Packed To The Rafters: articles

Packed to the Rafters' Hugh Sheridan crosses over to music

BEN Rafter has left the building for summer. The much-loved character from smash-hit TV show Packed To The Rafters has made way for the actor who plays him, Hugh Sheridan, to return to his first artistic love: singing.

Yep, he knows you're shaking your head right now. Here we go, another slashie; an actor-turned-singer hoping to parlay small-screen stardom into a chart-topping sideline.

If that was the case, his TV and record-label bosses would not have hesitated to shoehorn his debut single, All About Me, into the season's final episodes, which were pretty much all about him.

But no such luck.

"I tried, I really, really did," he says, laughing.

"I am releasing my record at Christmas and I thought two million people tune in every Tuesday to see the show so maybe could we put a song on there. I came close but it didn't happen.

"And Ben Rafter is 100 per cent tone deaf so they said it was blurring the lines. Blur the line, just blur it! Everyone is allowed to sing on Neighbours."

Sheridan is joking, sort of. The fact is, having grown up in a household of seven siblings where dad was a jazz singer, one brother played guitar and wrote songs and three sisters were DJs, music was in his face.

Even as he studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, Australian Ballet School, NIDA and NICA (that's the circus school), Sheridan dreamed of running around a stage in front of a band.

"We're finding little opportunities where I can perform. I am gagging to do a show. That's what I feel like I've been trained to do my whole life,… every institution I've been at has been gearing me up to sing live," he says.

Sheridan owes his big sister, TV personality Zoe, for planting the seed that would finally score him a record deal. She had been telling Sony Music boss Denis Handlin for years about her little brother with the big voice and when the executive and actor crossed paths at a wedding, they started throwing around ideas for his debut record, Speak Love.

After filming all day, he would hook up with local writing team Audius and Leon (Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy), trying to develop songs and a sound for the fledgling recording artist.

For a change, the wheels of the music industry moved quickly and, not long after they signed the deal, Sheridan was given just a month to get Speak Love finished so it would be ready for the lucrative Christmas retail season.

While a little disappointed he wouldn't be able to continue to develop his writing, Sheridan says songs from tried and true hitmakers, including John Legend and Diane Warren, were simply too good to refuse.

"I was still filming for the first two weeks of recording and because it was the wedding and the honeymoon, I was in almost every scene. I would start at 5.30am until 6.30pm and then going to the studio and record for as long a I could without dying," he says.

"I was pretty upset I couldn't write the whole album because I was getting into a groove but it turned out to be a massive plus because I think the roots of what I write is more in R&B and that may have locked off some of the older Rafters audience, perhaps.

"I think the record has fallen somewhere in the middle of being that and tracks which are very croonery, like the John Legend track, and I love that stuff because of Dad. I definitely didn't want

to bring out a pop album. You could just see that: 'Character gets married, actor brings out a pop album. Ta-dah.' Ah… not going to happen."

The album's title track is a Sheridan composition and one that was inspired both by his closeknit family and Michael Jackson's sudden demise.

"It's probably the most important song to me on the album; I had been wanting to write a song for the people who are close to me," he explains.

"And then my sister called me one morning and told me Michael Jackson had died. I was pretty shaken, very upset because he was such a huge inspiration to me. The things I do and have done were mainly inspired by him, from when I was growing up.

"I didn't write the song for him but as a reaction to his death… any day could be your last. You have to tell the people you love that you love them."

While he is a major success in Australian television, Sheridan worries that releasing his debut record when all the heavy-hitters tend to dominate the charts is a big ask. He is proud of it and wants the record to get a decent airing.

And the cheeky singer who became an actor may just have the edge over the Susan Boyles and Michael Bubles he must dethrone to reach the top of the charts.

"Everyone keeps telling me it's a tough time of year. And they aren't joking," he says.

"So I'm saying to people, 'Buy it because I'll give you sexual favours in return. Every single one of you. But you have to bring the album and the receipt'."

By Kathy McCabe
December 11, 2009
The Daily Telegraph