AFTER a decade as frontman of one of Britain’s most popular bands, Tom Chaplin had honed his technique to perfection. The more he did it, the better he got at it. The better he got at it, the more he did it.

By the time he was halfway through his 20s, the Keane singer knew exactly what to do. Cocaine. Benzos. Valium. Sleeping pills.

Whatever, whenever, wherever he went.

“Well, yes, that’s what you do,” says the 38-year-old recovering addict, now clean as a whistle. "You find all sorts of people who can help you out when you need it. And I had someone pretty much everywhere. Not just one person.

“Even when I was away on holiday. You develop a real skill and ability to find the people who will deal you drugs.”

In the imagined yearbook of his final term at the exclusive Tonbridge School, baby-faced Chaplin might have been entered as Boy Least Likely To: Become a Pop Star, Develop a Recurring Drug Addiction, End Up In Rehab and Splashed Across The Tabloids.

With the benefit of hindsight, though, Chaplin can now look back on those formative days and see exactly how they pointed him in the direction of addiction, meltdown, rehab and recovery. By the time he was 25, Chaplin had scored an awful lot more than just a few pop hits.

Then he went into rehab. And when news broke that the ruddy-cheeked awkward-looking public school boy from the ever-so-earnest band who sang about how Everybody’s Changing and going Somewhere Only We Know was following the path taken by the likes of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, it was met with a a sneer. In the most cynical of circles, some might even have joked that these gap year pop prefects would do anything for a bit of cred ...

As hard as he tried – and sometimes it looked like he was trying much too toe-curlingly hard – Chaplin had never entirely convinced as the leader of the band in the live setting, despite 10 years of touring, four No1 LPs and over six-million sales.

While his singing voice was – is – remarkably pure, his frontman stagecraft felt studied, practised, put-on.

Perversely, when his addiction and mental health battles were made public in 2006, there was a whiff of something similar: it was as though privileged boys from private schools aren’t allowed in that club where tortured creative geniuses go to destroy themselves.

“Even 10 years ago when I first had these problems, it got into the red-tops, and I remember being pilloried for it," says Chaplin, down the line from his home in Kent.

“There was a certain sense of mockery. I’ve seen a lot of people die, and I’ve seen how addiction can completely ruin or kill people. Actually what you’re dealing with is a serious mental health problem, and what I’ve noticed since coming out and talking about this stuff openly in the last couple of years, is that there’s not that same sense of cynicism now. There’s much more openness.

“That’s an antidote to some mental health problems, to remove the shame from it, encourage people that actually being vulnerable and open about your problems is healthy and not the opposite.”

Our interview happens in advance of last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week. And though Chaplin hasn’t been wheeled out as a campaigner, he speaks with the zeal of a survivor.

He’s singing about it too, having released an album laced with defiantly personal accounts of the pitch and toss. The record, entitled The Wave, doesn’t stray too far from Keane territory: Chaplin’s multi-octave range, the heart-on-sleeve sentiment, the yearning for understanding.

“Buried in the rubble there’s a boy in trouble reaching for a piece of the sky,” he sings on Still Waiting. “Clawing at the wreckage sending out a message dying to get back to the light.”

As a collection of songs about battling through addiction to recovery, it’s maybe more Richard Curtis than Irvine Welsh.

The album's online promotional material includes a YouTube video of a recording session featuring a military brass band in full army fatigues playing on the song Hold On To Our Love, inspired by the funeral of a friend who’d died in Iraq.

Such emotional candour plays right through the record. Chaplin complains of a "lack of authenticity" in the world, where even his pals' Facebook profiles are shot down for presenting a skewed reality.

Days after we speak, Piers Morgan will be roundly criticised for his latest headline-grabbing provocation – suggesting men need to “man up” rather than talk about their problems. It’s probably safe to assume that Morgan hasn’t bought his copy of The Wave yet.

Chaplin is not only a veteran of “several” rehab programmes reaching back over the last decade, he’s now also an advocate for the power of talking therapy. “Rehab can be very helpful,” he says. “It gave me structure and support. But coming from my education and the way my character developed in my formative years, I was very good at getting on with it, and feeling as though I didn’t really have a problem.

“I could go into those places, put my head down, do all the things that were asked of me, and appear happy and healthy again. And I think in some ways that was helpful, but it wasn’t really the solution for me at least. It can be for some people.

