sat 10/12/2016

Interview: 10 Questions for Rebecca Ferguson | reviews, news & interviews

Interview: 10 Questions for Rebecca Ferguson

Interview: 10 Questions for Rebecca Ferguson

As her platinum debut goes deluxe, X Factor diva shows she's nobody's fool

"I've learned what to take and what not to take" - a stronger Rebecca Ferguson

Pop music has always been a cynical business. And yet, sometimes, I like to imagine an alternative universe somewhere before Simon Cowell made his millions and the reality television behemoth become the industry that it has become. The televised singing contest was just that: a true contest, a chance at fame for the shy unknown who may never have been "discovered" otherwise.

Rebecca Ferguson would have been the star of that show. A softly-spoken Scouse single mother of two, her natural soul-inclined vocals won over a nation on The X Factor’s 2010 contest (well, almost: in the end she came second to Matt Cardle). Her debut album Heaven, released just before Christmas last year, went platinum and a concert hall tour won over new admirers. The album was re-released on Monday with five extra tracks including a new song, “I’ll Count the Days”, which soundtracked housewives’ favourite Downton Abbey. It’s back up at number 5 in the UK charts.

But it hasn’t been an easy ride. Earlier this year, Ferguson took to Twitter to announce that she would be taking her management team to court after they forced her to work “until she collapsed”. With court action ongoing (the company filed a High Court writ last month seeking a declaration that the singer unlawfully ended her contract) it’s not something she can talk about, but the experience has brought out a new steely determination that underpins the singer’s giggle.

Speaking to theartsdesk, Ferguson recounted the highs and lows of a dramatic two years, and why not winning a competition can be a blessing in disguise.

LIS FERLA: You were back on The X Factor recently - how did that feel?

REBECCA FERGUSON: I enjoyed it, but I was nervous - I always get nervous when I’m back on that stage, it brings back all the memories and I always feel as if, when I’m finished, I’m going to get judged again!

The deluxe edition of your debut album Heaven is now out - how did that come about and what’s new?

I always get nervous when I’m back on that stage ... I always feel as if, when I’m finished, I’m going to get judged again!

I think that’s something that always happens nowadays. It gives you a chance to put new stuff onto the album - I was able to add one of the tour songs, and one of my covers. I didn’t get the chance to put any of the covers on my first album, so it was nice to add some songs I really love. I did [Aqualung’s] “Strange and Beautiful” with [producer] Matt Hales - I love the song, and I felt really lucky to get the chance to do that. “Backtrack” ended up making the US album, but not the UK release as it wasn’t ready yet - we got some mixes done of it, but they just weren’t there yet - so the deluxe release was a good opportunity to put that on. And “Good Days and Bad Days” was a song that I’d always wanted to include, but that had kind of been forgotten about.

Watch the video for new single 'Backtrack' below

It’s funny that you mention covers, because you’re great at reinterpreting songs that aren’t the traditional "female vocalist" songs - like your version of Kings of Leon’s “Knocked Up”. Are there other songs we can expect to see get the Rebecca Ferguson treatment?

I don’t know, really! I only like to cover a song if I really connect with it, and really love it, and nothing springs to mind at the moment. I’d like to record some dance music. I’ve been sent so many instrumentals for dance songs, but I haven’t had time to write over them.

You’ve had a tough time of late, with well-publicised issues with your old management and the obvious difficulties that come with touring when you have a young family. What has been the most difficult thing to deal with as a result of your new-found fame?

It’s not the fame that’s the problem - it’s the people you attract when you’re famous, I think. You meet lots of lovely people - lots of lovely people - who are in it for the music, because it’s their passion, but you also get people who have no heart for music; it’s just money to them. And that’s what’s hard - learning to toughen up, and that not everyone will look at you as a person. You will be seen as just a commodity to some people. But I’ve learned from that. I’m strong, and I’ve learned what to take and what not to take now.

And on a happier note, what has been the best thing to happen to you since The X Factor?

Just being able to help my family, really - my mum, and my children. Also, getting to meet and work with amazing people, people like [songwriter and producer] Eg White, who’s an amazing person. Behind the scenes, a lot of the people who are involved with these big hits that you’re always hearing on the radio are so humble, so nice.

Listen to Ferguson's incredible Kings of Leon cover below

Being a working mother - or just as a woman working in the music industry - do you feel as if you have faced particular challenges? Much has been made of the fact that you were the “first female X-Factor runner-up”, for example...

I think being a single parent in general, and balancing that commitment with work, is difficult for anyone. But the pace of the lifestyle that comes with what I do is very hard. It’s all about balance, about making sure that you don’t neglect either, really; but my main priority is always my family, and making sure that they’re happy.

Cover art for the deluxe edition of Rebecca Ferguson's HeavenYou were runner-up to Matt Cardle on the 2010 show, yet your career has gone from strength to strength. I wonder, was not winning the show actually a blessing in a sense? Has it given you a little more freedom to shape your career your own way?

For me it was. I was given the chance to write the album that I wanted to write - I was kind of left to it, in the studio, just me and the people I was writing with and the producers. It was more organic than it could otherwise have been, with no pressure to meet a certain deadline or get something out straight away. That’s the difference, I think. You’ve got more time to concentrate and get things the way you want them.

What, or who, inspires you as a performer?

So many people inspire me in different ways. I like to listen to people whose words mean something - I like good lyricists, I like to listen to people who tell a good story with their songs. It’s not necessarily about them having a pitch-perfect voice, more that it means something when they sing. And I’m inspired by watching amazing performers on stage - people like Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, people who have got an all-round performing persona.

That leads in nicely to my last question - what are you listening to at the moment?

Ooh... I listen to a lot of dance music, you know. My taste is really random: dance, R'n'B, classical sometimes. I’m a big fan of Lisa Gerrard, I think she’s an amazing singer. I used to just listen to the radio when I was young and flick through stations, so I’ve got quite an eclectic taste.

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