian for that matter) and there’s a really good one in Horley. It’s called Il Sorriso, and it has very, very good food.

Pub: I like somewhere that’s got a bit of history. I lived in Dorking for a while and it’s a beautiful area with great local pubs like The King’s Arms.

View: It’s on my list to take my son Junior to Thorpe Park this summer because, until recently, I never thought in a million years that I would ever go on a rollercoaster again.

Place to visit: When I’m going out with the kids for the day, there are farms we visit not far from here, or there’s also a great park that until recently I didn’t know existed.

Place to relax: Nothing beats being here at home in Surrey and just putting the fire on; I love doing that.

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