1)What made you want to become a singer, what is your earliest memory of performing?
I’ve actually always considered myself an Actor/Singer. I guess that is why I’m so expressive when I sing. My earliest memory of performing was in the playground at primary school, I used to charge the other children two pence to listen and watch me perform the Michael Jackson Off The Wall album.
2)Who were your music idols when you were growing up?
Growing up it was all about Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Shirley Bassey, Donny Hathaway & Gospel Music.
3)You have appeared in musical theatre productions, is this something you would like to do more of in the future?
Yes I’ve performed on both the West End and Broadway stage in a number of shows and I definitely see myself doing more. In fact, I’m taking the lead role in a musical of Moby Dick this Autumn in London, I can’t wait.
4) What inspired you to take part in the X Factor, how do you think appearing on the show changed your life?
I had spent so much of my career behind the scenes working for others, I wanted a chance to work for me. In the past my crippling stage fright would always stop me going for it, but I found some courage and got brave, here I am now and I’m so glad I did too.
5)Was it difficult to adjust to the overnight fame which you experienced on the X Factor?
The fame part is incredibly difficult to adjust to, I’m actually very private and protective of my family and friends. Suddenly being under the media microscope was uncomfortable at times. The responsible press were lovely to be honest. It is the gutter press that can shock you, the inaccuracies can be deeply wounding, but smart people see it for what it is. Us Brits are a smart lot!
6)You have performed material by singers such as Jennifer Hudson, who would you say are your greatest musical influences now?
My greatest musical influences now have to be those Motown singers of old. I love Gregory Porter, Anita Baker and Luther Vandross they are awesome singers.
7) You are used to performing to both large crowds and at more intimate venues, do you ever get nervous and if so what tips do you rely on to conquer stage fright?
I always get nervous. I have to pee like a zillion times, ha ha! I tend to quiet myself, concentrate and say a gentle prayer.
8) With the level of success you have attained, inevitably comes fame. Do you enjoy being famous and do you think there are any downsides to fame?
Strangely, it feels like I’ve gotten more famous since leaving the show! I get over 500 messages a day from all over the world which is amazing. I enjoy the connection music can bring to us, I enjoy being a part of bringing something to people’s lives. I’m still adjusting to being known though. I’m not complaining, just saying it is an adjustment.
9) Where do you see your career heading in the future, is there a particular musical direction you want to take and do you have any plans to tour?
Well so many incredible things are happening involving television, theatre and film. My love of music is definitely important too, so writing and recording the album is a priority. But honestly I’m open to all the new exciting things that have and are coming to me. I’ve learnt the power of saying yes to the good, positive things in life. I’ve learnt to let go of anything that holds me down. Life is short and can be wonderful if lived bravely, fearlessly and with heart.
10) You always look great and are known for your stylish ensembles, who is your style inspiration?
Thank you, I think it’s important to look your best. Look good, feel good. I wear a lot of Stephen Williams suits because he is fantastic. Every time I wear his clothes I feel ready to take to the stage, the clothes are stylishly cut and beautifully sharp. I loved how Sammy Davis Junior dressed, that to me is a strong gentleman with masculine sexiness.
11) What are your passions in life other than music, what do you like to do in your rare free time?
Ha, I have very little time off but when I do it’s all about family. My sister just adopted a baby boy, he is stunning so spending time with him is important. My godchildren mean the world to me so I’m trying to find time to be with them too. I love my job to be fair it’s both my inspiration, passion and joy so I don’t mind the hard work at all. I thrive on it. I love being busy.
12) What piece of advice would you give to aspiring singers?
Be smart, trust and believe in your own goodness and protect your heart, but don’t be afraid to share it. It’s our job to connect to people.
13) Is there a singer you would like to collaborate with?
I’d love to work with Josh Groban and Alfi Boe. We are different singers, but we would sound incredible I think.
14) What songs do you have on repeat at the moment?
The whole of Gregory Porter’s newest album, the track ‘Take Me To The Alley’ is stunning perfection.
15) You seem to have a very special relationship with Liverpool and you often perform in the city. Can you tell us a little about what Liverpool means to you?
The people of Liverpool have embraced me to their hearts. It’s amazing, I feel like I am home whenever I am there. The people are warm, caring, respectful, kind and so stylish. I love it!
16) Do you enjoy writing your own music, what inspires you when it comes to writing lyrics?
I love to write and everything inspires me. From heartbreak (I’ve had my fair share), to a walk with the dogs. There is an underestimated skill in singing other people’s lyrics though, I do enjoy putting my own spin on a classic.
17) Where would you most like to perform in the future?
I believe as a performer if you are not prepared to sing anywhere you don’t deserve to sing in the best of places. I would love a gig at the Sage in Newcastle and would love to tour southern America too. I love to sing and perform so I’ll do it in my living room if no one wants me, ha ha!
18) What has been your favourite performance of your career so far?
My very first X Factor audition at Wembley Arena, it changed my life and continues to do that. I’m grateful for that moment. “I Am Changing”.
19) Lastly, you have forged a great solo career, what is your ultimate advice for anybody who is trying to carve out a successful career in their chosen field?
There is only one of you on the planet! There will never be another you on the planet, so be the best you that you can be. One life, live that life well.