The nation will be cheering on Olly Alexander this weekend as he prepares to take to the Eurovision stage in Malmo. But before he headed off to Sweden, he sat down for an exclusive Off The Record chat with Hits Radio Breakfast presenter, James Barr.

The hour-hong special aired on Hits Radio at 9pm last night [Thursday] and is available to listen to all weekend on the Hits Radio app.

Olly on how losing out on a role in Skins set him on his path to fame: ‘I was on a course at the National Youth Theatre and as part of the course they posted castings you could go to. I went to a casting for Skins, didn’t get the part, but the casting director liked me and said ‘I’ll help you get an agent if you want?’ so she basically put me in touch with an agent and the first casting I went to for them – a kids tv show called Summerhill – I got.’

On wanting to be a singer: ‘I wanted to be an astronaut because I loved space – I still love space but I found out that I’m colour blind and apparently you can’t go to space if you’re colour blind? And you can’t fly a plane goddamnit but maybe you can now, I have no idea…
But I always, always loved singing – and this is the kind of kid I was - for my Year 6 Assembly I wrote and performed my own original song – it was called Why Can’t We Be Perfect, I had a little Casio keyboard and a four track cassette tape recorder. I hit on my themes quite early on – unrequited love, feelings of low self-worth….

On being friends with Judi Dench: ‘Judi Dench is the most fabulous, wonderful woman, an icon of stage, screen and TV, but she has such a warm, lovely, naughty personality - loves making dirty jokes in her incredible voice, I love her. She sent me a text five minutes after Eurovision got announced saying ‘I can’t wait, congratulations.’

On wearing a disguise on the tube: ‘I will wear a hat and a mask on the tube – I get really paranoid about being in an enclosed space and someone recognising me when I’m doing something weird like eating a sandwich or drinking a coffee and I look stupid. It’s a bit of an anxiety but if I’m wearing a hat and a mask I know no-one will recognise me, no one will look at me.’

On his earliest Eurovision memory: ‘My earliest memory of it is when we had a really great run in the 90s, Gina G, Imani Right Now and Precious Say it Again and of course Katrina and the Waves and I loved all of those entries, they’re just really fantastic so those are my early memories, it would always be this mad night of chaos that I loved so much.’

On growing up and his school years: ‘I was confused a lot of the time, thinking I don’t fit in anywhere and I didn’t know why. When I was really young I wanted to have long hair and wear make-up and very quickly I realised that didn’t go down well with other kids, specifically the boys. They would make fun of me and call me a girl in a way that was really negative, so I was just really confused and hated going to school for that reason.

It was tough. I really struggled at school and, I don’t think I’ll have kids, but if I had one I just wouldn’t want to send them to school – I’d say you’re not going, you’re staying at home with me, you’ve got singing at nine and crystal therapy at ten!
I didn’t speak to anybody about it at the time because I felt like something was wrong with me. I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through so I kept it all hidden and I didn’t realise until much later when I had proper conversations with my Mum about it and she had a lot of guilt about that.

I had a lot of guilt because I hadn’t told her what I was going through. It’s so difficult for us to communicate honestly, especially when we feel that things are not right within ourselves, that we should be a different way. And I found it really hard to talk to anyone, I kept it all bottled up and it’s not good to do that.
But it’s made me who I am and I’m proud of it. I always have that kid in my head, the kid I used to be and I just want that kid to be happy and feel safe and protected. I can do a bit of that for myself now, but being able to love yourself is actually so hard. I still have hyper critical voices but I also have another voice which says you did really well , you’re really good and you’ve got this.’