TWO years ago, Andy Oliver was in the depths of despair.
A decade-long alcohol battle rumbled on.
It was all a far cry from Andy’s teenage days.
Growing up in Hart Village, the former English Martyrs RC School and Sixth Form pupil was a promising actor who appeared in programmes such as Byker Grove and 55 Degrees North.
He moved to London to develop his acting career and then again to Clitheroe, in Lancashire, but it was an afternoon with a guitar which possibly changed the 33-year old’s life forever.
For the first time ever, Andy admitted he had a problem and started to put his thoughts on paper.
Writing musical lyrics about his problems became an escape and he teamed up with a friend, 32-year old Jim Ellel, a trained electrician and started taking the music more seriously.
Despite the change in approach, what happened next was beyond what Andy would ever dared to have dreamed of.
The pair, who perform under the name of Andy Oliver, uploaded their songs to MySpace.
Within seven months their material had received 57,000 views with a high of 2,000 views per day.
The rise continued, their first single Save The Last Dance, which was released on Monday, topped the MySpace chart.
They are currently in talks with a recording company and are just weeks away from signing their first deal.
There has even been talks of performances in New York.
“The guitar just became a means of an escape,” Andy told the Mail prior to a homecoming gig at Flix cafe in Hartlepool on Sunday night.
“I had a big problem with the booze and when I look back now I do feel embarrassed but at the time it just feels normal I suppose.
“The fact that I am stood doing an interview on a bank holiday night shows how far I have come, there was a time where I would have been nowhere else but the pub on an occasion like this.”
Andy recalls one incident around Christmas time a few years back when he was taken to hospital due to the effects of alcohol – but the next day he was back in the pub.
He explained: “I had to be revived one day I had drank that much but people couldn’t believe it because the next day I was in the pub drinking again.
“I was in self destruct mode.
“Looking back I was drinking about 12 pints every day, seven days a week for about 10 years.
“I realise that some people don’t get through it. I did and it helps me to appreciate everything now.”
After moving to Lancashire, Andy met his wife, award-winning actress, Janet Bamford, 42, who he says he can’t thank enough for being “a rock” during the tough times.
He said: “I was lucky because I had people around me who wanted to help.
“My friends and Janet were absolutely brilliant.
“If they weren’t around me being so supportive then who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have pulled myself out of it.
“They all know how grateful I am.”
Despite now living in Lancashire, Andy says he regularly comes back to the town he loves.
His parents Ann, 55 and Mike, 57, still live in Hart Village.
His musical influences vary.
R.E.M have had a big impact on his music he was also inspired by the great musical storytellers of the past such as Bob Dylan.
The new record and album, which is yet to be completed, have been referred to as a “punk pop” sound and have received glowing reviews from some of the industry’s biggest names.
But Andy insists he won’t get carried away and remains focused on finishing the album and kicking off a tour later this year.
He said: “I suppose my ambition right now is to be able to make a career out of being a musical artist.
“I have no disillusionment about wanting to make loads of money, although that wouldn’t be bad of course.
“I just really enjoy writing and performing and it’s fantastic to think that I could maybe have an impact on others who are going through what I have been through.
“After one gig not so long ago I had a lady ring me afterwards saying how she really enjoyed the performance and she just wanted to chat about what I had gone through because she was having difficulties herself.
“Even if the music only has an impact on one person it has been a success.
“We have had messages saying how honest our music is but I don’t want to shy away from the fact that it was a part of my life.
“Looking back I think I lived the rock and roll lifestyle before I even picked up a guitar.”