SAM BAILEY INTERVIEW
London-born singer Sam Bailey won “The X Factor” in 2013, with her debut album, “The Power of Love,” duly storming the charts the following year. Here, in an exclusive interview with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd, Sam chats about her follow-up album, “Sing My Heart Out”…
Hi Sam, how are things, and how did 2016 treat you in general?
Everything is great, thank you. I’m a little tired from tour rehearsals, but I am a perfectionist, so it is necessary! 2016 treated me very well; I would probably go as far to say that it was one of the best years for me yet.
What were the overall highlights of last year for you?
That’s an easy one: the launch of my new album, “Sing My Heart Out.” The planning for the album began right at the very beginning of 2016, when, in January, I flew out to L.A. with my brilliant management agency. Out there, I met with renowned music producer Steve Dorff. From that point, it all came together as I found my latest sound, started writing tracks, and made plans for my upcoming national tour. The album officially launched in September 2016, so it was ten months in the making, but it meant that the entirety of 2016 was fuelled by excitement!
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If so, what were they, and are you still sticking to them?
Yes! I am not normally one for New Year’s resolutions, because I don’t like the pressure that is put on everyone to stick to them. However, this year I made one, because I had the motivation of my tour to keep me on track. So, my aim is to fit into a size 12 by my first tour date, which is the 2nd March in Northampton. Since being on “The X Factor,” I have lost a lot of weight, which people always compliment me on, and which always gives me the confidence boost I need to keep it off! That said, I love a good biscuit and burger, so I will never be someone that strips themselves of their pleasures in life. Still, I’m confident that I will fulfill my goal, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
What are you most looking forward to about the year ahead?
I can’t answer this without mentioning my tour, because it is such a huge part of 2017 for me, as I will be on the road for three months. I am, of course, looking forward to embarking on that, and visiting and experiencing all of the new places I have never been before, as well as returning to the places I have! Other than that, I’m (as much as I may not want to believe it) turning 40 this year! Joking aside, I don’t actually feel that bad about it. I know everyone has a big freak-out before they turn the “dreaded” four-zero, but I am quite calm about it. I think it’s all about how you feel on the inside, and I certainly don’t feel 40. My kids keep me young, and my career keeps me on my feet all the time. I am happy, and that’s all that matters! Plus, it’s a great excuse for a party, which my amazing hubby is planning for me.
What are your abiding memories of growing up in Bexley?
Gosh, I have so many memories that I will cherish forever. Bexley is the place where I learnt to love music, where I nurtured and developed my voice. Ballads have always been my “thing”; I used to love the huge power ballads that were played at the end of James Bond films, for example. I loved how so much emotion could be conveyed through song, and ballads just became a part of me. Of course, as I got older, and as music changed, I enjoyed performing more contemporary songs, too. I suppose you could say that I just loved singing any songs! I have actually incorporated a memory from Bexley on the “Sing My Heart Out” album through the song “It Gets Better Everyday,” a song I wrote when I was 19 on a Yamaha DJX Keyboard, which my late dad had in the house. Myself and the fantastic Ben Adams, who has helped me write songs for the album, has worked his magic on the original, breathing new life into it.
Had you always dreamed of entering and winning “The X Factor”?
From the first-ever series in 2004, I was hooked. It was my kind of television viewing. I watched it and thought, “I could do that,” but for many years, I didn’t give it a second thought. I just carried on watching it as a viewer. It wasn’t until about 2011 that I started to get the urge to enter, but it took me two years to muster the courage. Even when I walked into the audition room in 2013, I never thought to myself, “I can win this.” I was such a bag of nerves in my first audition that the only thing I wanted to do was get it over with! However, as the weeks kept passing by, and I was still in the running, I started to naturally gain hope. Winning still came as a huge shock, though. I think it probably does to all of the winners.
What was it like to have Sharon Osborne as a mentor? Did you two get on, and did you agree with all the “advice” that she proffered?
Yes, we got on; the friendship that was shown on screen was all real. She is so talented, and I owe the career that followed my win to her guidance. As a singer, I thought I knew the songs that suited my voice, but Sharon pushed me to explore new waters. I’m so glad that I listened to her. If you have my new album, you will know that it is very different to my debut. “Sing My Heart Out” is a mixed bag; it has ballads, but it also has some dance tracks – a first for me – owing to Sharon’s encouragement. We still keep in touch.
