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Perfect pitch and the Cowell factor

THE final of the last series of The X Factor ended up pitting Scotland against Wales, dark against blond, karaoke against opera.

What happens after The X-Factor? David Whetstone finds out from runner-up Rhydian Roberts.

THE final of the last series of The X Factor ended up pitting Scotland against Wales, dark against blond, karaoke against opera. In short, Leon Jackson against Rhydian Roberts.

Leon, an only child who was “desperate” to win himself and his mum a better life, emerged the winner, even though previous public singing experience amounted to karaoke sessions.

Rhydian, whose perfect pitch was noticed at play school and who later won a scholarship to a musical conservatoire, was the surprise (in our household anyway) runner-up.

Leon got the Simon Cowell contract and the fast track to the big time. Rhydian, with his startling eyes and even more startling hair, became another X Factor also-ran.

Except that last Saturday he was back on the show, reminding the remaining new season finalists that his armoury of attributes also includes a startling voice.

Vocally powering through The Impossible Dream, he generated enough G-force to press the live audience back in their seats. Even at home you could imagine the wind in your hair.

“World class,” purred Simon Cowell like the cat that got the cream.

As well he might. Rhydian reveals that the X Factor judge, a powerful figure in the music industry, was on the phone before the dust had even settled on the final last December.

A deal was done and Rhydian’s debut album is out this week.

“I was getting offers from other people and it’s not certain you’ll get an offer from Simon if you don’t win,” says Rhydian.

“I thought I had lost that opportunity when I came second so I was delighted when he got in touch. He was good to me all through The X Factor and I wanted to remain loyal. I think in the UK he’s the best label to be with and his contacts in America are second to none. He’s a god out there.” So it was a relationship made in heaven. Rhydian says it was “very exciting” making the album, which is simply entitled Rhydian.

“It’s the end of 12 months’ hard work. I was in HMV in Cardiff the other day, doing a signing, and that was great.”

His new-found celebrity doesn’t faze him. “I was establishing a career as a young baritone before I entered The X Factor but I wasn’t feeling completely fulfilled on stage. I wanted to appeal to a wider audience and to make real contact with people – and that wasn’t likely to happen for another 15 years.”

Then he saw Simon Cowell on TV and deduced that here was a fast track to the big time. He entered The X Factor, confessing now that it wasn’t the done thing even to watch the show at opera school. We know the rest.

The album, put together with top producers, features covers such as Bridge Over Troubled Water and Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever.

But there are also some original numbers including I’m Coming Home Again – “very evocative of Wales” – and What If, a duet with Broadway star Idina Menzel.

Rhydian is going on tour to promote the album and will be singing in Hall One of The Sage Gateshead on May 14 next year.

Is he nervous? “I can’t wait,” he says immediately. “I love doing the whole thing – meeting the people and going to different venues, and it’s always great catering.

“I’m hoping to rekindle the excitement of working with a live audience. That’s what I missed in the studio.”

I suppose it was a silly question to ask a young man who sang weekly in front of millions of TV viewers (and acid-tongued Mr Cowell) with a bleached Bart Simpson hairstyle.

Rhydian seems genuinely pleased to be returning to the North East. He came here on the last X Factor Live tour.

“It’s a really beautiful place – not like some of the cities we went to. I was really impressed. It was a breath of fresh air. Nice people, too.”

Finally, who does he tip for victory this time?

“To be honest, they’re all OK,” he says diplomatically. “But I know what they’re going through. It’s really tough for them.”

Rhydian, the album, is in the shops now. Tickets for Rhydian’s Gateshead gig next year are on sale at (0191) 443-4661.

I was establishing a career as a baritone before I entered The X Factor but I wasn’t feeling completely fulfilled on stage. I wanted to appeal to a wider audience.

 

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