You know the poem Not Waving But Drowning? That poem describes the day I was having when I spoke to dad of three Tom Fletcher, a man with many talents but best known as singer and guitarist for McFly
Regular readers of the blog will know my kids have just got over a bout of illness. When I spoke to Tom, Helen and Izzy were not at school, so I was balancing childcare, housework and the blog. Things were a bit hectic to say the least.
The interview was brought to a swift conclusion when Helen walked into the room and passed me a note. It was a brief note, informing me her sister needed me as she had just been sick. As you can imagine, I had to wrap up the interview so I could tend to Izzy!
Luckily, however, Tom and I had been chatting for a while. We discussed the challenges he faces as a dad to his three children, Buzz, aged five, Buddy aged four and 18-month old Max. We spoke about encouraging children to eat healthily plus McFly’s upcoming tour. Tom also told me about a new range of Danone yogurts that he is an ambassador for, along with his wife Giovanna, who you may know for her Happy Mum Happy Baby book and podcast (the yogurt’s selling point is the fact they use very simple ingredients that are clearly labelled).
Before speaking to Tom, I was aware he had written a number of children’s books, but I hadn’t realised he’s penned almost 20 of them. He’s also a prominent songwriter, writing ten UK chart topping songs. As I say, Tom Fletcher is a man of many talents and I was delighted he took the time to speak to me on this craziest of days. We started of discussing the challenges of feeding your children.
What are the main challenges you face when you’re trying to feed your kids?
“The main thing for me is knowing what is in the food that you’re giving your kids. I was really quite obsessive about reading the labels on foods, even before I had kids, and then, certainly when you’re feeding your family and your little ones, I became even more obsessed and concerned with it.
“I found that it’s so difficult to understand what is actually in the food you eat. Quite often, there are hundreds of ingredients and most of them, is stuff you’ve never heard of before.
Following on from that, do you think the challenges in feeding your kids change with age, as they get older?
“Yes, because they become more independent and have tastes of their own develop and get into different things. I’ve got three kids who are all at different ages, different stages, and they enjoy different things. I guess it’s just finding that common ground that they all like and something you are happy giving them as a parent, because you know it’s good for them.”
You’d better tell me about this new Danone range.
“It’s out now, so, you’ll see it in on supermarket shelves. It’s, a new range that has few ingredients that everyone will know, stuff that you’ll recognise. You don’t have to go Googling what the ingredients are to understand them, and the pots are 100% recyclable, which I think is amazing as well.
“We spend half our lives now separating our recycling. It’s nice to know that you can recycle all the pots at the end of breakfast and you’re not giving your kids something that’s full of refined sugar and rubbish that you have no idea what it is.
“The flavours taste great. I had a cooking class last week where we were making breakfast with a load of the families and they genuinely taste really nice. That is the most important thing with the kids, because they won’t eat it if it doesn’t taste good.”
It’s good to get children involved in cooking, right?
“Yes, I think cooking is one of the best things. It gives children something to focus on for a while. It’s a great thing to do with the kids.”
You’ve touched on this already, but research from Danone found that people want simpler ingredients, don’t they?
“Even before I had my son, I was amazed at how complicated food was. Things that you think are simple and should probably be made up of one or two ingredients seemed to have hundreds and stuff that you didn’t know.
“It’s really nice and refreshing to have something and know exactly what it is inside it. It’s not hundreds of stuff, it’s just a few ingredients and you understand them all”.
I think food packaging is a huge issue. My kids will go for a food because they think something looks healthy, but if you look at the ingredients you see it’s full of fructose, sucrose and all these other things are basically sugar. Unless you know what you’re looking at, you don’t know that.
“Exactly, I always research the hidden names for stuff. It was always in stuff that appeared to be healthy and good for you.
“It’s nice to have something that is genuinely just a few things and something that you know is not loaded with refined sugars.”
Okay, to be clear, what, in your mind, is a simple ingredient?
“I guess it’s stuff that you can actually read and understand. For example, like you’re labelling something and if it’s sugar, it needs to labelled as sugar or if it’s milk it needs to be labelled as milk. Just the actual names for the ingredients, rather than the obscure scientific name that you might not know, but that seem less scary.”
Right, moving on, apart from feeding your three, what are the main challenges of being a dad of three, especially such different ages?
