He grew up and was propelled to stardom as one-eighth of teen-pop group S Club Juniors. He’s since gone on to share the stage with girlband pop icons The Saturdays and Little Mix, and even global superstar, Taylor Swift. Now, Aaron Renfree is going from strength to strength working on prime-time TV shows like The Masked Dancer and taking the pandemic as an opportunity to use his platform to prove to his loyal following that it’s ok to be yourself, shrugging off the haters whilst he’s at it.
For our exclusive cover story, Aaron has dug out his old S Club Juniors outfits to recreate some of the memories after 20 years. We sat down with Aaron to discuss all things Pride, TikTok trolls and get a bit of future nostalgia with him reminiscing on the late 90s/early 00s…
Aaron wearing the S Club Junior double denim signature outfit.
Hey Aaron! Hope you’re doing well, thanks for speaking with us. What are you most looking forward to as a performer, with the world slowly returning to normal?
I’d probably say just getting back out there and being in a live performance aspect and having a crowd. It’s the anticipation with live performances and putting on a new show… and the excitement of something building and getting the world to see it. So many people have tried getting things up and running over the last year but things have been pulled left, right and centre. So many things have been postponed. I’m just excited to get back out there.
We loved the IG LIVE series that former S Club Junior, Jay Perry did in lockdown last year, and his interview with you. How do you feel with there still being so much interest in you and the former S Club Juniors?
It’s a funny one. Jay did his Instagram series and it was lovely. We never really know how these things are going to go. It was really nice that so many people tuned in and had so many questions… It was nice to reminisce over old stories and go back there with someone who’s also been through it with you. I do a lot of interviews that talk about the past but it’s always the general questions like “How was it?”, “What did you do?”, “What was it like?”. Whereas this was something with someone who had lived through it with me.
It’s remarkable that people still have an interest.
People love nostalgia and seeing things from the past…
It does feel like music back then was simpler and fun, whereas now it’s just not what it was. People just remember those pop days, all the performances on kids TV shows, the radio… now songs don’t even get played on the radio that we love, purely because they’re just not in the right category or they’re not on a certain playlist on a radio station. It never used to be that political. I miss the late 90s/early 00s!
Aaron wearing the spray painted outfit from the 'Fool No More' single artwork.
You’re still great mates with the girls from The Saturdays and S Club Juniors. What are some of your favourite memories with them?
I used to love doing the morning TV shows. There was noting better than getting up at 4am, getting excited… I just used to love that it was live and you could do such silly little things, so I’ve got some great memories from that…
I think touring’s always a great one. Travelling the country in a big tour bus and getting to perform everywhere. Staying in hotels and getting up to so much mischief and running around late at night…!
Anything that was an achievement for us though like performing at the Disney Channel Awards are memorable moments that stick out in my mind.
Then with the girls, The Saturdays… we’ve had some funny video shoots. The All Fired Up tour was pretty epic. There was a moment when it was my birthday and we were in Dublin and I was dressed as a topless Santa and ran backstage to get changed, but they called me back out on stage and the whole arena sang Happy Birthday to me which was quite memorable… that was pretty cool.
You’ve had a great career as a performer and have gained a loyal social media following. What’s a misconception you find people have of you?
It’s weird because I feel like I’ve got a lot of followers purely because of the jobs I’ve had. You do get a lot of the fans of different artists [you’ve worked with] follow you too. I’ve got a very mixed group of followers which is great, a lot around the world, from TikTok, from the band, I’ve got an amazing gay following… it’s cool I’ve got so many people.
I think a misconception is that… people don’t know what to expect when they meet me? They just don’t expect me to be how I am. I don’t know if maybe I don’t put out enough of my silly, fun, geeky side? You put the best of your best out there though so I guess people don’t really get to know me and I can manipulate that in whatever way I want.
After the pandemic though, I’ve realised that I don’t care what people think anymore and I am being a bit more myself and opening up online by being more open about things going on in the world or in my life to try and help others. I have got a platform now where I can share what I’m going through so it does help others.
If we all cared too much about what others think of us though, it would drive us all insane.
Aaron wearing the outfit from the S Club Juniors debut album cover, 'Together'.
You’ve danced with The Saturdays, Little Mix and Taylor Swift. What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?
It’s all well and good going to training and going to dance school. But you have to stick at it, you have to try all styles and you have to be prepared for anything. Never stop training, keep fighting for what you love.
For me, it was something that was in me from such a young, young age. I always knew I loved moving and dancing and was always choreographing.
