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X Factor Live 2015

February 2015

A MATTER of days before it was announced that Sam Bailey had been dropped by Simon Cowell’s label Syco Music, the X Factor 2013 winner was asked what advice she had for Ben Haenow.
“You need to stay grounded, be prepared to work hard and most importantly be respectful,” said the mum-of-three.
She should have added: “Enjoy it while you can.”
Bailey’s debut single, Skyscraper, was the Christmas No. 1 in 2013. Her debut album, The Power Of Love, also topped the UK chart.
She even got to support Beyoncé at one of her UK shows. But no sooner had her own tour, which came to the Royal Concert Hall earlier this month, had ended, she was dropped. Or rather her contract was not renewed. Which is a good indication of how Cowell views the longevity of X Factor champions.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” Bailey told Gaby Roslin, standing in for the host of ITV’s Lorraine.
“I’m not silly, I’ve been around the block a bit,” added the former prison officer from Leicester.
Fourteen months after winning the show, she was cast adrift.
Bailey plans to continue but without major label/management behind her she is unlikely to repeat her past success.

Haenow is mirroring Bailey’s journey from the winner’s podium, topping the Christmas chart with Something I Need (the fastest-selling debut single of 2014), then signing Syco Music on his 30th birthday.

He’s in the process of working on his debut album for the label.

“To say I’m excited to become part of the Syco family is an understatement,” said the former van driver from Croydon.

“Getting to work with Simon during the show was incredible. He is a great guy and amazing mentor – and really helped me as an artist.”

Like Bailey, he is the main attraction on the 25-date X Factor tour, which comes to the Capital FM Arena on Sunday.

Joining him will be runner-up Fleur East, for a long time the favourite to win the series, plus Lauren Platt, Andrea Faustini, Stevi Ritchie, Jay James, Only The Young and Stereo Kicks.

The tour opened in Belfast with Fleur East first on stage singing Can’t Hold Us, followed by Lauren Platt with Happy and How Will I Know.

Only The Young took on the Jungle Book classic I Wanna Be Like You, while Stereo Kicks ran through a medley of Beatles hits, among them Let It Be and Hey Jude.

The second half included the obligatory group performance before headliner Haenow’s show-stealing set of six songs, including AC/DC’s Highway To Hell, an indication of his rock leanings.

Stevi Ritchie, whose clowning on the TV series rather bafflingly landed him in the final, will be seen suspended in mid air dressed as Freddie Mercury for his karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

His first number is Livin’ La Vida Loca, backed by a troupe of backing dancers dressed in bright pink.

Other outfits include a Bond-style tux for Jay James’ cover of Skyfall, described by one reviewer as “the best times to nip to the toilet”.

There’ll be interpretations of songs by The Beatles, Elvis, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Snow Patrol and two Disney tunes, Let It Go from Frozen and I Wanna Be Like You from Jungle Book.

Maintaining her credibility and the most likely to succeed from the 2014 series is Fleur East.

Her six songs (as many as winner Haenow), include Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, Jessie J’s Bang Bang, Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You and Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us.

And she is the only other X Factor finalist from last year’s series to sign a record deal... with Cowell’s Syco Music.

There’s a video before the group finale – Take That’s Never Forget – showing some of the more interesting characters from the series and you’ll have to look out for Gamston’s Lauren Lovejoy, whose depiction of the four judges as animals (Simon Cowell – lion, Cheryl Fernandez-Versinia – Persian cat, Mel B – panther and Louis Walsh – seal) was one of the highlights of the early shows.

Although they’d be wise not to include that clip as the broadcast edited out the part where the 25-year-old explained that it was her autism that made her see people in such a way.

As for Haenow, he’d be wise to enjoy every moment, considering X Factor winners who have gone before. For every Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke and Little Mix, there’s a Steve Brookstein, Leon Jackson or Sam Bailey.

The world of Twitter has certainly helped keep him grounded.

He recently asked his social media followers “Fancy a little #AskHaenow?”

Among the questions about his life and music, there were a few swipes to the kidneys, including “Who are you again?” (@Our_manPLA) and “When you go to McDonald’s do you ask the staff what their names are to build up a rapport with your future colleagues?” (@ItWasJustBanter).

The X Factor Live Tour comes to the Capital FM Arena on Sunday at 7.30pm. Tickets, from £21.84, are available from 0843 373 3000 or

