Interview: Diana Vickers
Interview: Diana Vickers
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Tuesday, 20, Apr 2010 03:51
A semi-finalist on the same series of The X Factor that launched the careers of Alexandra Burke and JLS - oh, and Eoghan Quigg, responsible for "the worst album in the history of recorded sound", according to Popjustice - Diana Vickers might have been expected to fade from memory like so many of the also-rans of the Simon Cowell hit template.
Instead, she took her time, landing a record deal with RCA which sparked songwriting work with the likes of Lightspeed Champion and Brit winner Ellie Goulding as well as winning over critics and theatregoers in an acclaimed London run in the stage production of Little Voice.
With her debut single Once on course to top the charts, the former X Factor contestant and West End starlet tells Lewis Bazley about creativity, discovering sushi and 'the claw'.
Where did the album title, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree, come from?
Basically, I wrote a song called The Boy Who Murdered Love and there's a line in there about a tainted cherry tree and I found it very poetic. It painted imagery of the forbidden fruit and Adam and Eve and this boy that's absolutely beautiful and so tempting but so wrong for you! [laughs]
Is that from personal experience?
I think it's a lot of people's experience, you know, bad boys.
Do you think the album will surprise people after your X Factor performances?
Yeah, on X Factor I just did covers every week and I had a folky voice so I think people will hopefully be quite pleasantly surprised! It's quite synthy and up-tempo.
Is the album who you really are, rather than who you could have been packaged as?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Time was the best thing for me, I got to be creative, write, explore different sounds and work with different producers so my album has Diana Vickers all over it.
You've got writing credits on almost every song but you've worked with some pretty amazing people too - the single's Cathy Dennis and Eg White but you've also got Lightspeed Champion on there. How did that come about? His isn't a name you'd instantly associate with your musical style.
I know! [laughs] We met at a book reading and we got chatting and had a glass of wine - I was telling him I played the trumpet. - and yeah, we just agreed to meet up and write and that was a really good experience. [The song we wrote] is very cute and different from the rest of the album.
And how was working with Ellie Goulding? This was before she'd won a Brit, right?
Yep, it was before she'd even been signed! I wrote three songs with Ellie and I love every single one of them, she's a fun girl.
Can you see why she's already had a Brit award?
Definitely! She's got a lot of great ideas, she's very creative and very good at what she does.
The Once video is very poppy, with you in a variety of outfits - how do you feel about being portrayed in such a sexy way?
I think it's about the song! Whatever the song needs, the video has to do. Once is quite a fierce, rocky song, and I think the video has to reflect that and paint an image. I just had fun with the video, I wanted it to have a 'bam!' feeling 'cos I've not been around for a while and needed to come back with something big and bright.
Have your musical tastes changed since the X Factor?
I've explored different things - since moving to London I've done that! For example, I didn't know what sushi was or heard of a Wagamamas! [laughs] I've definitely broadened. I've been listening to 80s stuff, Yeasayer, Mumford and Sons, Kings of Leon, but I love to mix it up a bit.
Would finishing higher in the X Factor have affected the sound you came out with and given you less freedom?
Maybe, that's something I'll never know. If you win, there's a time limit, you have to get out there... maybe second would have been different, who knows?
You're a pop artist but haven't come straight off the X Factor conveyor belt, you've had time away. But do you think the show is good for music as a whole?
Definitely. At the end of the day, some people have famous dads and can become famous singers quite easily, some people gig and gig for years and get spotted at the right place at the right time and work their ass off, and some people live in little towns and don't have any connections and use reality TV shows. People love these shows and as much as people might be against them, you can't avoid them. I think it's a great platform - I came from Blackburn, I was 16, I was lost, I didn't want to go to university, I wanted to sing and [The X Factor] was so accessible.
A producer told you in you early time on the show "I can't figure out if your voice is really odd or really good" - is that fair?
Yeah, definitely! [laughs]
Has your voice always been like that? It's not the kind of vocal you expect from a tiny blonde girl.
Yeah, I've always had a distinctive voice, I think when you get older your voice changes and I started listening to the Cranberries and more folky things and that influences the way you go about your technique. I think my voice has changed a lot since X Factor, it's a lot stronger.
Has your performance style changed as well? Are you still doing the 'claw' hand movements that people joked about?
On the X Factor, I'd never performed before in my life, whereas some of JLS were already in boybands, Alexandra [Burke] had already done X Factor and her profession was gigging, the same with Ruth [Lorenzo]... I had no idea about any of it! [laughs] All I knew is that I wanted to sing but I've got my own album out, I did my tour recently and I can perform more confidently now, as Diana. On X Factor I was crapping myself every week! [laughs]
You've also done some live performing with your recent West End run in Little Voice - would you like to return to the stage in the future?
Definitely, I'd love to do a serious piece, a straight acting role.
How did you find your Water Rats show last month, as your debut London performance?
I was absolutely cacking myself! [laughs] Every night on the tour I had butterflies in my stomach, I felt sick. but so excited too! I was shaking but I looked out at the Water Rats audience and saw my friends and Marc Warren from Little Voice and I knew it was a big deal.
And are you excited for playing V this summer?
Yeah, it's bloody brilliant! [laughs] Can't wait, but I'm gutted I'm not on the same day as Kings of Leon! Maybe if I mention it enough in interviews they'll change it! They're my motivational music before I go on stage.
By Lewis Bazley.
Diana Vickers' debut single Once is out now, with her album Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree released on May 3rd.
Diana Vickers' May 2010 UK tour dates in full are:
8th May - Liverpool, O2 Academy
9th May - Oxford, O2 Academy
10th May - Cambridge, Junction
12th May - London, Scala
14th May - Wolverhampton, Wulfrun
16th May - Norwich, Waterfront
17th May - Sheffield, Leadmill
19th May - Manchester, Academy 2
20th May - Edinburgh, The Queens Hall
24th May - Cardiff, Millenium Hall
JLS support dates in full:
July 15 - Warwick Castle, Warwick
July 16 - Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
July 17 - Escot Park, Devon
July 18 - Sound City Festival, Peterborough
July 24 - Ynysangharad Memorial Park, Wales
July 25 - Quex park, Kent