Jamie: It’s been close on 40 years since you appeared on YTT, what have you been doing since that time?
Derek: Well, where do I start!! Shortly after leaving the show, I appeared in a terrific musical pantomime (Cinderella), where I played the wonderful, but very demanding comedic role of Buttons. I also did a few television commercials – one of them being the ‘I’m your happy herald boy’ ad, where I sang the jingle.
As I got a little older though, I decided that as much as I loved entertaining, I needed a regular income and a steady job, to provide for the family I was one day hoping to have. Carpentry was hugely enjoyable, as I could see the results of my hard work – and I decided to venture into a career in that field.
In 1986 my first daughter came into the world, followed by my second in 1989 – and the years that followed were spent dedicated to providing for my young family. After many years of missing the showbiz world, I decided to come back to where my heart was, and where I felt I belonged. The passing of my dear mum made the decision even more meaningful to me, as she just loved to watch me perform – something I would occasionally do for her and the other gorgeous residents at her nursing home.
Seeing just how much Mum, and the other residents enjoyed those performances, gave me the strength and the passion to fulfil my dream of performing once again – and I resumed my career in honour of her. Recently I’ve returned to performing, and have also joined forces with you Jim [Jamie Redfern}, and I am thoroughly enjoying the magic we both produce on stage.
Jamie: I’m loving it too Deg, and I’ve noticed that your confidence and interaction with the audience is just amazing lately – you look so comfortable and “at home” on stage. You’re singing better than ever too, which is often an indicator that a performers private life is on the right track – is this the case with you?
Derek: My life is better than ever Jim! There were many personal hurdles that I needed to jump to get to where I am today. I am blessed to have the most understanding, caring and supportive partner that I could wish for, and getting out of bed each morning has never been easier.
Jamie: Having been in the industry as a child and now re-entering as an adult, has your view on the industry changed?
Derek: As a child performer I never understood or had any concept of the politics inherent in the industry. I was unaware of it, and just enjoyed the journey and the opportunities to perform every day. Now, reflecting on it as an adult, I have a greater understanding of what was happening around me back then, but couldn’t understand at the time – and what continues to happen in the industry today. The unfortunate reality is that all too often it’s not what you know or how talented you are, but who you know – and what you are willing to do to make it to the top.
Jamie: That’s sad but true – as it is in most walks of life. You said you loved performing …. what was your most memorable performance as a child star on YTT or otherwise?
Derek: The most memorable YTT moment was when I met Davy Jones, legendary frontman of The Monkees. He actually stopped, called out my name and we chatted for quite a while – such a terrific fella. As for my most memorable performance, that would have to be when we were touring Western Australia, and we appeared in concert at a town called Busselton. It was an open-air concert with thousands of screaming girls calling my name, with banners and posters saying “We love you, Derek”.
Derek: Nothing makes me happier than to be up on stage, under the spotlight singing to the world. What I’d like to achieve with my career from now on is to engage a larger demographic – and I’m working on ways to do that.
Jamie: Did your time on YTT set you up for what you’re doing now?
Derek: Hahaha, what a joke!! The money I received from YTT was barely enough to cover my transport costs from home to the studio. A question most people ask me is ‘are you rich’??? This really saddens me, as my parents really struggled to make ends meet at times, for reasons you may decide to reveal yourself one day Jim – that’s another very personal (political) story isn’t it?
Jamie: Hahaha, no, I was actually talking about your recent very successful return to performing, and whether your YTT training made it any easier to achieve, lol …… but your answer was a classic response, and one that other team members have given in interviews similarly in the past. As to my revealing the dirty side of the biz – I doubt that will ever happen, but you never know Deg. Anyway, back to the YTT training question …… what most did you learn from your time on the show, and how does it impact the way you perform today?
Derek: As you know Jim, I was very stiff and awkward in relation to my dancing when I first appeared on the show. As time went by I became very comfortable with my moves, being trained by the best choreographer in the industry at the time. Now, as an adult performing my Elvis type moves … lol, it all seems to come naturally.
Jamie: You’ve always loved to play sport – were you able to find the time to still play some sport with your busy show business schedule?
Derek: Next to singing, sport certainly was a passion – and I still love to kick a footy around if I get the chance. I remember playing AFL as a young lad, and being approached by the committee at the Western Bulldogs Football Club, formerly Footscray, to try out for their team. They even got in touch with my parents, but I declined the offer as music was my first love.
Derek: Yes often Jim, and still do! I watch my beloved Bulldogs doing the best they can, and often wonder whether my being on the field might help get them across the line, lol …. (only joking)
Jamie: Who is your favourite artist?
Derek: Me!! Hahaha, just kidding … I have quite a number of favourites. I love Elton John, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Englebert etc. For me to single out a favourite would be near impossible as they all inspire me, and I perform many of their songs in my shows.
Jamie: There are always risks involved when you put a child under the spotlight, were there any negative moments in your YTT career that affected you at the time?
Derek: There are always going to be negatives in every industry of course, and show business is no different. When a child is exposed to those negatives there can be terrible consequences, due to children being more sensitive and less able to defend themselves. During my time on YTT, my dance skills had improved to a point where I was voted one of the best young dancers in Australia. This was a very exciting achievement for me at that young age, and I was so proud of myself. Unfortunately, the joy and happiness of that success was dampened when a YTT producer approached me and asked me not to dance to the best of my ability. I was told it was because I was stealing the limelight from the other team members – which I thought was crazy because they were all really good dancers themselves. The request rattled me, and I was really upset and confused and didn’t know exactly what to do next. How could I not dance to the best of my ability when it just came naturally? As a child, I didn’t know how to defend myself, and because I was brought up to respect adults, I wrongly believed it would be rude to challenge the producer. So, because of my own experiences, I believe the most important thing for a child to know when they are entering an industry like ours, is that they are entitled to defend themselves and speak up if there’s something they don’t like, or feel is unfair.
Jamie: You were nominated for the best new talent award. How did you feel?
Derek: Overwhelmed and in shock that I had been recognised as such a genuine talent. Trouble was, one of the producers must have gotten it all wrong somehow, and informed me that I had actually won the award, then someone else’s name was read out ……. ouch! The person who ended up winning was in my opinion clearly the best artist at that time, and well-deserving of the award, and I felt really humbled just to be nominated alongside them.
Jamie: Same here Deg.
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