April Towers

February 2015

Within just over an hour of uploading it to the BBC Introducing website, April Towers’ first single, Arcadia, was being played by Fearne Cotton on her Radio 1 show.
And it threw the Nottingham synth-pop duo into a spin.
“It was just a coincidence that it was BBC Introducing day,” says Charlie Burley, of the BBC initiative which helps unsigned artists get national radio airplay.
Anyone can put tracks forward  using the BBC Introducing Uploader, which is monitored locally by Dean Jackson at BBC Radio Nottingham.
“Dean was going to play it on The Beat that Saturday but then he called us to say it had been heard by Huw Stephens,” he says of the Radio 1 presenter who is in charge of BBC Introducing at the station.
“And he said it was going to be played on Fearne Cotton’s show that morning.”
Charlie, who was born in West Bridgford, grew up in Southwell but now lives in Mapperley Park, formed April Towers from the ashes of acclaimed Nottingham band Frontiers, with Alex Noble from Wysall.
“We had a break from music, got our heads together and decided we were both going to do solo projects,” says Charlie.
“The idea for April Towers was initially Alex’s solo project. But he sent me a vocal demo that he’d recorded on his iPhone for a track called Tel Aviv and I really liked it. I asked if I could turn it into a proper track.
“That was the first track we uploaded to Soundcloud in the summer of 2013 and it really took off. People were asking us when we were playing live - but we only had one track. So we spent the first few months palming people off.
“But that was the point we started taking it seriously.”
The name comes from a friend of Alex who was trying to saying ‘April showers’.
Says Alex: “It was someone I worked with who’d had a few. And it just stuck with me. I Googled the name and the only April Towers that came up were a few girls in the Deep South of America.
“It’s important to have a name that no-one else has and it has been a big source of discussion. Although some people think we are a female solo act,” he laughs.
Although fundamentally a synth pop act, there are traces of their days with Frontiers.
Says Charlie: “We’ve brought in a lot of indie elements; there are lots of guitars on our tracks, so that takes it away from being purely electronic music.”
Both play guitars and keys, Alex is the main singer with Charlie backing during live shows. And they’ve introduced a drummer for gigs after using a drum machine in the past.
They’d been together just over a year before the Radio 1 airplay last October.
“It triggered a lot of interest,” says Charlie.
“It’s been pretty crazy ever since.”
As well as support slots with Kyla La Grange and a BBC Introducing gig for Club NME at Koko in London last month (where Huw Stephens was the DJ), their second single, No Corruption, has been playlisted on Radio 1.
“Huw’s been playing it for a while, but last week it was played on virtually every Radio 1 show: Fearne Cotton, Greg James, Alice Levine and Scott Mills, who announced on air that he was a real fan and did an impression of the vocals, which was pretty surreal,” says Charlie.
He adds: “We’ve had so many more followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook, even people from Europe.”
The single is released digitally on Monday, followed by physical copies in March. To celebrate they’ve produced their own beer.
“We thought April Towers sounded like an ale,” says Charlie.
“We’re very much into our beer so we contacted Castle Rock.
The bottled beer, 5%, is now on sale at Saltwater and Alex’s local The Plough in Wysall.
He adds: “We also sent Scott Mills a few. We had 15 cases and we’re down to just two. Alex has drunk quite a bit of it. I’ve only had three bottles.”

For more about April Towers follow them on Twitter: @April_Towers.

Indiana makes Top 20 with debut album

February 2015

She knew it; Indiana predicted that her debut album, No Romeo, would be number 17 when the chart was announced. “I was in the shower, the glass was all steamed up and I said to myself ‘write the number you think you’re going to be in the glass and you will be that number,’”says the singer-songwriter who released the album just a week ago.

“And I wrote 17. I wish that, if it was some sort of witching power, that I’d written number one,” she laughs.

The 27-year-old mum of two celebrated at home in Long Eaton by drinking tea and eating chocolate. Last night she was at the cinema with her boyfriend while mum babysat.

“I’m really pleased to have a Top 20 album, it’s what I was hoping for,” she says.

The news came at the end of a busy and anxious week for Indiana, real name Lauren Henson.

“I’ve found it really difficult to sleep,” she admits.

The album was launched in London, followed by a singing and signing session at Nottingham’s Rough Trade in Broad Street, radio and TV interviews and using her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to promote the album.

“I’ve been busy on social media more than I have ever,” says Indiana, whose music is dark, electronic pop.

“I think people are sick of seeing my face because I posted so many selfies,” she laughs.

The success, the first for a Nottingham artist in the album chart since Jake Bugg’s Shangri La reached number three two years ago, comes just three years after her very first gig in the Old Market Square.

That was part of the Future Sound of Nottingham competition organised by local music champions Nusic.

“I’ve had a lot of support since then and I want to thank Nottingham for helping me, especially Mark Del from Nusic, who has really been campaigning hard for me. I’m really grateful.”

She’s now planning her next single, which will be album track Blind As I Am.

“The photographer Rankin wants to shoot the video for it and I’m excited about that,” she says, adding: “I want people to keep discovering the album. I want it to be known as a classic over time. I think it deserves to be higher than number 17 but I’m a new artist and my music hasn’t been heard on many platforms yet. I’d like to be played on Radio 2 and commercial radio. Maybe with the release of Blind As I Am, which is a ballad, that will happen.

“I definitely want more. I want No Romeo to be heard by more people, in other countries and it to take me around the world.

“And now it’s a Top 20 album, doors will open; there’s a lot to look forward.”

The number one album was a new entry by Bob Dylan, his 36th release called Shadows In The Night.

Others in the Top 20 included Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Mark Ronson and Meghan Trainor.