Joe McElderry is Still Living the Dream
Seven years after his breakout success, the X Factor winner is savouring every opportunity while he can, whether in the studio or his blossoming stage career
Currently in the midst of a musical theatre tour, while simultaneously recording his fifth studio album, Joe McElderry is definitely one of showbiz’s harder-working stars. The former X Factor winner of 2009 is due in Derry~Londonderry at the end of May to reprise his role as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Just one week later, he’ll then start touring again to promote his latest album, Saturday Night at the Movies.
On a train somewhere in Cardiff, however, he’s able to take some time out for a chat, ahead of his visit to Northern Ireland, where he last played a solo concert about a year-and-a-half ago.
'I’ve had so much fun on this tour,' he says. 'Obviously the show is fantastic full-stop and the audiences have just been incredible. It’s been a wonderful experience.
'Last year I felt I had something to prove because it was my first step into musical theatre, taking on a big role, whereas this year I know what works with the show and how to portray the character in a way people can engage with.'
Indeed, this is McElderry’s second time playing Joseph, going down a storm with critics and audiences alike in his first outing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring show – the longest running touring show in history. He admits, however, that all those glowing five-star reviews of 2016 bring a different sort of pressure to the role.
'I know people have read the reviews and are coming to see me on the basis of those,' he says. 'I don’t want to be complacent and I want to do new things with the role, so it’s a combination of both being more relaxed and more pressurised! You’re just not as nervous though, which allows you to experiment a bit more.'
Having studied performing arts at Newcastle College, McElderry’s big career break came when he auditioned for X Factor which, of course, he went on to win, mentored by fellow Geordie, Cheryl Cole. He also later came out top on two other reality TV shows, winning the second series of ITV’s Popstar to Opera-star and crowned champion of Channel 4’s celebrity ski competition The Jump in 2014.
'I enjoy doing things that show different sides to your personality,' he says. 'When you see TV shows where people are learning a skill I feel like you’re on that journey with them. I always want it to be something I can have fun with and if I’m having fun, then hopefully other people are too.'
Aside from conquering reality TV shows however, McElderry has also been hard at work since his X Factor success in carving out a sustainable musical career. Indeed, for this young performer, who was just 18 when the British public first met him, his entry into the showbiz world has always been about longevity.
Almost eight years beyond his X Factor appearance, it certainly seems to be something he’s achieved, succeeding where most other contestants have not. He says, however, that he never envisioned his career taking the route it has – 'not in a million years.'
'I’ve done things that have surpassed my expectations,' he says. 'I always just wanted to have a career that lasted over a period of time. When I took projects on I just wanted to be around for a long time, and I feel very proud that I’ve been able to sustain a career for seven years. Hopefully, long may that continue.
'My aim is just to work hard and maintain a long career. It’s very difficult though – success depends on a combination of many things… not just talent but also, having the right people around you. I’ve been very fortunate that I have people like that.'
As someone who clearly lives and breathes music and performing, McElderry adds that he hasn’t quite been able to strike that work-life balance just yet. Indeed, it all merges into one as he lives out his passion within his career, though he’s certainly not complaining.
'I don’t think I’ve managed to find a balance between singing being my hobby and being work,' he admits. 'It all falls into the same thing so it takes over my whole life. I love what I do though and realise I’m in a very blessed position. I want to enjoy every opportunity while I can. I’ve never been a lazy person and I’m not scared of a bit of hard work!'
As with many who work in the arts and have more than one string to their bow, McElderry’s schedule is fairly hectic, but he says he relishes the opportunities that come his way. One such opportunity is being able to perform as Joseph in Newcastle’s huge arena at Christmas, where the tour will end in 2017 after a summer break.
'I went to see so many people there when I was younger and always dreamt of performing in the arena, which is huge,' he says. 'Although I’ve performed there before, the fact we get to go there for two weeks is amazing.'
Before that, however, the summer will be spent promoting that fifth studio album as part of The Gloria Tour - named after the first single from the album. This UK tour won’t include Ireland but McElderry promises that he will return for another gig.
'I’ve got about one week off (between Joseph and the album tour),' he says. 'It’s out early July and I’m very excited about it. It’s all songs from movies and musicals and there’s a great selection – both slow and tempo – so there’s something there for everyone. I’ve been over here recording it on my days off from Joseph so it’s been a hectic schedule.
'With my first few albums I crammed them all in together but I’ve spent the last two years touring and performing, so it’s been a nice break in that regard and I’m ready now to release the music. Also, you don’t want to get to the point where people are sick of you…'
Before all of that however, there’s still the imminent Joseph shows at the Millennium Forum, and perhaps also a bit of sightseeing within the city to enjoy.
'We do try to get out and about on the tour locations and I’m so fond of Ireland – I love it – so I’m going to make sure I get up extra early to take it all in,' says McElderry.
'I haven’t seen my house very much recently, but I’m enjoying being on the road and visiting new places like Derry. I’m very fortunate that my job allows me to travel and I’m looking forward to the show!'
Catch Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry from May 30 to June 3. Tickets are available to book from Box Office, by calling 028 7126 4455 or from www.millenniumforum.co.uk.