X Factor's Steve is a soul survivor
EMMA OUTTEN Whatever happened to “cheeky charmer” Steve Brookstein, winner of the first series of The X-Factor? Emma Outten finds out that he’s about to bounce back – and it all begins in King’s Lynn this Friday.
Anyone who watched the first series of The X-Factor, in 2004, will recall a 30-something singer called Steve Brookstein whose winning rendition of Against All Odds was a bit cheesy - to put it mildly.
To be fair, though, the so-called cheeky charmer emerged as the winner with more than six million votes and his debut single went straight to the top spot, as did his debut album, Heart and Soul. But less than a year after winning, Steve was released from his contract, seemingly never to be heard of again.
If Steve sounds at all bitter about his experience on The X-Factor then he manages to sound sweet with it. Coming from the “can't complain” school of thought, he said: “It was a great experience, at the time, and I'm grateful for the experience.” But he added: “I don't think I'm an X-Factor product.”
What the audiences may not have known is that Steve had already worked in the industry for 10 years, as a songwriter/producer.
Steve, who was managed by Simon Cowell on the show, said: “I was disappointed that they portrayed me as a pub singer.”
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But, as he added: “Do you think I would have been in charge of editing? Do you think I would have been in charge of what Simon said on stage?”
Steve said: “I wasn't allowed to mention all my previous experiences, and the ups and downs.” (Ups have included supporting Dionne Warwick; downs involve having experienced many of the “demons” within the industry).
In his biog blurb, Steve states: “I could never see the point in just doing whatever people told you to do.”
One cannot imagine, therefore, that he took kindly to being afforded little creative input under the management of Simon Cowell and Sony BMG, and releasing the covers album, Heart and Soul.
Steve said of Simon: “It's a shame that we weren't on the same page.”
As a 30-something “soul head”, Steve found it difficult, being marketed towards the “Zig and Zag” and “Power Rangers” generation, as he put it.
He maintains that he would prefer to work hard rather than spend “five minutes” making a record that is going to end up as a “coffee cup coaster.”
Steve concluded: “I think Simon was disappointed that I didn't want to play the game.”
The debut album “wasn't released, it just kind of escaped,” said Steve.
He said he then fought to be released from his contract. His new album, 40,000 Things, out next month on the Numunu Records label, is a “million miles” from Heart and Soul. So, if The X-Factor experience was “a little bit of a hiccup” at least now, Steve believes, he is “back on track.”
The new album features a collection of self-penned soul songs, alongside carefully chosen classics. “If 40,000 Things had been my debut it would have been the perfect start,” he said.
Shayne Ward became the second winner of The X-Factor. Did Steve have a message for Shayne? “Just enjoy it…” said Steve, who kicks off his first tour since leaving the shackles of the show at King's Lynn Corn Exchange this Friday.
He said: “I'm in a lot better place now, just gigging, doing the music I love.”
Steve has also just married the woman he loves - Eileen Hunter, a jazz singer. “I'm a lucky, lucky boy,” he said.
They met in Starbucks and have not long since returned from their honeymoon in Rome. “So romantic,” said Steve.
Is he watching the new series of The X-Factor? Yes, but not for much longer. “I will be watching Strictly Come Dancing instead… I'm a big fan of Bruce Forsyth.”
Of the show that made him a household name, he said: “They are struggling to find really bad people, and they are struggling to find really good people.”
Unlike the series he won, of course. “It was fresh, it was great concept,” recalled Steve.
“Now,” he added, “it's a little bit like watching the magician and you know where he's putting the cards.”
Moreover, he had this to say about the contestants: “The way people beg to be on The X-Factor - people should be ashamed of themselves.”
With the forthcoming tour, Steve hopes to prove a few of his critics wrong along the way. “I'm under no illusion that I'm starting again,” he said.
He explained: “I haven't had the profile. But I've still got the voice.”
So what can the audience at King's Lynn Corn Exchange expect? “They are going to be pleasantly surprised, seriously,” said Steve.
As well as singing original songs from the new album, he will also be singing X-Factor favourites (“it will be a nice experience for people who voted for me”) and a tribute to one of his biggest influences, soul legend Luther Vandross.
Steve will be supported by his jazz singer wife. “How good is that?” he said.
Life doesn't sound too bad for Steve Brookstein after all - just in case you were interested.
Steve Brookstein will be performing live at King's Lynn Corn Exchange this Friday, September 29 - www.kingslynncornexchange.co.uk.
40,000 Things is to be released on Numunu Records on October 9.