X-Factor runner-up-turned-geezer chats ahead of Dubai Jazz Fest
You’ve had a few UK No.1’s now – is it still as exciting as your first chart topper? Always, they’re great because they’ve just introduced this new thing where, when you get a number one in the UK you get a little plaque and an award so it’s nice. It represents the fact that you can keep going as an artist. The more number ones you get shows you that you’re doing something right and that people like your music.
And you’ve now sold 10 million records... I remember the statistics coming through last year and I was delighted. For me to reach that milestone is amazing.
You found fame on the UK talent show, The X Factor – do you think it’s in decline and what do you say about the criticisms about it the show exploiting artists? It’s still a great platform – it gives people a chance to be the next best thing. I know that in the past few years the ratings have gone down and that it hasn’t been as successful. A lot of people come up to me on the street and ask me about it and I always say ‘yes,’ they should do it.
But you returned to The X Factor as a TV presenter... I think that presenting on the show is a lot harder than being a contestant. I can say that because I’ve done it. It was hard for me to be on the other end of it to see all of the other contestants and see what they’re going through. It’s like being a school teacher and going back to the school where you were a pupil to teach. It was like an out of body experience.
You’ve teamed up with Flo Rider, Rizzle Kicks – is there a favourite collaboration? ‘The Jungle Book’ with Robbie Williams. We recorded it on his album – we did it last year. I like anything that’s old school soul. I love Earth Wind & Fire – we did a medley of their music – I think we’re going to bring that to Dubai with us.
Who’s on the collaboration bucket list? It was always Robbie Williams to be honest and I’ve been lucky that I’ve got to work with him again. Stevie Wonder would be another great person collaborate with. Flo Rider was an idea I had straight away when I wrote ‘Troublemaker.’ I never thought I’d get him to do the song.
Your music seems to skip between genres. For example, ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ has a slight reggae influence. How would you describe your sound as a whole? All of my songs are different. Every single I release – I try to be different. To me ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ has got more of a ’90s vibe than a reggae sound.
You’re mates with Robbie Williams – is he the same guy you see in the public arena? If you met him on the street and had a chat with him he’d be exactly the same person as he is on TV. He’s just a down to earth guy.
You have a loyal army of screaming fans – what’s the oddest thing they’ve done? Someone threw a passport at me. iPhone cases, lipstick, iPhones, Samsung Galaxies - I’ve had the whole lot – all thrown at me. I don’t know why they do it but I’ve great fans so I can’t complain.