Have you seen the cover of Mark Owen's new album? On it, the singer is hiding his face with a book. The current tour poster? Same shot. It could be that, for The Art Of Doing Nothing – Owen's first solo record since Take That reconvened in 2005 – the bloke would rather his music be the focus of attention. Or maybe it was just a good book. Either way, I'm surprised. Isn't the face supposed to be the money shot or something?
"It was funny," says Owen (41), "because when I was looking through the artwork, I preferred all the pictures where I wasn't looking at myself. You'll be happy to know that, since then, I've done lots of pictures where you can see my face ... "
I'll spread the good news. Owen has, of course, been in this position before. Three times, in fact. His first solo record, Green Man, arrived shortly after Take That's split in 1996. It barely made the top 40. The second, 2003's In Your Own Time, came about following his Celebrity Big Brother win. It fared even worse. And the third, 2005's How the Mighty Fall ... well, you get the picture.
But that was before Take That's reunion surprised the hell out of everyone, not least the guys themselves. Three record-breaking albums and four tours later, and everyone's favourite man band is on hold until 2014.
Plenty of time, then, for Howard and Jason to get a tan, Robbie to do his stadium thing, Gary to pretend he's a TV star and Mark to give the solo career another shot. But Owen never planned to make another album. As it turns out, The Art Of Doing Nothing came about by accident.
"I'd always hoped the five of us would get back together. We'd done it, and I knew that everybody was gonna take a bit of time now to re-adjust and decide what they wanted to do," he said.
The end result might not please everyone, but The Art Of Doing Nothing – a smart, slow-burning pop record – is proof of Owen's capabilities as both a songwriter and a stand-alone performer.
I wonder if he's worried about how it'll sell. "Well, it's a difficult one, that," he answers. "In the bigger picture, it really doesn't matter. What matters is I can look after my children. If I do a good job at being a dad, and if I can be a good husband to my wife, then that matters.
"I don't know how (the album) is gonna do," he continues, "but it'd be nice for it not to do really badly. That would be a bit embarrassing."
The Art of Doing Nothing is out now. Owen is live at the Olympia Theatre, Wednesday, June 19