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Performing is the only drug I need: Jason Donovan on life, fame and overcoming his cocaine addiction


Jason Donovan
Jason Donovan
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Zac Donovan, Jason Donovan and Jemma Donovan attend The Olivier Awards with Mastercard at Royal Albert Hall on April 8, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 19:Jason Donovan performs on stage during a "Chicago The Musical" media call on December 19, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sam Tabone/Getty Images)
Jason Donovan and wife Angela.
Kylie and Jason on Neighbours
Kristina Rihanoff and Jason Donovan
Jason Donovan with Philip Schofield - both in costumes form Joseph

By David O'Dornan

A cocaine addiction nearly cost him his life during the 1990s, but today Jason Donovan gets all the kicks he needs from performing.

The dad-of-three is currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first album, Ten Good Reasons, marking it with a 52-date tour that includes a show in Belfast.

Fans will be treated to the classic hits that made Jason an even bigger star than he was during his time on Neighbours, including Too Many Broken Hearts and Especially For You, as well as many of his hits from musicals, such as Any Dream Will Do.

"It was a big year for me, 1989," the 51-year-old says. "I've been very lucky in that sort of sense - to have had one of those in a lifetime, the biggest-selling album in the UK that year.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 19:Jason Donovan performs on stage during a "Chicago The Musical" media call on December 19, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sam Tabone/Getty Images)

"Nostalgia's massive at the moment, (but) I haven't done my own show in Belfast in a long time.

"I think with performing, it's like a drug - the adrenaline kicks in as you go on stage, but I'm still anxious about delivering. Am I going to remember the words? Am I going to sing in tune? And what type of show's it going to be?

"Recently I've been more fit than ever. There's nothing worse than going on stage when you're feeling sick or not focused.

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"I now know what I don't want to do, which is great. I know a lot of people who don't experience those extremes, not that taking drugs is anything cool in any way, shape or form.

"Sometimes you learn so much from those times that it's an education. But listen, I'll tell you straight up, I would rather have not experienced it. Do I regret it? Not really. Am I proud of it and am I singing about it? No, not at all.

"I was one of the lucky ones who got out. I was one of the lucky ones who wanted to change.

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Jason Donovan and wife Angela.

"There's no such thing as a good journey in taking drugs. Having had children and watching what sort of effect that had on them and my dad and how that would have affected him at the time... it's all relative. You think you're bulletproof when you're younger.

"Alcohol gives me anxiety now. I love a drink, don't get me wrong, but if I'm absolutely honest, if I have a drink now, particularly if I go for a bit of a night out, it does give me anxiety."

Jason, whose family roots can be traced to Cork, is no stranger to Belfast and has had some great shows in the city.

"Belfast has changed a lot, for the better," he says. "Let's hope, let's keep our fingers crossed, that it finds itself through this difficult negotiation process."

These days the performer tries to keep a good work-life balance, but it's easier said than done.

"I'm still exhausted, still doing everything," he admits. "But I'm mature enough to be able to walk away from things that I don't think are right and not get worried about it.

"Life goes on and you tend to believe in yourself a little bit more. It's a classic example of if you believe in yourself, everyone believes what you are doing is the right thing, so everyone follows. It's when you don't believe that everyone starts to question.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Zac Donovan, Jason Donovan and Jemma Donovan attend The Olivier Awards with Mastercard at Royal Albert Hall on April 8, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

"I love to keep fit, ride my bike and travel. I want to spend a bit more time in the sun as I get older. I've been living in London for 30 years, longer than I have lived in my own country.

"I'd still love to learn to relax a little bit more and not worry about things.

"Having a family, you're always wanting the best. I'm at the stage where I think, 'How many bedrooms do you actually need in a house?' Do you know what I mean? We all build up (and then) scale down (when) we realise fundamentally what's important is family and health."

While Jason is a household name, he was never hungry for fame.

"I never set out to be famous," he says. "That was a by-product of what I did, which was called acting. Fame is a funny one... it's a currency and it goes up and down. Sometimes it's really nice to trade in and other times it's not.

"There's a lot of benefits and a lot of negatives. It's a club in a way, being famous, and as long as you remember what you're famous for, you understand it doesn't guarantee you your next job.

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Kylie and Jason on Neighbours

"I think social media is a wonderful tool for people like myself. I would avoid it once I've had a few drinks, but it enables me to tell the story I want to tell. It is dangerous for a lot of people, but I find it addictive and empowering.

"No one needs a fan club anymore. I remember when I used to sweat over sending letters out and trying to get my message across.

"With respect to journalists and the media, once that leaves your mouth, it can be interpreted in different ways. When you can print it yourself to your audience, that's the ultimate control. I think that's empowering."

Jason has had a long and varied career, but he hopes the best is yet to come.

"Timing in life is sort of everything. For me to have landed in Neighbours in 1985, that gave me the leverage to move into music," he explains.

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Jason Donovan with Philip Schofield - both in costumes form Joseph

"From there, the profile that I had enabled me to do a lot of things. I guess it's not always about the splash. It's about surviving the swim after the splash. It's a long-distance run rather than a sprint.

"I've tried to keep learning. I've gone into different areas in my career and I'm still doing it, but it's wonderful to have a core audience that you can always sit back on. That's where a show like this comes alive, because with those songs, no matter what I do, I'll always have an audience. There'll always be an audience for reliving your youth.

"You never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. For a lot of people, those memories (from their teenage years) are just more poignant, hence pop music is the holy grail of entertainment. The landscape become endless.

"I hope my best moments are yet to come. I'd probably say my greatest achievement is my children and my family, but beyond that I really hope those best moments are still to come."

  • Jason Donovan's Even More Good Reasons tour comes to Belfast's Ulster Hall on November 7, 2020. Visit www.jasondonovan.com to buy tickets

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