THE pounding beat of his heart grew louder as Gavin Blackie stood bathed in the glare of a spotlight. Sweat began to bead on the singer’s brow as the tension grew, his nerves were in shreds...
He’d given his all, conquering a bad start when his mic broke, and here he was in the final of Edinburgh’s Got Talent, standing on the Assembly Rooms stage, desperate to find out if he’d been good enough to be declared winner.
Suddenly the wait was over... and it was his name being announced by compere Arlene Stuart. As his “Team Blackie” fans ran screaming to the stage, he was dumbstruck. The 26-year-old hairdresser from Granton was the winner of the city’s biggest talent contest. Life was about to change.
Fast forward a year and it’s been a hectic 12 months for Gavin. He’s been in the recording studio working on his debut single and album, performed at the Forth Awards, switched on the Omni Centre’s festive lights and all the while has kept the locks of his clients at Angus Gordon hairdressers on Frederick Street in trim.
Right now though Gavin is preparing to go back on stage as a special guest star at this year’s final. It’s the biggest gig of his life so far – and while he admits to some nerves, he says the confidence he’s gained from winning last year’s competition will see him through.
And he won’t be surprised if those who saw him last year will be left more than a little astounded. Not only is he singing his own song – he also looks a lot different.
“I used to have a couple of chins – now I have a jaw”, he jokes. “Three years ago I was seriously overweight at 22 stone. When you have got that much weight on you, it’s depressing. But now I’m 14 stone.
“And it was winning Edinburgh’s Got Talent which has made me lose the weight. It gave me more confidence to go out and pursue things. When I was bigger, I needed to have crazy hair coloured pink and blue because I needed to have something going on that would act as a defence mechanism, but I don’t have to do that any more.
“I have more self-confidence without and less baggage. I ran my first 10K a couple of weeks ago, which was a major feat as I hadn’t even run for a bus before.”
Gavin admits that transforming his image has been a “hard slog”, but it has certainly paid off – and he claims that former colleagues at the Royal Victoria hospital where he used to work didn’t recognise him when he made a recent visit.
However the commitment he’s shown to losing weight and getting healthy is mirrored by his passion for making it in the music industry. He has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get his recording career on track.
“After the contest I thought to myself ‘what do I do now?’ I knew nothing was going to happen unless I made it happen,” he says.
That realisation – and the £1000 prize money in his pocket – led him to Offbeat Records on the Royal Mile, which collaborates with and promotes solo artists. “I joined them a couple of months after Edinburgh’s Got Talent and I started working on writing and producing songs,” he says. “It’s been a good year of experience. I felt I couldn’t go out to sing with the copycat karaoke tracks. I want to have as much credibility as a singer as possible.
“I go in with a song and a melody that I prefer and Iain McKenna from Offbeat Records helps make it into a track.”
So far, Gavin has written and recorded four songs, with his latest single, Get It On Tonight, being released earlier this week. He has big plans for the coming year, including bringing out an album.
More ambitiously, he wants to break into the European market. “I’m going all out to get myself known in the music industry,” says Gavin. “I want to hit the markets in Europe – Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Get It On Tonight is definite Europop, so I will be pushing to get some air play.
“The album is a work in progress at the moment. Every time I do a new song I feel it’s completely different to the last song so I need to get a collection.”
He adds: “Next year, I want to keep working on the album and generally enjoying myself. I’m not getting myself stressed and I’m keeping it fun because the minute it stops being fun, there’s no point.”
However he admits to feeling the pressure of facing his biggest gig yet when this Friday he performs at the Playhouse for this year’s Edinburgh’s Got Talent final.
The glittering show will be a far cry from his last public performance at Lasswade Primary – where he was a judge at the school’s talent competition. “It has been a wee while since I have been on the stage – especially a big stage – so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ll be debuting Get It On Tonight so I’m really hoping it will go down well.
“I’m a bit nervous because the audience will be bigger than last year and the standard is really high. I feel there is a certain pressure on me because I have still got to show that I’m good enough to have won last year’s competition. There’s a bit of added pressure with doing my own song, but it’s exciting as well.”
The final will see 11 performers battle it out to impress judges and become winner of Edinburgh’s Got Talent 2011.
So what is Gavin’s advice to ensure they stand out against their competitors?
“I would say to make the right song selection in the final,” he says, reflecting back on his own choice of Human by The Killers. “You have got to appeal to people, as well as being yourself. But don’t let it be the be all and end all. You get to perform on the Playhouse stage – that should be prize enough on its own.”
And just who does he think the winner will be? Gavin refuses to be drawn. “I know a few acts in it this year which is quite nice, but it means I can’t be seen to support one of them... however I have given the acts I like a vote.”