LIONEL Richie is one of his biggest fans, he has performed for the Queen and his albums have now gone platinum.

Chorley-born Rick Guard is a leading jazz singer/songwriter travelling the world performing to crowds of thousands.

He told us about his long journey to the top of the jazz scene — and how he has now reinvented himself with a new image.

NOT may people can boast the achievements of platinum selling jazz singer/songwriter Rick Guard.

He has played to crowds of 65,000, his first self-penned single gained top 20 positions in 11 countries and he has performed with some of the biggest names in the business.

But boasting is exactly the opposite of what this 37-year-old accomplished artist does.

With his feet firmly on the ground, his success, unlike many others in the music industry, has not changed Rick.

In fact, the Chorley-born artist is making plans to leave his swanky Manchester apartment and move back to his home town to be nearer his family.

Yet despite his natural talent, Rick didn’t have the easiest road to stardom.He began adult life with quite a different direction, as a politics student. But after a childhood spent listening to his parents’ jazz collection, it was inevitable that it would be only a matter of time until Rick was equally taken with the smooth tunes that were the soundtrack to his youth. Now that same music is his life, performing it is what makes him happiest and more and more people are tuning into the jazz style, which is attracting a whole host of new fans.

But his dream was a long time coming — nine years in fact. From gigging around the country to getting a record deal, Rick spent nearly a decade trying to get his big break. Part way through his mission, one December, Rick made a promise to a friend that he wouldn’t take down his Christmas tree until he got a record deal, in the hope that constant reminder in his living room would give him the determination to carry on. Five years later, Rick signed his first deal with Decca Records and the tree, reduced to nothing more than a few feeble brown twigs, was finally put to rest.

In December 2006, Rick was made the voice of UKTV when he was asked to record the 10 channel network’s Christmas promo advertisement, with a 90-piece Prague orchestra, conducted by the renowned David Arnold and heard by over two million viewers. He went on to become a platinum-selling artist, living his musical dream.

Rick was the first-ever artist to gain permission to film a music video in Harrod’s, in London. He had full use of every floor and the event even stopped traffic in Knightsbridge when the shop window scenes were shot. Since that moment Rick has never been out of work and his music style has attracted diverse appeal. Rick went on to write and perform a track on the Sony Playstation Dancemat game and is the creator and author of “Teach Yourself Singing,”  a best-selling CD/book published by Hodder.

But his most impressive achievements came when he performed with Lionel Richie, Shirley Bassey and Ronan Keating. His experience with Lionel, Rick says, was a highlight of his career. Rick was complimented by the star who told him: “I love your writing style. It reminds me of some work I did with Michael (Jackson).”  In shock, Rick dropped his glass of wine down the front of Lionel’s trousers!

Rick said: “I’ll never forget Lionel Richie. What more of a compliment can you get, and what more can I hope to achieve in my career than a comment like that? I remember thinking to myself when he said it, ‘Michael? Who does he mean?’ And when I realised who he meant, I couldn’t believe he was comparing my work to that of his and Michael Jackson’s. I nearly wet myself. I remember not even being that nervous though when we performed. I’m more scared of small crowds where you can see everyone’s expressions.”

Rick has also performed for the Queen, Princess Anne, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I performed for the Queen and Prince Philip at her Jubilee,” recalled Rick. “I met them after I performed and the Queen was polite and everything you would imagine. She seemed to remember me from stage and shook my hand. But Prince Phillip wasn’t so impressed. He said to me: ‘What is it you do?”

Rick has gigged at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Orchestra, the Red Dragon, Feel The Noise and V2 Festivals, and he is a familiar face at several private A-list celebrity parties. He is a regular at Manchester 235 supercasino, with his own monthly jazz night.

But all this success comes at a price and means Rick is often away from home and his wife Saskia. So with all this hard work, when is there time to relax?

“I love going snowboarding,” says Rick. “It’s how I chill out.

"It’s my favourite hobby and perhaps one that people who don’t know me wouldn’t expect me to be into.

"I learned at Ski Rossendale and now I go to the Alps as often as I can.

"I enjoy going for breaks to peaceful places.

"When you are performing on a regular basis, all eyes are on you, so it’s nice to go somewhere and just be quiet .

Rick is currently working on his next album, which he hopes to release in March. Watch this space.