‘When the subject first came up, I just said “No!” admits Rochelle, the chart-topping singer’s loyal partner of 21 years. ‘I couldn’t bear the thought of him being away so long. It was like, “You can’t do this to me, no way!” ’
With a potential six weeks away on I'm A Celebrity, it's the longest Shannon has ever been out of contact with his family - and Rochelle, 43, is missing the Australian Idol 2003 runner-up every second of every day.
‘I only stopped crying about three days ago,’ she confides. ‘But I still get a bit teary if I listen to one of the songs from his new album, Unbroken, when I take the dogs for a run. It’s weird, because Shannon’s the emotional one, not me. I’m normally tough and hard!
‘It’s just hearing his voice when he’s so far away, and the lyrics are so beautiful. It’s called Mountains To Climb and it's on my regular playlist. That's my thing. I need to listen to it about three times a day, and then I'm OK.'
But Rochelle reckons Shannon, 42, is also doing it tough in South Africa, railing against mega-producer Simon Cowell, the man he blames for stalling his international career by refusing to release his version of What About Me in the UK.
‘I can see it in Shannon’s eyes,’ says Rochelle, a super-fit former elite gymnast. ‘We’ve got a secret sign – I won’t tell you what it is until afterwards – and he’s alright so far, but I know how much he’s missing us.’
For Shannon is very much a family man, despite his headline- grabbing arrest for allegedly assaulting a bouncer outside Adelaide’s Crazy Horse strip club in January last year – the charge was later dropped.
‘That’s one of the things Australia will learn about him on I’m A Celebrity,’ smiles Rochelle, who stands by her ‘homebody’ man – he does the grocery shopping, cooks a mean stir-fry, and calls her ‘about 25 times at least’ when he’s away gigging at the weekend – without question.
‘Shannon loves his family so deeply and gives so much,’ she says, recalling the heartbreak of his father’s untimely death in a freak accident at the Noll farm at Condobolin, NSW. ‘He worries about me and the kids and his mum all the time, probably because of what happened to his dad.
‘It’s not been roses all the way. We have been through a whole lot, but it’s never changed us. It makes you stronger, I guess, doesn’t it? Not for everyone, but it’s worked that way for us. He tells me everything and I know he always wants to be with me.
I have nothing to worry about. We are such a great team.’
As the children – Cody, 16, Blake, 15, and Sienna, 11 – grow more independent, Rochelle and Shannon have more ‘us time’ for romantic dinners and the occasional weekend away.
‘Sometimes I go to gigs with him – he’d like me to go more often – but honestly, it’s not glamorous like everyone thinks,’ she laughs. ‘There’s a lot of sitting in airports and cars and the travelling is pretty horrible.
‘But it’s lovely to be at a stage in life where we get to spend so much time together. And then for him to turn around and say he wants to do I’m A Celebrity... ’
Rochelle, who fell for Shannon ‘instantly’ on a friend’s 18th birthday cruise and moved interstate to be with him only 10 days later, was not impressed. So what persuaded her to let him go to the jungle after all?
‘I decided I had to get brave and let him do it. It’s 15 years since Idol and it’s time for him to show Australia the real, down- to-earth Shannon, and get them listening to his music again.
‘It’s probably way worse for him than it is for me. I’m going to have a shower and a nice meal and kiss the kids, while he’s starving in South Africa without us. I have to be strong, suck it up and stop crying every morning.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!