So if you really believe it’s what you want to do, go get it. It’s not an easy industry and you have to be prepared for knock backs, prepare for rejections. But that makes you stronger and makes you want to fight more for it. You’ve got to really, really want it, or I’d stay away!
Do you think it’s easier these days or harder to get into performing and the music industry, compared to how you first started out?
Do you know what, I still don’t know myself. Purely because, back in the day there were probably fewer people that wanted to perform, sing and dance. There were loads more auditions whereas now there’s a lot more people that want to perform and be in the entertainment industry but less opportunities for people to get into that industry as things are done by direct bookings.
There’s also the internet. People are putting themselves out there on social media and YouTube and just get called up being told “we want you”. I can’t work out which is easier and which is harder? I guess you’ve got more opportunity to showcase yourself now. I’ve done it the way I’ve done it but if I started out now, I do wonder “Oh, would I have made it?”, “Would I have put something out there?, “Would I have been spotted by anyone?” as there seems to be a bigger fight for it [nowadays].
In lockdown, like everyone else, you took to TikTok. How have you found the reaction on the platform? You received some unnecessary backlash…
I found it therapeutic to learn someone else’s choreography from anywhere in the world, and learning a new dance every day and putting it out there to see the reaction. I loved making up my own routines and having other people around the world doing it too, tagging me and showing me their dances. I did one to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s ‘Rain On Me’ and it got millions of views, so many people did it in the rain too, so it was cool.
There was an incident though where I did a dance and one guy did a ‘duet’ with it and mocked it. He had millions of followers meaning his reaction was shown to his followers who also were negative towards my video and it sent loads of people to my account. I was getting loads of abuse and nasty comments. I’m ok because I’ve grown up with this industry so know how to deal with it.
The reason I struggled with the idea was because… can you imagine if this happened to someone not as strong as me and it was on a week where they were struggling with their mental health and had this backlash? God knows what would happen or the consequences? That really shouldn’t happen, so I did do a video and just said “Look guys, we know we need to be better on this app and be kind, you don’t know the consequences of what you put out there are so let’s think more”.
I felt like I needed to do that with my platform.
It’s Pride Month - Happy Pride! What does Pride mean to you? Will you be celebrating?
Happy Pride! Oh my God… well fingers crossed we’re allowed to properly celebrate. Last year was so upsetting that we couldn’t do it how we like to do it.
Pride means you can be yourself. It’s nice to celebrate something that you feel part of and comfortable with. It’s such a happy vibe! You can just forget everything else in the world and be happy to be in the moment. It means happiness, lots of love and you feel extra love. You go to Pride events and people you don’t even know want a hug. It’s such a fun experience. I never make plans at Pride, I like to wander and see where I end up. I’ve always had the best night with that mentality! It’s a special month and a special day whenever you choose to celebrate, wherever you might be.
Aaron wearing the outfit from the Disney Channel Kids Awards
Have you got any new projects that you’re working on that you can share with ReVamp readers?
I’ve just finished working on The Masked Dancer as Assistant Choreographer which has been amazing. It’s a bonkers show! It’s super secret, they’re calling it the best kept secret in showbiz. I’ve had to be completely quiet, I’ve signed every NDA and haven’t been able to speak about it at all! I’m loving that everyone’s now able to see the show and see the amazing people that worked on it.
I’m so happy panto’s back. I was really gutted it couldn’t go ahead last year. I’ve worked in panto since I was a little kid, dancing around at the sides, to then being part of an ensemble cast to now choreographing it.
Things are obviously still slowly creeping back. I think once this year’s over, next year will be it. These big shows take lots of planning and I don’t think anyone wants to plan for it, for it to then fall through. This year, little things can start to happen but next year will be the big one, so hopefully some tours can happen. I can’t wait to go back on tour.
Finally, as a former S Club Juniors die-hard fan, I can’t not acknowledge your infamous ketchup obsession. It’s kind of iconic…
Haha, thank you! It’s so funny how so many people remember it. I guess as a kid, we did so many interviews and I guess I must have talked about it all the time…
I had fans that called themselves “The Ketchup Girls” and would bring me hampers of ketchup to our shows! I’ve done a photoshoot with ketchup all over me, I had a ketchup cake for my birthday… it keeps on going, so I think people just remember me for it now. I still love it! It’s not even like I’m putting it on, I genuinely love it. Still have it with my roast dinner! I’m proud to say that, I know many people hate that…
Thank you so much, Aaron!