The X Factor judge Gary Barlow has revealed that he suffered a lengthy bout of depression following Take That’s split during which he refused to sing and tried to avoid being recognised.

In an interview with the Observer magazine the singer admitted that he was “embarrassed to be himself after the band originally broke up in the mid-90s – and tormented by the failure of his subsequent solo career.

“I was living in Cheshire at the time, going to London and back on the train. I used to heavily disguise myself, with a hat and everything. I was overweight, I wasn’t feeling great. I was embarrassed to be me, to have people recognise me,” Gary said.

He added that he piled on five stone as a result of the depression – and refused even to be photographed at his children’s christenings.

“It wasn’t not being famous any more, or even not being a recording artist,” Barlow explained. “It was having nobody who needed me, no phones ringing, nothing to do.

“I had this beautiful white piano, my lucky piano. Every hit I’d had I’d written on this piano. Within six months of this not happening any more, this piano drove me mad, to the point where I spent days just looking at it, lying underneath it, lying on top of it, rubbing my face on it, going slowly insane, trying to work out why this thing wasn’t delivering to me like it used to.”

However the 40-year-old added that he is glad he went through such a difficult time as it helped him shape the person he is today – saying that it only really came to an end after the band reformed in 2006.

“That day was the first time in years that I got on the train, took my hat off and just sat there. People were coming up and being so nice. It felt so good.”

Barlow, who is mentoring the boys on The X Factor, will have to select one of his acts to leave the competition for good on Sunday night.