IT was while taking time out to recover from a vocal injury that Gareth Gates had a lightbulb moment.

"I had an injury on my vocal chords a year or so ago, which came as a real shock," says the Bradford singer who has combined his pop career with lead roles in musical theatre.

"I had to rest, and that gave me chance to reflect on my lifestyle. I had been working, and partying, too hard and I decided to change. I replaced alcohol with herbal tea, which I loved.

"Sat at home, resting my voice, I got the idea of making a tea made from coconut. There's a real buzz around coconut right now, it's the new superfood. You have coconut oil, coconut water, and it's in all kinds of food, yet nobody was doing a coconut beverage.

"So there I was, at my kitchen table, spooning out dessicated coconut and doing a bit of experimenting."

Gareth went on to develop his idea, and now he has his own brand of coconut tea, called Cuppanut ( Three flavours - coconut, coconut and cranberry, and coconut, ginger and turmeric - are set to hit the shelves this spring.

"I had an order from a well-known health food shop chain, I can't say which one but there is one in Bradford!" smiles Gareth. "Coconut is the main ingredient, there's no caffeine, no nasty additives. It's healthy goodness in a tea-cup. I'm working on five new flavours and I'm hoping to expand to other retailers."

It's the latest venture in what has been an eventful career since Gareth shot to fame on Pop Idol in 2002. The former Bradford Cathedral choirboy won the nation's hearts when his stammer left him struggling to say his name at the auditions and, with a singing voice that melted even Simon Cowell, he

reached the final.

Gareth went on to sell more than five million records worldwide. His version of Unchained Melody sold over a million copies in the UK and is the third best-selling single of the Noughties.

More recently, he has enjoyed a successful career on stage, starring in shows such as Les Misérables, Legally Blonde, Loserville and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Along the way he competed on Dancing on Ice, and joined boy band 5th Story for TV's The Big Reunion and subsequent arena tour.

This month Gareth returns to his home city in Footloose, the lively musical based on the hit Eighties film about a rural American backwater where dancing is banned. He plays Willard, the friend of city boy Ren who breaks the rules and gets the town on its feet again.

"It's my first comedy role," says Gareth. "I'm used to playing the handsome lead or pantomime prince. This is a new direction for me and I'm loving it. It's a great show, the music is incredible - as well as Footloose there are hits like Let's Hear It For The Boy and Holding Out For a Hero - and the audience is up and dancing. The cast are a talented bunch; as well as acting, everyone on stage plays instruments too."

Gareth showcases his skills as a guitarist, and his dancing moves. "Willard is a cowboy who can't dance, it's not a great stretch," he jokes. "I'm no natural dancer but I'm the sort of person who puts everything into what I do."

He adds: "I'm looking forward to being back at the Alhambra, it was where I made my first stage appearance, aged five. I was one of the King's children in The King and I - it gave me the performing bug.

"When I was eight I played Joseph. That's when I first started to sing, so it was musicals that got me into the industry. Fifteen years later I met Andrew Lloyd Webber and he cast me in Joseph in the West End."

I first interviewed Gareth when he was a fresh-faced 17-year-old catapulted into the national spotlight after Pop Idol. Now 31, he's chatty and confident, having learned to control the speech impediment he's had since childhood, thanks to the McGuire speech therapy programme. In 2011 he made a documentary highlighting the struggles faced by people with a stammer and he has since trained as a McGuire technique instructor.

"Keeping healthy helps, you have to look after yourself on tour," he says. "I like visiting different places but I don't like being away from my daughter, Missy, too long. She loves to sing and dance, she's seen Footloose and insisted on sitting on the front row so she could sing along. We were at the Alhambra last week with my family watching Billy Elliot.

"It'll be so good to have a week in Bradford, back to where it all began. And I can't wait to stay with my family, instead of yet another hotel."

* Footloose runs at the Alhambra from June 28 to July 2. For tickets call (01274) 432000.