He took centre-stage at cricket's historic venues for many years, yet Mark Butcher has always had a dream to perform under a very different spotlight.

As an opening batsman in England's Test side between 1997 and 2004, Butcher produced memorable displays that were highlighted by his unbeaten knock of 173 that secured England a victory in an Ashes clash against an iconic Australian bowling attack at Headingley in 2001.

Mark Butcher

While retirement has been kind to Butcher over the last decade as he has established himself as a fine cricket analyst and pundit, he is now keen to turn his hobby into something a little more serious as he looks to promote his music career.

The critically acclaimed release of his second album Now Playing has inspired Butcher to reach for the stars as a musician, as he confirmed in an exclusive interview with Contact Music.

From cricket to music... explain how you have made this leap?

This is something I've always done and I am now hoping to take it to the next level. 

My first album came out in August 2010, now this latest release, Now Playing, is available for download and I'm very proud of it. 

I've done some work and touring with the Boom Band and we released an album in 2013, so my music career has been rumbling along around my hectic schedule of flying around the world doing the day job doing cricket commentating.

Did you have a moment when you had to choose whether you would devote your career to cricket or music?

Not really. As a kid, my ambition was always to be a professional cricket player and I never imagined I would do anything else, so my music was always a secondary focus for me, but it was always a real passion.

The tragic death of your surrey team-mate Ben Hollioake in 2002 alerted the world to your musical talents. How do you reflect on that period?

When Ben lost his life, we were all in shock and it inspired me to write a song in tribute to him. His family asked me to play it at the memorial service, which we then recoded to raise money for the Ben Hollioake fund. From that moment on, what had always been a hobby became a little bit more serious. 

What did you cricket pals make of your singing?

My team-mates would often put me down to sing on karaoke nights and they could see I took it quite seriously. 

I have been fascinated by the guitar since I was very young and it has been fantastic to do a little more with it in the last couple of years since my cricket career ended.

I would always take my guitar on tour. It was not to entertain the team, but very much to amuse myself. 

You have a lot of time on your hands when you are touring and I would often sit in my room learning songs and writing. It was a great way to pass some time and take your mind away from cricket.

What is the ultimate ambition? How about an appearance on stage at Glastonbury?

Why not?! Who knows where this can go? I have played some festivals in Europe and performed in front of 4,000 and 5,000 people before, so who knows what could happen? Why can't you aim for the stars and set your sights on playing some of the big festivals here in the UK?

Tell us about your new album Now Playing?

I have a wonderful company in Man On The Moon records backing me for this album and I'm just desperate for as many people as possible to hear it because I think they will like it if they take time to give it a listen.

I'd love to do a third album and more after that and the beauty of music over cricket is you can do this until you are 80 and get enjoyment from it.

A lot of people who had no idea I sang and played guitar were made aware of it this summer when Sky Sports asked me to do a cover of the Bob Dylan track The Time's They Are a-Changing for a video to promote their coverage of The Ashes series. The film we made got a big reaction and was great exposure for my music. 

The great thing now is you can get an instant reaction from people via social media and the general consensus has been overwhelming positive. 

Mark Butcher's latest album Now Playing is available here.

Kevin Palmer