At his blind audition for The Voice UK, rocker Rick Snowdon, 29, from Hartlepool, didn't just wow viewers with his voice - but also with the revelation that he used to weigh 26 stone. As the knockout rounds begin this week, Rick reveals what gave him the drive to lose weight and embark on his journey to become a star…
Your blind audition for The Voice UK generated lots of attention when it was revealed that you once weighed 26 stone. Did you ever think it would cause such a stir?
"No, I had no idea. I was mainly worried that people wouldn't understand or they'd take offence somehow. I certainly wasn't thinking about people reacting to me in such a positive way."
You've talked about feeling so ashamed of your size that you hid yourself away at home for four and half years. Why did you feel like that?
"I felt I wasn't worthy of anybody's attention. The plan was to stay at home to try and lose the weight but then, because I'd isolated myself from my friends and was alone, I ate more! Then I developed a fear for going outside, so ended up staying in for four and half years!"
Rick Snowdon at his peak weight of 26 stone
How did you discover music and what comfort did you get from it?
"Well, my neighbour gave me a guitar and then one day I just started playing it. At first, I'd sit up all night and just eat, practise, eat, practise. Then I began visualising myself on stage as a performer. Soon, that desire started to overshadow the need for food."
So, the guitar helped you discover music - but how did you find your singing voice?
"Well, I started writing and recording some songs but, because I wasn't leaving the house or socialising with friends, I had no singer. I then realised that if I didn't have anybody else to sing for me, I'd have to do it myself. I've got some shocking audios of me singing SO bad! My dad used to sing at the top of his lungs around the house to Led Zeppelin and Queen, which is what got me into rock music."
Once you decided you were going to lose the weight, how did you do it?
"I'd tried all of the yo-yo diets, the Atkins diet, the soup diet and they never worked. Then I read a chapter in a book by Dr Phil McGraw. The chapter was all about 'Right Thinking' and addressed your mental state and how you view yourself. When you're telling yourself every day: 'I'm so fat, I can't lose weight' then you ARE what you think. So, slowly, I started to change my mindset and, pardon the pun, the weight was kinda lifted off."
You must have changed your eating habits somewhat, too?
"Well, I certainly didn't keep eating chocolate! But I found I'd become less dependent on comfort foods. Things that are high in sugar are highly stimulating; you get a big 'fix' from them when you eat them. But if you're in a happy state of mind, which I was getting from my music and being positive, you don't crave those self-medicating foods so much, so it just became easier to eat healthy food."
Was that when you started going out performing?
"Yes. I started gigging; playing at music venues, rock venues and pubs with my band. I just wanted to get myself out there and grow as quickly as I could. I was performing all my own material - all the stuff I'd written in the house over the four and half years. Nobody knew that at the time, though!"
Then you entered this year's series of The Voice UK - how did you feel when coaches Paloma Faith, Boy George and Ricky Wilson all turned their chairs for you at the blind auditions?
"It was just so surreal. Part of me thought: 'Who's going to turn for me?', so when the three of them turned, I just went into shock. For about a week after, I was just left in a daze - I didn't ever see it coming."
Rick impressed the coaches at the blind auditions
You chose Team Paloma - what's she been like as a mentor?
"Amazing. She's very hands on. She told us she picked all the people on her team because of who we are and she doesn't want us to change. She said if there's something you're not happy with about songs or anything, to make changes, don't just accept it. She's been really supportive."
We've already seen you win your battle round against Bradley Waterman - what was that like?
"Well, initially, I didn't think I'd stand a chance. For one, I don't like the idea of being compared to anybody else because all I've done my entire life is compare myself to other people. It just brought all those memories back, so I couldn't sleep the night before it and I really started to doubt myself. So the battles were a bit of a headtrip but then as soon as I got on stage, it just felt like home."
So, were you more or less nervous going into the knockout rounds, which start this week?
"I was terrified at the knockouts because I'd completely lost my voice earlier that week, so I only had two days to rehearse. Watching the other singers one by one can knock your confidence - but with that I just tried to enjoy people's performances rather than compare myself or criticise myself. Then as soon as it was my turn, I knew I had to try and deliver a good performance."
Rick takes to the stage for the knockouts
In the knockouts, contestants have to choose one 'killer' song that they think can get them to the live shows. Did you find it easy choosing your killer song?
"No, to be honest, I went back and forth with it. I know from watching The Voice UK over the years that a song can make or break your success and I wanted to do something completely different - I didn't want to be that person who went out and gave the same performance each time. So with my knockout performance wanted people to see that I've got more sides to me that just 'rock frontman'."
Did Paloma give you any advice going into the Knockouts?
"She wanted to see my vulnerable side. She said: 'We've seen the performer in you, it's time to show the world the pain that you felt over the four and a half years that you were locked in your house'. She wanted me to show that, so that's what I went with and I'm really happy with the performance."
You've said you were always shy around girls but we know lots of women were Tweeting after your blind audition. How do you feel about the growing female attention?
"Ha, ha! Well, what boy wouldn't like loads of girls Tweeting him? It's been amazing. I didn't expect it because sometimes I'll walk past a shop window, catch myself, and see myself as that 26 stone lad. But getting all the attention and stuff, I'm certainly not complaining about it."
Any marriage proposals?
"Yes, a LOT! I've had proposals, 'I love yous' and some really lovely messages. Some girls have said they've cried listened to my own song, Bring You Home, which is about the experience I had in the house and overcoming certain demons. That's more than I could have hoped for."
Do you hope your story will inspire people?
"Yes, Massively! I know there's a lot of people in the world dealing with similar issues and hopefully they can look at me and think: 'Well, if he can do it, so can I' and realise it IS possible. When I look back on old photos of myself it reminds me that I wasted so much of my youth. I want to have a successful career in music and I know now that, if I keep working at it, I can achieve anything I set my mind to."
The Voice UK's knockout rounds begin on Saturday March 12 at 7pm on BBC1. Rick performs in the second round, which can be seen on Sunday March 20 at 7pm on BBC1.
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