Joe McElderry eager for songs of musicals

X Factor winner Joe McElderry. Pic: Comp
X Factor winner Joe McElderry. Pic: Comp
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FANS of the West End are in for a treat this Saturday when a host of musical theatre stars descend upon the Usher Hall for An Evening of Movies & Musicals.

Some of the biggest names in the business, including Broadway legend Lorna Luft, daughter of iconic entertainer Judy Garland, and Kerry Ellis, the first British Elphaba in the smash hit show Wicked, will be joined by rock singer Nathan James and 2011 Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowell.

Also on the bill is Joe McElderry, who won the nation’s heart when he was crowned winner of X Factor in 2009, before going on to become the King of reality TV, winning Pop Star to Opera Star in 2011 and, most recently Channel 4’s The Jump.

“Basically, we have a 50-piece orchestra and 200-strong choir, I don’t know where they are going to put them all,” he quips, “and we are all going to be singing the most famous songs and duets from musicals and film soundtracks.”

By his own admission, McElderry is a fan of musical theatre and it is clear he can’t wait to perform with his co-stars.

“It’s going to be really exciting. I am a big West End fan and to be able to sing alongside these guys who are all seasoned pros is just brilliant,” he adds, modestly.

But then McElderry has done a fair bit himself since being thrust into the limelight on the ITV talent show at the age of 18.

“I suppose I am a seasoned pro as a singer, but not in musical theatre in the way that Kerry Ellis, is” he offers. “She is really well-respected in the industry and we’re getting to do a duet, which is really nice.

“The thing about this is that it’s so different to what I normally do. The songs, so different to the stuff I usually sing.”

If fact, the show has given McEderry the urge to perform on the West End stage himself, although he admits, he probably wouldn’t be there for too long.

“Musical theatre is something I’d like to dip in and out of because I like to travel. I wouldn’t want to be in the one place for too long.

“Also, I like to be myself on stage. I’ve played acting roles before and I enjoy them for about a month... then I just want to be myself again.

“I like being able to walk where I want on stage. To do what I want to do. You can’t do that in a musical.”

Saturday’s concert fulfils a long-held date McElderry has had with the Capital. Although he made a brief appearance at Meadowbank Stadium in 2012 to welcome the Paralympic Flame, his last appearance at the Usher hall was cancelled when he ‘got a better offer’, so to speak - an invitation to perform for the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

“I didn’t want to cancel the show,” he says. “But my record label were like, ‘You really have to do this.’ It wasn’t my choice. It was put to me that it was ‘By Royal Appointment’ and what I was I going to do? Refuse because I had a concert?

“I said ‘Yeah, because these people have paid for their tickets.’ I was devastated. I never cancel anything. Even if I’m sick I go on and do the best I can.

“To this day that is the only concert I have ever cancelled. I tried to reschedule but it never happened so, in essence, I owe Edinburgh a concert.”

When not on stage, McElderry admits he is a big fan of reality TV.

“I enjoy making it. It’s fun. So whenever I get offered these shows I take them,” he says.

His most recent was the Channel 4 extreme sports challenge The Jump. It saw the singer drafted in as celebrity after celebrity injured themselves during filming. He went on to win the series.

“I wasn’t even a standby for The Jump,” he reveals. “I was on a skiing holiday near where they were filming when I got a call from my manager saying, ‘They’ve found out you can ski and they want you there in an hour.

“I’d worked with one of the girls on the production team before and she had seen on Facebook that I was in Austria.

“At the time I had a tour coming up and all I could think was, ‘What if I break a leg and have to go on stage in a wheelchair?’” he laughs.

“Then the competitive side of me kicked in and I was like, ‘Go on, do it.’ So basically, 25 minutes after arriving at the location I was doing my first event.”

McElderry is no stranger to winning reality TV shows. After X Factor he turned his attention to classical music for Pop Star To Opera Star.

“I loved that,” he laughs. “I entered it for fun. Never thought I’d be a classical singer or release a classical album by the end of it. I just thought it would be fun and that I’d go back to singing pop again.

“Half way through I realised I was going in a totally different direction. I still sing Nessun Dorma in my concerts now and have a whole classical section.”

In retrospect he admits there are things he looks back at and wonders how he did them at such a young age.

“I was so naive and that was the blessing in disguise,” he says, “At 18 on X Factor I was just like, ‘Wow! This is all sparkly and shiny and brilliant.’

“Then about a year later, the reality kicked in and I realised this is a tough industry. You either get some balls and stick in there or you get out. I was like, ‘Bring it on’.”

The secret, he reveals, is to have the right people around you. Something he discovered when his contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco label was not renewed in 2011.

“Over the years I have changed management. I now have people around me who I wouldn’t have met had I stayed with Syco,” he says. “At the time I was a bit like, ‘What am I going to do?’ But now I think it was important that I didn’t do another album with them - I’d never have done Pop Star To Opera Star if I’d stayed with them, or released a classical album. So it opened new doors, brought me new fans, and has made me more confident as an artist in my own right.”

So what’s next for the 22-year-old?

“I would like to do Strictly Come Dancing,” he grins. “I’m a frustrated dancer. I like to think I am a good dancer but I don’t know if I am. Either way, I’d give it a go and give 120 per cent.”

An Evening of Movies and Musicals Usher Hall, Lothian Road, Saturday, 7.30pm, £22-£41.80 0131-228 1155