A PENARTH-born performer will be belting out a song on national television this weekend - in Germany.

Richie Gooding, who moved his life to Hamburg in the north of the country after getting married to native Phil last year, will have a blind audition on The Voice Germany.

While nothing can be given away on whether Richie made it through to the live quarter-finals, he has taken the chance to share his thoughts on the challenges facing the music industry, growing up gay in Penarth, and trading the seaside town he adores for Hamburg.

“I grew up in Penarth and lived there until I was 20,” he began. “I went to Victoria Primary School and then onto Stanwell School, where I really started to find myself.

“Since I can remember I had a passion for musical theatre. That’s what I spent my time doing – as well as drinking cider on the benches at Alexandra Park!”

Penarth Times: Picture: Christoph LehnerPicture: Christoph Lehner

Richie grew up in a sport-loving household. Dad Mike is the president of Penarth Athletic Club and brother Paul remains a rugby-nut.

“I couldn’t think of much worse than rugby when I was a kid,” he laughed. “Music was a way to express myself as a gay boy in a small town.

“Kids can be cruel so starting to perform when I was at primary school and hanging out with other theatre kids was definitely my safe space – I found my tribe.

“I was worried about coming out as gay in a family of rugby fanatics, but my parents and family have always loved me unconditionally and were totally supportive – so much so that dad has become an accidental activist down the rugby club at times.”

Richie, who had always regularly returned to Penarth, hasn’t seen his family for a year due to coronavirus restrictions. One of the last times he was in Penarth was when he married Phil at the Paget Rooms.

“Our wedding was a testament to my family’s love. Being able to celebrate in my home town with 120 of our favourite people was an amazing feeling.”

After leaving Penarth at 20, Richie – now aged 36 – headed to London where he toured with the 12 Tenors and produced backing vocals for John Barrowman, among plenty more impressive gigs.

Penarth Times: Richie and Phil's wedding at Paget Rooms. Picture: Libby ChristensenRichie and Phil's wedding at Paget Rooms. Picture: Libby Christensen

He first pitched up in Hamburg while working on a cruise ship in 2013, and met Phil in a local bar.

“From then I was often in Hamburg, and when we got married I decided I wanted to stay here. It’s a wonderful city and I’m trying to immerse myself in the culture.”

That’s easier said than done – as Richie found out on The Voice when the judges began speaking to him a little quickly in German.

“I know the basics but if someone goes too fast I’m stuffed! I’m trying but it’s a very hard language, and so far I feel I’ve got away with it because people here speak very good English.”

He says The Voice – which he fell into in February when he had a day off and heard the judges were in town – has given him a focus during a difficult time.

He got through to the blind auditions after an audition in Hamburg.

“I felt when I moved here officially at the end of last year that my life was going to be very exciting this year, but that hasn’t panned out. Most engagements other than The Voice have been cancelled.

Penarth Times: Richie on set at The VoiceRichie on set at The Voice

“My studio recording projects came to a stand-still. I was supposed to be performing back in the UK at the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, but that’s also been cancelled.

“I haven’t received any funding support, but fortunately as a self-employed performer I have savings that I have dipped into.

“My husband works in PR at Google and he has been able to work from home full time.

“But I’ve become an excellent baker and I’ve taken up pottery too.”

The lack of support for performers – especially in the UK – angers him, after seeing some of his friends who were working on the West End a few months ago now working in retail.

“There’s nothing wrong with working in a shop, but I feel as though there’s been more respect for artists in Germany. The whole 'retrain' message to performers is disgusting.

Penarth Times: Richie and Phil in Penarth last yearRichie and Phil in Penarth last year

“You wouldn’t tell doctors or teachers to retrain, and I feel we’re not that valued – which is ridiculous. We’re surrounded by entertainment and art in all our lives.

“We listen to the radio, we read the paper, we go to gigs and museums. How boring would like be if we just told creators to retrain?”

While his Christmas shows are cancelled, he is hoping to be back in Penarth for Christmas.

“I can’t see a lot changing in the UK or Germany at the moment, but I’d love to be home soon. I was planning on going home four times this year, but I’ve not been back once.

“It’s rubbish but I’m holding on to the knowledge that I will be back one day – hopefully in the not too distant future.”

Asked about his aspirations as a result of appearing on The Voice, he remained expertly modest.

“I don’t know. Maybe if I’m back in town next Christmas they’ll let me turn on the lights. That’d be a dream!”

Richie's audition will be televised on German television on Sunday night, although he is hoping to share it on his social media channels.

To follow Richie's journey, check out his Instagram at richie.gooding and website at richiegooding.com.