Ballymena Singer Crowned Next BRIT Thing

Paul Shevlin wows the judges – including McFly – at London final following months of online voting

Following a six month nationwide search for the best in young UK musical talent, unsigned Northern Irish artist, Paul Shevlin, was crowned winner of Next BRIT Thing in London this week.

Next BRIT Thing is a national music competition for 11-19 year olds backed by the UK music industry, The BRIT Awards and the Government. It offers young people the opportunity to engage with the music industry, develop their music talent and enjoy the shared experience of being part of a national event.

Having battled their way through regional auditions after being selected from 2,500 entries in a public online vote, 13 Next BRIT Thing finalists performed in front of a panel of celebrity judges and an audience of thousands on Monday, March 5 2012 at the IndigO2 in Greenwich, London.

And despite stiff competition, the judges – pop band McFly, operatic tenor Noah Stewart, best-selling soprano Laura Wright and managing director of Columbia Records Mike Smith – crowned 19-year old singer-songwriter Shevlin winner of the General Category for his original melodic piano-led songs.

This category was open to all genres and attracted entries from all corners of the British Isles. As well as receiving the major accolade, Shevlin also wins a recording session at the world-famous Abbey Road.

'I'm really humbled to have been selected from such a standard of artists on the night,' said Shevlin. 'Being a massive Beatles fan I cannot wait to get into Abbey Road studios. It's a bit surreal.'

Launched in Summer 2011, Next BRIT Thing looked for young musicians in any genre to share their performances, compete in online charts and perform live. The competition was open to all 11-19 year olds whether in formal education or not.

In all, some 36,000 young people registered to get involved and the website attracted over 100,000 unique users. More than 2,500 entries were made, and after 60,000 votes were cast, a long list of performers to audition in one of ten regions emerged.

BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor added, 'Paul’s performance was astonishing – a star in the making and a true natural performer. He’s a worthy winner of our first Next BRIT Thing national competition and I look forward to hearing his Abbey Road recording.'

Organised by the BPI – a trade organisation funded by its members, which include hundreds of independent music companies and the UK’s four major record labels – with the support of the record industry, Next BRIT Thing brought together all elements of the industry including artists, labels and industry bodies.

PRS for Music specifically recognised entrants to Next Brit Thing whose submission either in the pop or classical genre, was an original work. Over a thousand Next Brit Thing entries were original compositions, underpinning the vast creative young talent across the UK.

Listen to a selection of the competitive entries from Northern Ireland on the Next BRIT Thing website.

Paul Shevlin