YORKSHIRE soul singer John Newman is taking to a camper van as he returns to his roots for The Out Of The Blue Tour.

"I'll be driving it," says the Settle-born three-times chart topper, whose month of travels will bring him first to York on Sunday for a sold-out 7.30pm debut at The Crescent community venue.

Further Yorkshire gigs will follow at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on July 9 and The Polar Bear in Hull on July 28, the last of the 17 "scaled-down" shows.

"I’ve really missed being in smaller venues; real, honest, up-close gigs like the ones I used to play when I first started out," says John, who turned 29 on June 16.

"Thinking back to those days, I decided to strip everything back to the core: voice, guitar and songs. The thought of just turning up to venues in parts of the country, off the beaten touring circuit, was very appealing to me.

"The big festival appearances and arena shows are amazing, and I love doing them, but there’s something incredible about performing in a small room where you can actually look the audience in the eye and feel that energy."

Newman's Memphis soul voice last shook a North Yorkshire stage in the Dalby Forest woodland near Pickering on June 27 2016. His band had arrived first, taking their place on an expanse of white steps, above which Newman rose on a hydraulic lift.

On reminding him of that grand entrance, he quipped: "It wasn't a cherry picker....did you know my great grandfather invented the cherry picker? And when it spells AMBULANCE backwards on the front of an ambulance, so you see it the right way in your mirror, that was his idea as well."

Anyway, back to this summer's road travels and, first up The Crescent, a former working men's club, off Blossom Street, in York. "The reason I'm doing these shows is because I feel it's a better place to be.

"In terms of chilling out, as a Yorkshire guy, you go to the pub to chill out, don't you," says the no-nonsense Newman.

By contrast, the routine of "performing, sleeping in a lovely hotel, someone bringing you breakfast, moving on, performing, having a party after the gig" can lose its appeal, he reveals. "Guys might think that's having a great time, but it becomes stale, and even the gigs can become formulaic as you don't interact with people," says John. "I want to go out and have that interaction again, starting with the county I grew up in.

"I feel cveryone is probably too egotistical to tour the way we're going to do it but I think it's going to be a real laugh." Even the camper van will be basic – he used a coarser word – rather than flash!

Newman recalls his early gigging days. "I played in Leeds a lot, but in Settle, lads you went to school with were saying, 'what are you doing?'! Singing in Leeds, it was much more appreciated," he says. "I'd got my sights set on playing Wembley Stadium, and if I get there after what I've been through, I'd be so proud."

Newman is referring to the return of his brain tumour, first treated and beaten in 2012, but subsequently growing again. Last year, doctors decided against operating on him, diagnosing that there were no cancerous cells, although at some point the tumour will need to be removed. "I haven't had the second operation, though I have to have it," he says.

"I've had to deal with these things for a long time. I went through a dark period...but every time I wake up feeling sh**, I think, 'I could sit down all day and be miserable or I could use it in a positive way'.

"There are people in a worse place, and the NHS is so important. It's a good opportunity to bring hope to people who need help, starting with the Brain Tumour Association."

Newman sounds upbeat. "I'm married, I've got a new home. I'm generally feeling good again, whereas before I felt mentally affected and was struggling," he says. "I feel I lost myself, and now I want to go back to what makes me feel good, which is expressing myself through music. "

What's more, Newman is filming a documentary to chart his tour's progress and his experiences as a musician. Expect songs old and new that he has been "saving up" on Sunday.

"I’ve called it The Out Of The Blue Tour because I want that feeling of just turning up somewhere, setting up and playing a great show," he says. I’m really excited about this and can’t wait to get out there." It's time to love him again!

Charles Hutchinson