Singer and TV personality Aston Merrygold has said having strong friendships has been “imperative” in his life working in the entertainment industry.
Merrygold, 34, rose to fame as one quarter of the boy band JLS, who found success after finishing as runners-up on the 2008 series of The X Factor.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I’m in a job where, when it goes great, it’s the best thing ever, and you are flying and it is incredible… When things aren’t going great, it is possibly one of the lowest because you are very lonely.
“You’re always expected to be smiling and always expected to be happy and polite and courteous, even though you are human, and you are having a bad day.
“So, just having that person that is able to lend an ear, or a shoulder, I think it’s been imperative in my life. Just being able to talk to people, and just be able to have honest conversations with my friends.”
Merrygold and his three-year-old son Grayson recently launched the Thomas & Friends International Friendship Day awards, which will celebrate outstanding acts of friendship from young children.
He spoke candidly about how his attitude towards friendship has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think we took so much for granted before, and friendship being a massive one,” he said.
“When that got taken away from us, I think that really hit home.
“So we have to celebrate these things, we have to celebrate the little things, the big things, all of it, friendships especially are something I think we all craved and missed the most, as we would do as human beings.
“That connection, and that love between people, it was sorely missed. So, it needs to be celebrated.”
Merrygold, who shares sons Grayson and one-year-old Macaulay with his fiancee Sarah Richards, also spoke of his joy at seeing his children learning the importance of friendship and building relationships.
He told PA: “When you do see them making friends, or acts of kindness, sharing, or whatever it may be at that age, you’re just going ‘wow, okay, this is amazing’, this is how it kind of starts within human nature of making friends, building relationships.
“It really does start from this early age and your understanding of it is actually quite amazing.”
The former Strictly Come Dancing contestant will also star in an upcoming tour of Footloose and revealed he is excited to “delve” into his character, Willard Hewitt.
He said: “I will actually get time to really delve into the character, and I can live with the scripts, do my research and my training that I need to do and build up for it.”
He added: “In music, you write a song, release a song, sometimes you’re not really sure of the words, for instance when you’re going on to perform something so quickly.
“Whereas the show, you have a massive rehearsal period and the time to really hone in. Especially for a show like this, that is so famously known, it’s good that I do have the time to build in this character and make it my own.”
Nominations for the Thomas & Friends International Friendship Day awards are now open online, with the winners to be announced by Aston Merrygold at an awards ceremony ahead of International Friendship Day on July 30.