“I think, the main challenge is the logistics of getting your kids to different places. You know, one kid is at school, the other one’s at nursery, and then, just the challenges of, like, the school drop-offs and things like that.
“It’s pretty challenging, especially with me and my wife, we both work and we both have our own independent careers and ambitions. Trying to juggle that around the family, which is always our priority, that’s pretty difficult and making sure you have quality time with your kids.”
Just thinking out loud here, when was the last time you were on tour with McFly?
“The last time I actually toured with the band was, I think, four years ago. Is it three, three and a half, four years ago? So, we haven’t toured. We’re touring later this year and it’ll be the first year we’re all touring with families and kids and figuring out how that’s going to work.”
My next question was going to be how you make it work when you’re on tour ?
“My son, Buzz, is the oldest of all of the kids in the band. He’s at school now, so that’s the challenge. When he’s not at school, if it’s the holidays and weekends, then I’m sure they’ll all want to come.
“Buzz loves the band, he loves hanging out with the guys, because he comes down to rehearsals and stuff when he can. He’ll come with us, come to the show, but we have to try and work that around his school.
“My eldest was born just before we went on tour with McBusted. He was literally born two weeks before that tour, and so, I think it’s through that process that I realised that actually you’re never more than, you know, a couple of hours away from home (when touring the UK). When you need to get home, you can just travel home after the show and I was coming home, doing the night feeds, all that stuff during the last tour. I think you just find ways of making it work. On paper, it looks like it’s impossible and it’s exhausting, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and you end up just making it work.”
If you’re touring the UK, that’s one thing, but if you’re playing internationally, I suppose Skype and all that kind of thing must come into play?
“Yes, and also arranging time away for as short a time as possible. In the past, if we were going to travel to Brazil, we’d probably have three days off just to relax and acclimatize. When you have kids at home, you sacrifice that and just go in, do the shows, and then come back again.”
There’s a question I like to ask gifted people and all musicians when I speak to them. What advice to you give to parents if they have a child who is a gifted musician or some other activity?
“I was really lucky. My parents were amazing at supporting me in what I wanted to do. I came from a working class family, so we didn’t have any money, my dad worked at a factory, did shift work, and everything they had went to me and my sister,
“I wanted to perform from a really young age. All I ever cared about was singing and acting and dancing and they were amazing at finding my local theatre school and then I got a scholarship to another theatre school in London.
“My parents had to travel into London every day to drop me off at school, and they were just amazing at sacrificing things for me and my sister and giving us the best possible opportunities that they could. I’m finding now, as a parent, that I’m still ambitious with the band, but you have to find ways of still being ambitious, but you can’t be selfish anymore. I guess, and it’s all about looking at how that impacts your family and your kids.”
You said that you’re going to be going on tour. What else is going on? Have you got any books lined up? I know you’ve written a few books with Giovanna as well, haven’t you?
“I’ve got quite a busy, publishing schedule. I think I’ve published about nineteen books,
“I think there’s another three coming out this year, and then, touring with the band and I’m writing another two books at the moment, and then, working on a load of other stuff as well.
“One of my books is being turned into a movie, so we’re working on the movie at the moment and writing another musical. So, yes, as always, it’s busy, it’s hectic, but good!
Are you able to say anything about the books or the movie?
“The movie is of The Christmasaurus which was my third novel (Editor’s note: My children have read it. It’s the story of a boy called William who goes on an amazing adventure on Christmas Eve). We’re still in the early development stage, but it’s exciting and it’s moving forward.
“There are a few other things that are in the early stages, but it’s the most exciting time. You know, the, kind of, early stages when you just start working on something and everything’s only in the beginning stages of coming together. There are a few projects that are like that at the moment, and then the band is obviously going to take up quite a lot of focus this year.”
Called away on urgent dad business
It was at this point I was called away. Tom was very understanding when I said I had to go and deal with my kids and he wished them a speedy recovery. In case you are wondering, they are better and have returned to school.
I am very excited by the idea of a Christmasaurus movie. I know my kids will want to see it. I’ll be looking out for it later in the year. Expect an up date on the Dadbloguk social channels and blog when it happens.
Tom Fletcher is an ambassador for the new Danone yogurt range, which is available in all major retailers nationwide. For more information please go online to the Danone website.