Journey South's route to fame

EMMA LEE This time last year Journey South were just one of dozens of X Factor hopefuls. Now they've had a number one album and are on a 41-date UK tour, which calls at Norwich UEA on Friday. Emma Lee spoke to Andy Pemberton about his whirlwind 12 months.

EMMA LEE

It must be a very strange experience watching The X Factor for Andy and Carl Pemberton. This time last year the chirpy northern duo, aka Journey South, were among the scores of hopefuls trying their best to impress Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. And, all-importantly, the viewers at home whose fate lay in their hands.

Along with former binman Andy Abraham and 'Britain's answer to Justin Timberlake' (ahem) Shayne Ward, they made it to the final of the hit show.

If the form of the runners up - and even the winners - of some of the previous TV talent searches was anything to go by, the blond brothers from Middlesbrough could well have been back in their day jobs by now - Andy was an electrician and Carl a plumber.


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Instead they've notched up a number one album, are starting work on a second and are embarking on a huge tour of more than 40 UK venues.

“It's so different,” Andy enthuses during a break in rehearsals. “Last year we were playing to crowds of five - and two of them were our mam and dad. This year we're going to playing to thousands, and they're paying money to see us. We've got sound technicians every night that know our sound. We've got a fantastic band that are playing with us. It's dead exciting.

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“We're doing some cracking songs. I'd say I'm a little bit like a footballer looking forward to the World Cup. We're looking forward to the tour like you wouldn't believe. We just adore performing. We've done it for so long now.

“It's going to be quite demanding. I'm going to try and lay off the alcohol and get a little bit fit and get some sleep. We're going to be doing around 20 songs, which is fantastic. On the X Factor tour we only got to do four and we wanted to stay on there a lot longer. It's probably going to be about an hour and a half a night and we're going to be doing songs by bands that influenced us for people to see where we came from and songs we have just written for our new album. We're going to change them around, see which people like best and which could be a good single. And we'll do an acoustic set as well. There'll be a few surprises in there,” he promises.

Dad-of-one Andy, 30, (his son is almost one-and-a-half) and Carl, 25, have certainly had a long slog to get to where they are. He readily admits they were on the verge of throwing in the towel before opportunity knocked in the shape of Cowell and Co.

As Andy explains, when Carl was 10 he got his first guitar. A few years later Carl got a regular gig at a pub, and Andy soon got in on the act too and they performed under the stage name The Answer, with influences including Paul Weller, Queen and Bon Jovi.

“Carl loved that guitar. He even fell asleep with it,” says Andy. “I was never really into it - I was into rap music. Then Carl started doing gigs in a pub and I would go and see him. I really admired him for getting up there. And then I started joining him for songs and eventually we were doing the whole set together. That was 10 years ago and we've been gigging ever since.”

Seriously wanting to make it big, five years ago the brothers saved enough money to buy a caravan and went to London to try and get a break. The move to the capital inspired the stage name Journey South. But after two years of gigging in pubs and clubs all they'd ended up with were shattered dreams and credit card debts running into tens of thousands of pounds.

Their only option was to return home, where they had a change of luck when Andy was given a grant by the Prince's Trust to set up an entertainment agency. It was a great opportunity to get gigs and they were particularly in demand for weddings.

But Andy candidly admits that they'd abandoned hope of hitting the big time.

“We were still gigging but we'd given up on the idea of making it - it wasn't our dream any more,” he says.

Then Carl's fiancée suggested they audition for the X Factor.

“We thought we would be one of thousands. We thought there was no way we were going to get on the live show. But Simon said that the minute he saw us he wanted to sign us.”

They worked with producers Steve Robson (who's worked with Busted, Westlife and Blue) and Grammy award-winner Brian Rawlings (who's worked with Tina Turner, Cher and Lemar) on the album - and the track All That I Am was written with Paul Barry, who wrote the song Hero for Enrique Iglesias.

While they'd built up a fanbase from the show, there was a great deal of pressure to deliver the goods. But they needn't have worried. Their debut album went to number one - and breaking the news to his parents, who have supported the boys every step of the way, was one of his proudest moments.

“Going out with our mam and dad on Mother's Day and telling them we were number one was amazing,” he says.

They've already started work on their second album, working with people who've written for American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, their heroes Bon Jovi and Westlife.

“It'll be all different styles,” says Andy. “The next album is definitely going to be more rocky - we're well into our rock.”

Even if Simon, Sharon and Louis had decided they hadn't got the X Factor, Andy says they would be happy if they were still playing to five people - mam and dad included - down the local boozer. But he's enjoying the fame the show has bought them, and appreciates the golden opportunity they've been given.

“We live for it. Even if we hadn't done X Factor we would have still been gigging, doing covers in pubs. I'm so privileged to be doing it. We're reaping the rewards and we're very lucky,” he says.

t Journey South play Norwich UEA on Friday. Box office: 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk

t The first album is also called Journey South.

t The X Factor is on ITV1 on Saturdays.

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