Lorne Jackson meets a proud Scot whose battled his demons and found salvation treading the boards.
In 2003 Marti Pellow was named one of the most Scottish people in the world.
Perhaps that should have been ‘named and shamed’, depending which side of Hadrian’s Wall you view the ‘accolade’ from.
It could have been worse.
At least Pellow didn’t come first. That distinction went to panto regular jaunty Jimmy Krankie. (The tiny wee wummin who acts like a laddie.)
When I meet Marti in London he is indeed sticky with Scottishness.
The accent is as bumpy as a Loch Lomond footpath, and he talks with knowledge and enthusiasm about Glasgow architecture and filmmakers.
He’s also excited about Jekyll & Hyde, the musical he’s starring in at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Which is, of course, based on the infamous Victorian chiller written by Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.
But not everyone is comfortable with Marti’s craggy Celtic ways.
Jekyll & Hyde producer Bill Kenwright is on hand to make constant cracks about Marti’s prowess with the English language.
The theatrical impresario has worked with Pellow in the past and admires his talent, though not his accent.
“Can you understand what he’s saying?” chuckles Kenwright indulgently. “That’s his Glasgow accent.”
“Your powers of observation are impressive once again, Mr Kenwright,” Marti shoots back. “And you’ll be glad to know that my joined-up writing has come on fantastically since starting the show.”
Both men talk in good humour, and Marti has that trademark twinkle in his eye.
A twinkle that has been part of the Pellow DNA since his time fronting Wet Wet Wet in the 80s and 90s.
When the outfit formed, in their native Clydebank, it was a more innocent age. Since then the twinkle has been through much.
Drug addiction. The acrimonious Wet Wet Wet split. The death of his mother. All took a toll.
Pellow kept the twinkle intact, but the rest of his once handsome features are now defined by the hassle of harsh years.
Stretched, strained and rumpled, his face is an accordion that has been pummelled too many times during an all-night ceilidh.
Yet that face, and the turbulent years it has endured, are the reasons why Marti will make a fine hero and villain in Jekyll & Hyde.
The Stevenson chiller is about good and bad, after all. Smooth exteriors and repressed needs.
Marti’s turbulent history is a blend of such highs and lows. The dazzle and the dirt.
Though that is all in the past, he’s keen to emphasise.
“For the last 12 I’ve been sober and clean,” Marti smiles. (He always smiles. It’s the twin brother of the twinkle.)
“Nowadays I get off on going on stage and nailing my performance.”
Pellow doesn’t even get involved in any hi-jinks while touring. Though he was once the front man in a band, there is no urge to chuck a TV out of a hotel window.
“Flat screens just don’t burst the same way as the old ones,” he jokes. “To be honest, I never felt a great need to throw any electrical items out of any window – not even a small kettle.”
One thing he does share with Dr Jekyll is a split personality.
Pellow was born Mark McLachlan, though took his glam stage name when he joined Wet Wet Wet.
Does he get the two personalities confused?
“I’m an entertainer,” he says. “Marti Pellow is a jacket that I put on. As long as I know when to take it off, that’s okay.
“I sing songs and get up on a stage. But away from that I have a family, and my life goes on. It isn’t all about what happens up there on the stage. “There’s many sides to me.”
Yet he admits playing the villainous Hyde is a snug fit.
“The bad guy offers himself up easily. I feel very comfortable and know the songs, but the challenge for me is Dr Jekyll.
“Hyde is so apt, he takes care of himself.”
Marti also knows how to take care of himself, now he’s no longer a slave to the drugs that once laid him low.
He is on good terms with the Wets again, too. And, of course, he’s discovered a new passion – musical theatre – though he still enjoys working as a recording artist.
Recently he released a new album of classics songs. Love To Love was commissioned by Tesco to be sold exclusively in its stores.
Now he wants to break into the movies.
“It’s baby steps for me,” he says. “I need people to take a chance on me in serious acting. I’ve got to persuade people to rearrange their mental furniture about how they perceive me as an artist.
“Luckily I have the luxury of a fan base. So when I do something like Jekyll & Hyde, they will always come and support me.
“But I want to grow and diversify and have an eclectic career. I’d absolutely love to star in the movies, because I’m such a fan of the medium.”
But at the moment he is content to be in a spectacular stage musical.
“I’m still into the adventure of it all,” he says. “I’ve been doing music for 25 years now. So my family and my loved ones, and those who surround me, know how I roll. And they’re always with me.”
Marti’s father recently went on a trip with him to New York, though it didn’t turn out the way the singer planned.
“I had a great day laid out. We were going to see the Empire State Building and get a helicopter and fly round New York. Everything was arranged.
“So I headed to the hotel and said, ‘Right dad, ready for your trip?’
“He said: ‘Naw, I’m going to watch the Rangers-Celtic match.’ Off he traipsed to a wee Irish bar. And that was the end of our great day out.”
Hmmm. A man who prefers watching blokes in shorts scampering round a rectangle of Glasgow greenery to the towering delights of the Big Apple. Forget Marti and Jimmy Krankie.
It’s Papa Pellow who should be on the list of the most Scottish people in the world.
* Jekyll & Hyde starring Marti Pellow is at the Birmingham Hippodrome from April 4 until April 9. For more information www.birminghamhippodrome.com