Despite the fact he’s been up at 4am most days over the last few weeks, Joe McElderry is particularly upbeat and chirpy as we settled down in a Soho hotel to chat about the launch of his new album, what the future may bring and why we’ll be waiting some time for a sex scandal involving this gorgeous Geordie lad.
Here’s What I Believe - McElderry’s fourth studio album – is due for release on 10 September and features a number of tracks written by McElderry himself. ‘There’s very much a theme to the album. It’s not exclusively about heart break, but a number of the tracks centre around that. When I was writing it I’d just come out of a relationship, I’d been cheated on, and of course, it isn’t nice. I decided then that I’d done nothing wrong; it was my ‘see ya later moment’. I wanted to write something that felt good and was upbeat, kind of like an empowering anthem. That’s where the first single and inspiration for the album came from”.
McElderry carries on, ‘It’s a very ‘me’ album. I guess it doesn’t really fit in to any particular category, but in saying that I don’t want it to. It’s what people will be expecting from me. I wanted to do another album to show my vocals and so there’s a number of mid-tempo to slow-tempo pop ballads. There’s a lot more original tracks and songs that I’ve written on this album compared to previous ones, so it is fairly different and I’m really proud of it. Of course my experiences between this album and the last have also had an influence. What I’ve learnt doing Popstar to Opera Star, X Factor and even the work on the previous albums have all shaped this one.’
When I mention that the heart-broken theme is quite apparent throughout the album, McElderry lets out an almighty chuckle, ‘Oh God, I knew you’d ask about this! I think there’s more to it than simply heart break. I’ve tried to explore different connotations of love,’ he adds. ‘It wasn’t a conscious choice that this should be the focus of the album – when you have one song that you really like, you find yourself drawn to other songs that fit with it. I guess it just evolved really, and I guess that’s just where my head was at the time of putting the album together.’
Given the more mellow tone of this album, I ask McElderry whether we have to wait for him to get in to another relationship before we get some more ‘poppy, up-tempo’ tracks. He lets out another almighty chuckle. ‘I’m all right; I don’t need a cuddle or a pat on the head’ – I did offer…he changed the topic quickly – ‘I’m not depressed or anything, don’t worry about that! I wanted to showcase my vocals, I feel that every song on this album has allowed me to do that. If I was to do a ‘dancey’, up-tempo track, which I could quite easily just turn out tomorrow, it wouldn’t allow me to be as strong vocally. I may do some of that sort of stuff in the future, but for now I’m working on pushing myself in this particular direction.’
McElderry’s focus on simply producing great music is refreshing. This Geordie lad seems somewhat disinterested in the fame and fortune that other singing/reality show contestants seem to crave. ‘I’m a singer, not a socialite,’ he says. ‘If I really wanted to be in the papers and magazines, for all the wrong reasons: being carried out of nightclubs with my eyes rolled back in my head – then I could tip off the paparazzi. I’m a twenty-one year old; yes I like to go out with my friends and get drunk, but I’m secretive about it. My work comes first and I don’t want that sort of stuff to overshadow what I do, so there won’t be any nude pictures from Vegas or sex-tapes I’m afraid,’ he smiles wryly.
Given McElderry is set to release his fourth album, this technically makes him the most successful X Factor winner. ‘I really don’t pay much attention to that. I’ve not done the maths, nor do I know the statistics. I think if I had paid attention to that sort of stuff, then it would have ended after the first album; I wouldn’t be where I am now. I just keep doing what I enjoy doing. There are so many people that get caught up in all the other stuff. I still hear people talking about the fact I was dropped from the first label (Syco, owned by Simon Cowell) but I try and ignore it. In all honesty, I’m just focused on being the best singer I can be. I fear that if I was to pay attention to it, I’ll either become big-headed, or be forever worried about people’s negative impressions and that’s not healthy or helpful.’
McElderry on X Factor: ’I think the show is a great platform, it’s an incredible starting point. However at the end of the day, what happens to your career is inevitably up to you.’ Sounding like a seasoned performer, ‘Nobody’s responsible for how you progress except for you. You need to have the drive yourself to take things to another level, you can’t simply ride on the show for that; you have to keep reinventing yourself and trying new things.’
‘I never get complacent, I feel very lucky to be where I am. Just recently I’ve performed with Dionne Warwick, been on stage with Boy George and Cliff Richard, some of the biggest names in the industry, and it still is just so exciting. The jubilee concert, performing in Hyde Park for the Olympics was incredible, doing Popstar to Opera Star and the Glasgow and Leeds Pride events recently have all been really incredible highlights. There are so many moments that I’m really grateful for,’ he adds humbly.
‘Something else that’s really touched me are the messages I’ve had from fans who have been inspired to come out after I did. The fact that people have been inspired to be themselves and be comfortable and proud of who they are is really great, and I’m still pleased that I’ve been in a position that has helped people do that.’
Looking to the future, Joe is set to perform a couple of intimate gigs in both Newcastle and London, before knuckling down to prepare for a much larger concert tour next year.
Joe’s album, Here’s What I Believe, is due for release on 10 September 2012 and can be pre-ordered via Amazon.