For some X Factor winners it is a swift return to pub gigs. For others like Joe McElderry it leads to gold records and gigs at decent-sized venues.

After winning the X Factor in 2009, the personable young Geordie has kept up his profile. He won Popstar to Operastar, revealing he could sing opera, and then beat a host of other sleb contestants as a last minute replacement on winter sports show The Jump.

Back from the piste, McElderry has just completed a UK tour and is back out on the road this month with a show at the historic Leeds City Varieties.

“It’s a little different this time with new material – some of the pop stuff and the classical stuff – and it’s a mix of the four albums I’ve released,” says McElderry.

“The classical crossover stuff is such a huge part of my career now so there are a few big classical numbers like Nessun Dorma. It’s exciting because you can change a pop song into a classical number which is really cool.”

It’s fair to say it was as much of a surprise to McElderry as the rest of us when this slight pop singer opened his mouth on Popstar to Operastar and out came this huge voice.

Joe McElderry“It was a 100 per cent shock because I thought it was just going to be a joke for me and I would be the comedy element of the show as I wouldn’t be able to do it that well. I never thought in a million years that I would turn up to a show and people would be chanting ‘sing Nessun Dorma’.”

But McElderry is still best known for battling his way through The X Factor, beating Olly Murs and Stacey Soloman to win his first reality show crown.

“When I think about it now having worked in the industry, and being recognised as a singer, I kind of realise the magnitude of the experience you are putting yourself in for,” muses McElderry. “I was just excited and wanted to do well, but really you are putting yourself in front of 10 million people’s opinion which is a big thing.

“In the live shows they have the foundation of your career in their hands, whether it is Simon Cowell or the public, so I was fortunate that the viewers did get behind me.

“It was an incredible experience for me, but it can go the other way as well as I got some critical comments from the judges. But nothing that knocked my confidence. Some of the things the judges can say are big things, and if you are told in front of so many people you are not very good it is a hard pill to swallow.”

Aside from being a decent singer who had worked his way through youth theatre, the fledgling star fell on his feet when he was mentored by fellow Geordie Cheryl Cole, who shot to stardom when she won pop reality show Popstars: The Rivals.

“We related to each other because we are from the same place, and looking back now she had done what I was then going to go on to do. She knew how to deal with winning a reality show and how going from family life in the North East to being well known is a big change.

“She helped me with that and although we don’t see much of each other because of work schedules, whenever we do then we have a good catch up.”

McElderry is one of a small group of people who have won X Factor, which remains a ratings winner for ITV. So what it is like when your name is announced live on prime-time TV as the winner?

“It was an incredible moment and I wish I could remember more about that as I felt I was little bit drunk – I wasn’t – and like when you can’t remember what happened the night before,” recalls McElderry. “The adrenaline just took over my body and some people tell me what happened that night and I say I just can’t remember that part of it.

“The thing about the show is that it is a platform and it even gives people who are second, third, fourth, and even further down, to get an opportunity to have careers. One Direction – they came third or fourth, I think, and look at them now. Joe McElderry

“I know the show gets a lot of stick, but I only have positive things to say about it because it is a stepping stone, and without that I wouldn’t done anything else. Although I work hard, without that platform at the start it would have been ten times harder to get into the industry.”

McElderry is a nice lad and deserved the chance to get the traditional X factor Christmas number one covering Miley Cyrus’s hit The Climb. But it wasn’t plain sailing: music fans launched an online campaign to get Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name to number one instead.

The campaigners saw the song’s chorus “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” as a direct response to Cowell’s manufactured, plastic pop acts. Rage Against The Machine won the race to Christmas number one with McElderry taking the top spot the following week.

“At the time I didn’t really understand but looking back now they did me a favour as five years down the line we are still talking about that famous chart battle which is now part of music folklore,” laughs McElderry “They made The Climb become my song and when it went to number one it was much more memorable.

“I probably owe them a favour but at the time it was a bit annoying.”

By Paul Clarke


Joe McElderry plays Leeds City Varieties on October 22, 2014. For more information click here. For details about other tour dates, follow this link: