Barry Conrad talks life, music, Neighbours, and more. Read more here --->>>
“Everybody needs good neighbours…”
As a huge soap opera fan, I can never get enough drama! And I was lucky enough last year to be introduced to the iconic Australian soap Neighbours by a friend. I quickly became hooked on the series, and recently I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the show’s newest talents, Barry Conrad!
Barry was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town was beautiful, but sadly life there wasn’t the safest for him and his family. Having burglar bars on the windows was a common thing. He recalled the terrifying day he came home to find their house “completely trashed.” Eventually, his family made the move to Auckland, New Zealand for the chance at a better life. The move would become his “stepping stone” to Australia...and ultimately his career.
He moved to Sydney with a singing and dancing group, Jireh. The group, like many others before them, broke up. Though, the separation proved to be a good thing for him and his budding career. “It forced me to create my own path.” He would spend a significant amount of time behind the scenes writing songs and singing background vocals for other artists. As a songwriter and self-confessed “studio rat,” Barry has written with artists like Ngaiire, Stan Walker, Hayley Warner, Ginny Blackmore, and Diafrix. “Every collaborator is different and it’s a pretty unique experience getting to step into someone else’s shoes to tell a story from their perspective.”
In 2013, he got the opportunity to step out on his own when he made the final 12 on The X-Factor. Barry calls his time on the competition series “the hardest yet most rewarding time of my life.” The part he found the most surprising was just how much he gained personally from his time on the show. “I was dealing with a lot of self-doubt at the time, questioning whether I should even still be in the industry.” He also suffered the loss of his second mother Audrey, who passed away from cancer while he was on the show. “Everything about that time was a catalyst for me becoming the man I am today.”
Music has always been a defining force in Conrad’s life. “Ever since I can remember, there was music playing in the house. Everything from Elton John to Chicago, Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson, The Carpenters to Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston to gospel music.” He had a healthy appreciation for music thanks to his parents, who both have musical backgrounds. His mother recorded an album with her church choir, and his father sings and plays the guitar. One of his biggest influences is Brian McKnight. “I was in awe of the way Brian used his voice and would study his vocal styles in my room for hours after school.” He would get the amazing opportunity to open for McKnight on his Australian tour. “If you would’ve told teenage Barry he’d be touring with his childhood hero someday, he would’ve told you you’re crazy (haha). It was literally a dream come true and I’ll never forget that experience.”
He has also been part of several musical theatre productions like Violet, Grease, Madiba the Musical, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Each role is special in their own way, but his 13 months run with Beautiful stands out to him. “It was a really special time and also the longest run of the shows I’ve done.” Having always been interested in acting from a young age Barry decided to make the leap to television and film. “I played Edmund in a school production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Even as a kid, I found it addictive to learn lines and would get so immersed in characters and stories.” He landed roles in “Power Rangers Ninja Storm” and in the award-winning film The Sapphires. The art of being more subdued and subtle in performance was the most difficult part of making the transition between stage and screen. “With stage, you’re often playing to audiences of thousands, get just one shot and what you do performance-wise is generally bigger. With screen, it’s a whole different situation. Everything’s a lot more pulled back and subtle. You’ve gotta allow yourself to get really vulnerable too, and trust that as long as you’re being truthful it will translate on camera. Screen’s more technical and less ‘act-y’ than what people might think.”
Barry Conrad with Neighbours co-stars Matt Wilson (Aaron Brennan) and Ben Hall (Ned Willis)
In November of this year, Conrad made his début on the iconic Australian soap opera Neighbours and he couldn’t be more excited. His character, Kane Jones, has recruited Ned Willis (Ben Hall) to join his underground fight club. Barry describes Kane as cocky, fearless, and complex. “He shakes things up in a pretty big way on Ramsay Street and a whole lot of trouble soon follows.” Recently, a fabulously choreographed fight scene between Kane and Ned aired. “Everyone who knows me knows I’m a huge action and superhero junkie, so I was really living for that fight scene. I’d really like to do a lot more of that in the future. Big shout-out to Chris ‘Cougar’ Wilson for getting us fight-ready and to Guy Strachan for the ace direction.” So, will we be getting more of Kane in the town of Erinsborough? We’ll just have to wait and see!
With such a multi-faceted career already what is next for Barry? “I’d love to do more screen [work]. I also have a few other ideas, but they’re just ideas for now.” He has big and exciting goals for the future, but that doesn’t mean he has forgotten about his musical roots. Conrad just released a new single just in time for the holidays. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is out now on Spotify and iTunes.
Away from work, Barry describes life as “pretty simple.” “I like taking time out by hitting the gym or the outdoors, listening to an ace podcast or reading a book.” Quality time with his loved ones - over delicious food and drinks - is also a must! He loves to escape the hectic work life by exploring new places and meeting new people or just by enjoying a new movie. Conrad is also an ambassador for the suicide prevention charity “R U Okay?,” whose mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. “...mental health is genuinely something close to my heart. It’s so important to check up on the people in our world. To let them know that they’re valued and loved. So many people wear a smile, but are suffering in silence.”
Musician, actor, ambassador, and all-around great human being! Thank you, Barry, for taking the time to chat with us! We cannot wait to see what is next for you! You can follow Barry on social media here.