Which other 2013 contestants did you get along with the best, and are you still in touch?
Every year in “The X Factor” house, there are a lot of confident and big personalities flying around. As everyone knows, this has led to quite a few conflicts between contestants in previous years. However, I strongly believe that our house in 2013 was really close-knit. We all got on really well, with the quieter ones (me, for example) being brought out of their shells by the more confident ones. The younger ones learnt a lot from us older lot, and vice versa! I was particularly close to Nicholas McDonald and Luke Friend, mainly because we were the final three, and we spent a lot of time together. Since my win, I have stayed in very close contact with Nicholas in particular; we see each other regularly, and he is my daughter Miley’s godfather! Whilst I was playing Mama Morton in “Chicago” in Edinburgh, myself and Miley went and stayed with him for a week, and it was brilliant. Since the launch of “Sing My Heart Out,” quite a few of the 2013 “X Factor” contestants have got in touch and congratulated me.
What was the first thing that you did after winning? Did you go out and treat yourself?
Firstly, I cried, cried, and then cried some more! It was an extremely overwhelming experience. But, even after all of the press frenzy, which lasted weeks after the release of my first single, “Skyscraper,” it never really felt like anything had changed. Even now it doesn’t, really. In reality, my entire life did change overnight, but the foundations – my children, husband, friends and family – have kept me very grounded. However, for years, I’d promised myself that if I ever had enough disposable income, I would extend our house. So we did just that. That is probably the most extravagant thing I have done since winning. Sorry if that’s not as exciting an answer as you were hoping for! I was very aware that my life had changed after winning “The X Factor,” but it didn’t really feel like that for a long while. I suppose the most standout thing that has changed is my career; I went from being a prison guard to a professional singer who does shows, pantos and tours, and makes albums for a living! I am quite often in magazines and newspapers, and that still feels surreal; seeing my mug in print is still quite weird! I am definitely a lot more busy now than I was before. Many of my weekends are spent travelling here and there, performing around the country, but it is definitely something I wouldn’t change for the world. I love it!
Given that you have three children, how do you go about managing your time in order to optimise the amount of time that you spend with your family and the amount of time that you dedicate to your music?
It is hard sometimes to juggle my personal and professional life, especially since both require a lot of time, but I have a fantastic management agency (“Champions”) who handle my professional diary and schedule. They organise all of my performances, media work and charity events, and they generally make sure that I’m where I need to be at the right time. They are real lifesavers; I couldn’t do it without them. As for my husband, Craig, he is my absolute rock, and without him, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now. With the “Sing My Heart Out” tour starting in March, I’m obviously going to be away from home for days at a time. I know many artists are on the road, away from home for weeks, often months at a time, but that just couldn’t work for me. My kids are still young – despite my eldest growing up fast – and they still need their mum! So, when myself and my management started planning the tour, we sat down and worked out a tour schedule that would allow me to go home for 4 or 5 days every so often throughout the three months. I must say that my family have been so understanding, and the time we have apart just makes the time we get together even better!
Which towns and cities are you most looking forward to visiting this time around?
I’m going to be visiting 31 places in 3 months, but I can’t pick a favourite! I’m grateful for all places having me. The people at every venue I play, in every town and city, are just amazing. Of course, more than anything else, I love performing in my hometown of Leicester. The people of Leicester gave me so much support while I was on “The X Factor,” with my favourite stores and regular haunts placing banners and posters in their windows, urging people to vote for me. I also enjoy performing in venues that are close to the seaside, because you can’t beat a bit of sea air! So, when I go to Brighton and Swansea, I’ll be in my element!
Finally, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and your music?
Visit my website at www.sam-bailey.com and join my fan club! I have a blog on there, which I update regularly, letting all of my fans know what I have been up to in both my professional and home life. There is also a dedicated news section on the site, which gives details on what shows I am doing. You can follow me on Twitter @SamBaileyREAL and Instagram @sambaileysinger
Sam Bailey will be performing at York Barbican on Saturday 25 March
Pick up a copy of Steve Rudd’s first book, “Pulse,” here