Interview: Rebecca Feguson’s success after the X-factor

Former X Factor runner-up turned soul singing success story Rebecca Ferguson is the first to take to the Thetford Forest stage this summer. Former X Factor runner-up turned soul singing success story Rebecca Ferguson is the first to take to the Thetford Forest stage this summer.

Wayne Savage
Friday, June 6, 2014
8:24 AM

WAYNE SAVAGE talks to the talented Rebecca Ferguson about her battle with fame, heartache and how latest album Freedom has given her a new outlook and lust for life.

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Rebecca Ferguson's second album, Freedom, launched at the end of last year.Rebecca Ferguson's second album, Freedom, launched at the end of last year.

Rebecca Ferguson has had an interesting start to 2014. Riding on the back of the launch of her second album Freedom at the end of last year, she found herself trending on Twitter after collapsing while performing new single All That I’ve Got on ITV’s Loose Women.

The former X Factor singer blamed exhaustion and it didn’t stop her playing a string of sold out dates on her second UK tour.

Then a few weeks later the Liverpudlian singer, who has two children from a previous relationship: Lillie May and Karl, revealed she was pregnant with her third child — in true 21st century celebrity style, announcing it on Twitter.

She now admits that the two events may not have been unconnected. “What’s funny is after the show, I took a test because I was thinking ‘This is weird! What’s going on with my body?’ and it came up negative.

Rebecca Ferguson singing live.Rebecca Ferguson singing live.

I was like “How strange!” I’ve got all of the pregnancy symptoms but after the show I ended up spending two days resting in bed. I kept on saying to everyone, ‘I’ve got pregnancy symptoms’, so it was really weird, and then a couple of days later I took another test and it was positive.”

Mystery solved, and motherhood still some way off, she is showing no signs of slowing down, continuing to perform and next week she will help kick off this summer’s series of outdoor shows at Thetford Forest, headlining next Thursday, ahead of shows by Suede on June 13 and The Pogues on June 14.

Ferguson’s life hasn’t been short on drama. Raised by her mum after her parents split up when she was a small child, she later spent time with family friends, foster parents and in care homes, when her mum Anne, then battling a serious illness, was too unwell to look after her. Money was always very tight, too. Despite all that, she fought for a better life.

Her dreams of becoming a singer were put on hold, though, when she fell pregnant while still a teenager. She qualified as a legal secretary, but her lifelong dream of being a star bubbled on and she made several attempts to get on various talent shows.

The determination paid off; in 2010 she finally got onto The X Factor and, despite finishing as runner-up to Matt Cardle, a hugely successful album soon followed. Unfortunately, The X Factor and subsequent No 1 album, Heaven, was only the start of another set of problems.

Ferguson was very nervous and self-conscious for a long time. Her success attracted the wrong type of people, clingers-on who wanted to use her.

Of those difficult post X Factor years and even the new man in her life, she now says: “I don’t talk about relationships any more but I will say I’m happy now. I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin as well.”

Recording her second album Freedom proved therapeutic. “I’m going to go out today and I’m not going to wear make-up and I don’t care whether you think I don’t look nice. It’s about getting to the point where you’re like ‘I’m just going to live my life and be me.’”

It wasn’t easy though, said Ferguson, who admits to going through a lot of heartache, deep depression even, while writing it.

“The place I’m in now is so different to when I wrote it. I remember driving myself to the studio thinking ‘I’ve got to write this’, because there were moments when I wasn’t going to. I was determined to write it because I couldn’t find an album at that time that related to how I felt. I wanted this to be one that when people played it, it encouraged them to get out of ‘that place’.

“Someone who was suffering from alcoholism messaged me and said ‘did you write that album for me’. I wasn’t in that situation, but to me it’s about certain things that you go through and songs can help other people who are suffering in totally different ways to yours.”

Less bothered about making a mistake now, she feels incredibly lucky to have a job she loves and is intent to enjoy the ride because life’s too short.

“I’ll forgive people for the worst things...it relates back to how I was brought up – forgive, forget, love everyone. I’d done that to the point where the people around me saw me as weak, as a pushover. I think there’s a nice balance of being a nice person but not being an idiot.

“I think I went the other way really, I think people did mistreat me but people will only get away with what you allow them to. I’ve learned to take ownership (of her decisions) because it’s so easy to blame other people for how they treat you.”

While you should always aspire to succeed, life, she said, is about more than money and chart positions.

“I give it 100% but at the same time I’m just like let’s just have a laugh. It’s less tense now, I think I’ve just chilled.”

Ferguson sounds like she’s conquered her main struggle – to be normal.

“All of a sudden (after X Factor) I had money... I had nice clothes which I’d always tried to have by shopping cheaply where I could. My struggle was being able to say actually ‘Rebecca, you’ve made it now. Enjoy it and stop trying to dumb yourself down to make other people feel OK’, which is what I’d do,” said the multiple MOBO award nominee.

“I’d find it hard to be round people. I’d feel like I was always overly compensating because I had money, I’d have to be the one that’d pay for everything when we’d go out which has always been my nature, I’d look after people.

“There came a point where I’d have to say ‘just relax, enjoy it, don’t feel guilty for doing good, you’ve worked hard’. I think that’s the struggle for a lot of people, there’s a wrestle between keeping your feet on the ground but accepting that you’ve done good as well.”

The new album’s title says it all, added Ferguson. “It’s a bit like my new outlook. It’s funny, because I had such a crazy couple of years and a lot of people know about my past. I think sometimes your past can affect who you are as a person... sometimes you do things and you wonder why you do them. Then you relate it back to your childhood or relate to something someone told you which has always made you act a certain way.

“Freedom is all about becoming a new person and letting go of anything that has ever held you back. I wanted it to be an empowering album. It’s a bit more expressive of me (than her multi-platinum selling debut Heaven) in the sense it was someone who wasn’t holding back at all.

“When I was singing the lyrics I wasn’t bothered about what anyone thought... All That I’ve Got is quite an angry song but people see me in the ‘Sweet Rebecca’ box but I was ‘this is how I feel, this is what I want to get across’. I think Freedom’s a bit more of someone who’s become a woman really. Sound’s dead cheesy but just someone who just doesn’t care no more.”

• Rebecca Ferguson plays High Lodge, Thetford Forest, on June 12, gates 6.30pm, £36.30, 03000 680400, www.forestry.gov.uk/music

• Freedom is out now

• Further listening: www.rebeccaofficial.com

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