The public went crazy in 2020 when heartthrobs JLS announced they’d finally be reuniting for a UK tour – nearly seven years after parting ways.
Ticket sales boomed with fans overjoyed that band members Aston Merrygold, Marvin Humes, JB Gill and Oritsé Williams would be belting out their chart-topping ballads and busting moves on stage once again.
Now, with the boys having played their last show (for now!), Aston tells OK! that being back with the group was “euphoric and surreal”.
While he says they have no immediate plans to return to the stage, the singer admits they are still as close as ever – and so are their kids!
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“We’re all one family,” says Aston, dad to sons Grayson Jax, four, and Macaulay Shay, 23 months, with fiancée Sarah Richards, 38. “They see each other all the time – it’s something we’ve made a conscious effort to make happen.”
Here, the 34-year-old opens up about his life as a dad, joining the panel of The Masked Singer live tour – and even teases some new music of his own…
Hi, Aston! How did you find being back on tour with JLS?
Obviously with Covid, everything changed massively. So to be on stage at all is a huge blessing. We’ve all had such an eyeopening couple of years that we appreciate everything so much more. To be back on stage, with lots of us in a room together, and live music, it’s been euphoric and surreal.
Did you and the boys find your groove straight away with dancing, or were you a little rusty at first?
No, it’s just like riding a bike! Obviously, I’m the youngest one in the band, so I’m fine, but the other three – it’s hard on them, bless them. They’re a bit older than me!
Ha! Will we be hearing any new music from JLS?
Not at the minute. We did the tour with the new album and then everyone is back to their individual projects. We’ll do more shows together soon, though, as we love performing together. But, for now, it’s nice to have the freedom to pursue individual projects. We’re of an age now where you can do a bit of everything, you don’t have to stay in your lane.
Can we expect solo material from you, Aston?
Let’s just say June/July will be a lot of fun. Watch this space.
You appeared disguised as Robin on The Masked Singer last year. Are you enjoying working alongside Denise Van Outen – who was Fox in 2020 – on the live tour?
Denise is a legend. She’s done pretty much everything from stage and screen to presenting, and she’s a lovely human being as well. Joel [Dommett], too. Working with him has been amazing. Having been on the show myself, it’s even better to now be involved behind the scenes.
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You’re about to start the stage production of Footloose, too. You’re a busy guy!
I haven’t started rehearsals but I’ll have to work out how to play a bad dancer. I’ll have to make an offbeat routine and make it look out of time. Footloose was my favorite movie growing up, so to be a part of it is so special.
How do you find balancing work and a young family?
First and foremost I have the most amazing partner in the world. Sarah is amazing and holds the fort. I’m very blessed with two very good boys. Grayson is a three-nager – even though he’s four – and for Macaulay, the terrible twos have come early. They keep us busy and our hands are full but we love it.
Do you think they might be performers, too?
My youngest copies my eldest and, I must say, both show a lot of promise. My eldest is very expressive – he wants to sing like Daddy and dance like Mummy and if he doesn’t end up on stage I’ll be very surprised.
Do Grayson and Macaulay get to hang out much with the other JLS kids?
Yeah, we’re all one family. They see each other all the time – it’s something we’ve made a conscious effort to make happen. They get to share these amazing experiences with not only their dads but their uncles, too. My sons are actual fans of JLS’s music and often ask to play the tunes at home, which is quite weird but lovely at the same time. And it means they understand that sometimes I have to be away for work, which is great, as it takes away a lot of the parental guilt.
Would you and Sarah like to have more children?
No, we’re blessed with two. The dynamic in the house is great. And I’ve only got one pair of hands! Three for me, with their energy, would be too much! Two is perfect.
Finally, tell us about your involvement with the Ronald McDonald House charities?
Just to be asked was a huge honor, I jumped at the chance. Ronald McDonald provides housing for families while their children are in hospital, as often they have to travel far from home for the best care. As a parent, you take comfort knowing there is an initiative like that out there.
You met some of the families that have used the service, didn’t you?
Yes, which I knew was going to be difficult. You hear some of their stories and your jaw hits the floor. Some families are there for months, separated from other family members at such tough times in their lives – it must be so hard. The Ronald McDonald houses provide a little bit of normality for families during incredibly stressful times.
Aston unveiled a new playground made from recycled McDonald’s Happy Meal® toys at the Ronald McDonald House Manchester. The Ronald McDonald houses provide free home-away-from-home accommodation for families of poorly children. You can donate via the McDonald’s app.
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