Cherubic Geordie teen Joe McElderry won the hearts of the nation in 2009 as an X Factor winner and four years on he is still going strong, with record sales of more than two million. He spoke to Kathryn Tye ahead of a one-off Kent gig.
Since ITV’s hit talent show the X Factor began in 2004, its winners have suffered mixed fates.
While the likes of Leona Lewis have become international stars, others such as Steve Brookstein have faded into obscurity.
But Joe McElderry has bucked the trend, becoming the first X Factor winner to release four albums, and even winning a second talent show – ITV’s Popstar To Operastar in 2011.
It is an amazing achievement for the 22-year-old, who grew up in a small flat in Tyneside and is the first in his family to pursue a career in showbusiness.
After leaving school, Joe began studying performing arts at Newcastle College, but left in the first year after successfully auditioning for the X Factor.
Joe said: “I originally wanted to be a paramedic, but once I found out I could sing, I thought that could be more fun. I stumbled across it really. I used to go on karaoke at family and friends’ houses. I didn’t have any training.”
After getting through to the live shows, he was mentored by fellow Geordie Cheryl Cole and went on to win the series, releasing a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Climb which went to No.1.
He said: “The X Factor was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I was 18 and it was hard to be away from family but you learn so much about yourself, not only as a singer but as a person.”
And Joe is still in touch with Cheryl. He said: “We are in contact all the time. I haven’t seen her for a while but we still text each other and speak.”
He is not in contact with the show’s supremo Simon Cowell, however, who axed Joe from his Syco record label just a year after signing him.
But he doesn’t bear any animosity towards the music mogul, saying simply: “The deal was one album with them. That’s what we did and it was a mutual decision to move on.”
Luckily, Joe was signed straight away by Universal and has since released three albums with the label, Classic and Classic Christmas in 2011, drawing on the classical training he received during his appearance on Popstar to Operastar, then crossover album Here’s What I Believe last year.
It is his willingness to diversify which he believes has helped his career.
He said: “I’m not afraid to try new things like the classical stuff, even when people think it’s not going to work. To be honest, I thought appearing on Popstar to Operastar was going to be a bit of a joke. But when I got to the first masterclass, I had to pretty much learn how to sing again. It was daunting, but vocally was one of the best things I had done.”
Another key factor in his success is his dedicated work ethic. He said: “It has been a whirlwind four years and sometimes I have to remind myself it is a job and you can have a life as well. It is about finding the right balance because I’m a bit of a workaholic. I get bored after two days off.”
But there is no chance of any time off in the near future, as Joe is in the middle of a packed schedule of performances around the UK and has another 50-date tour planned next year.
He said: “Live shows are the best part of my job. There is nothing better than going on stage to an audience that have come just to see you. And the show I’m doing at the moment is fun as it’s got a lot of variety with the classical and the pop – I suppose you could call it popera!”
He also livens things up with a segment called Jukebox Joe, in which the audience shouts out songs for him to perform with the live band. He said: “I started in the industry under immense pressure and I enjoy putting myself in situations that push me.”
But fans don’t have to worry the stress is likely to result in him shedding his clean-cut image.
He said: “I like to go out and have fun with friends but I have never really had the desire to do anything wild. I put my head down and I get on with the work. I
can’t see myself suddenly starting to trash hotel rooms!”
Joe McElderry will be at the Woodville Halls in Gravesend at 7.30pm on Friday, September 6. Tickets are £25.25. Call 01474 337774.