“The thing that helped me out was going in for very intense psychoanalysis. I got a therapist who I really trusted and who I wasn’t afraid to tell everything. All my fears, all my secrets, all my deepest-seated insecurities – I got it all out to him and that above all else has been the thing that helped me out the most. As it stands, it has made me happier, more fulfilled and a more enterprising human being.”

He is, he suggests, typical of a type. Publicly schooled in Kent with his eventual Keane bandmates Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes, then off home to middle England’s stiff upper lip. All of which contributed to what he calls “underlying emotional problems”.

“It’s multi-layered," he says. “Partly it’s the style of my upbringing. I grew up in a lovely place. My parents ran a school [Vinehall School in East Sussex, where he and his band-mates were initially educated together] and it was a giant playground in the middle of the Sussex countryside. In many ways it was idyllic, but it was also completely removed from reality. When I grew up, and was thrust into an extreme world with the early success of Keane, I just wasn’t prepared to deal with a lot of the challenges that life threw at me.

“My parents are wonderful people but they definitely have that very middle-class approach to life, to try to sweep the more negative or sad or ugly truths that everyone encounters under the carpet, and sort of pretend it’s not there, that it’ll go away if you don’t confront it.”

Chaplin had his “first proper meltdown” in 2005, the period when those around him first intervened, also the period where Keane were arriving at their peak, with Brit Awards and album sales by the million in the wake of their debut, Hopes & Fears.

“I saw the symptom as the problem, like if I stopped taking drugs everything would be OK, and actually, for a short period that did work, and I was on an even keel,” he says.

“But there were real underlying emotional problems, and while they continue to sort of fester away, the desire for self-medication would return.”

So what was underneath it all? “With someone like me, who was quite a sensitive soul ...” he begins. "You see it with a lot of public schoolboys, and I’m one of those.

"You see it with a lot of people who have had that upbringing and education. For some it can work, but it’s quite a narrow existence, and you can go through life becoming quite unemotional. It can work if you’re that sort of person, but for me, there was too much rumbling on underneath and I wasn’t able to cope with it, with that stiff upper lip defence for life.

“One of the things that really troubled me and definitely made me a more isolated person, were my teenage years. I felt very self-conscious physically and emotionally and the way I dealt with that was to sort of hide, firstly trying to slip under the radar and try to become quite a secretive character.

“But the other, perverse, way of dealing with that was to hide in plain sight, in many respects my desire to be the front man and the guy prancing around looking like the most confident man in the world; actually, that was just a front.”

Which might go some way to explaining why his front-man schtick – rock-god stage prowling and pumped fists – felt so contrived.

“Once Keane had had a lot of early success, it made me feel even more scrutinised and even more under pressure," he says, "so it's easy to see how I had that major meltdown early on and how it continued over the years.”

Chaplin was still using drugs by the time his daughter Freya was born, compelling him to address the problem “more permanently”.

“My problems were at their very worst during the first year of her life,” he says, casting back just over two years. “I realised that you just can’t balance those two things together. It’s hard enough if you’re on your own. Having a wife and kid [he married his wife Natalie in 2011 and their daughter was born in 2014], it was impossible to be that selfish person, unless I was willing to completely jettison my family, which was a terrifying prospect."

He has spoken in the past about how he heard his daughter's voice compelling him to "hang on one more moment, see if you can do it" during a final binge two years ago.

“It made me realise that I am not the centre of the universe, and I find that quite a relief. I’m less afraid of death, less afraid of falling down or looking stupid. The most important thing is her health and happiness and it's a relief to not to have to carry around all that expectation any more.

“It just fills my heart with joy and happiness when I spend time with her or am around her and seeing her grow, change, become this amazing little individual. It has made me a very happy man because I am so proud of this little person.”

That little person is the reason why he’s up at 6am and in bed by 9pm these days, meaning the prospect of his upcoming solo tour and support slots with ELO in Edinburgh and Glasgow poses new problems.

If 9pm is bedtime at home, on the road, it’s on-stage time.

“That can get a little bit tricky,” he laughs. “I end up feeling jet-lagged so touring is a bit of a grind for the first few days until I get back into touring mode.”

In the old days, Tom Chaplin would have found someone, something, to help him deal with that grind. Not any more.

“People ask me if I crave that old life, the drugs and the drinking,” he says. “ I really don’t because I’m not walking round with a load of unresolved emotional baggage. I got it all out. I don’t need to take myself off and escape any more.”

Tom Chaplin play Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, tomorrow (May 15). He supports ELO at Glasgow SSE Hydro on June 28