HE was the champion of Stars In Their Eyes in 2000 and now, 17 years later, Gary Mullen is still regularly stepping out on stage as Freddie Mercury.
Mullen, from Scotland, won the United Kingdom version of the popular television show with more than 800,000 votes, and has been recreating the look and the sound of the flamboyant frontman of Queen ever since.
This month Mullen is touring New Zealand with his band The Works for the fifth time, and will perform One Night of Queen at Invercargill’s Civic Theatre on Friday, August 11.
Featuring hits including I Want to Break Free, A Kind of Magic, We Will Rock You and Bohemian Rhapsody, Mullen said he performed about 150 shows a year all over the world and was looking forward to returning to New Zealand.
“This year’s a big one for myself and the band, it’s our 15th anniversary,” he said.
“It’s gonna be a blast. We’ve got a good show this year and I really hope people have a good time.”
Mullen said they aimed to perform as many Queen songs as physically possible in one night.
“We’ve put together a show that’s just high energy from start to finish.
“We come out, hit the ground running and say to the audience ‘we hope you’re here for a party cause we’re going to give you a rock and roll party’.”
Mullen said he had been a Queen fan pretty much all of his life. His first “vivid Queen experience” was when he was about old and the video for We Are The Champions came on TV featuring Mercury in his black and white leotard.
“I was just blown away. I said to mum ‘who’s that?’ And that was it – I was hooked.”
However, it wasn’t him who decided to put his name forward for Stars In Their Eyes initially.
“My mum and my wife had a little bit of a conspiracy.”
They filled in the application form and sent it away. When Mullen got a phone call from someone from the television network asking him to go in for an audition, he said he thought it was a joke at first.
“I went along for a laugh… and ended up winning the entire series.”
He said unlike modern reality singing shows there was no prize as such, it was more a chance for people to get their 15 minutes of fame and the majority of contestants went back to their daily lives.
However, for a handful of people it launched a career.
“For me it was literally within a month of being on the show I was actually out touring.”
He said people began calling the network asking for him to appear at events, so Mullen got an agent and “just sort of ran with it”.
“I thought okay, I’ll do it for a year and see what happens. And 17 years later I’m… getting ready for our fifth New Zealand tour. It’s bizarre.”
Mullen performed A Kind of Magic on the show, and that’s how he describes his journey since.
“Every time I sing it now it makes me smile because that was the song… and A Kind of Magic is how it happened for me.”
One Night of Queen, Civic Theatre, Friday, August 11, 8pm. Tickets available from the Invercargill City Council booking office or TicketDirect