One of 2012's most surprising musical turn-ups has to be the debut material from Aiden Grimshaw. He placed ninth in X Factor 2010 and was mostly remembered for being a bit weird and singing 'Mad World' on the TV show.
Fast forward a couple of years and Aiden Grimshaw is premiering his debut single 'Is This Love' to huge critical acclaim (and surprise). An unexpectedly brilliant indie-pop track, mixing drum'n'bass influences with a touch of trip-hop, his debut album is similarly packed with excellent tracks which prove that credibility is not out of the question for a reality TV contestant. Ahead of the release of 'Is This Love', we spoke to Aiden Grimshaw about his time on X Factor, appealing to a credible audience, why he keeps his face hidden from fans and how he ruined Christmas for an entire shopping centre...
Hello there Aiden Grimshaw. How has it felt to get such a positive reaction to your music?
It's been good. I suppose you try not to follow it too much, so I just take everything as it comes, especially having been on the X Factor you know that as quickly as you can rise you can fall again. I'm enjoying it. I was nervous at first - I felt like a dad who had a schoolgirl who was just about to start secondary school and over the summer she'd just grown massive boobs, and you're not sure you want to let it go. But it's been good. I don't think we could have asked for any more.
Do you think you've taken people by surprise with your music?
I think so - I hope so. I think the stereotype is that I was on X Factor, didn't come in the top three, people have forgotten me a little bit, then they hear this song and I reckon at least 50% of radios would be turned off, with people saying 'screw this'. At the time I had written loads of songs that I thought were really good but i'd go home and show my friends and i'd be cringing at the bit that was coming up that sounded a bit crap or whatever but with this I feel like everything is cool.
Who's idea was it to get the 'diva' in on 'Curtain Call'?
When I wrote it, it was just me on a distorted mic and I had to do mental things to be able to hit that note. My producer went to see Wretch 32 and she was his backing singer. He called me up at the end of the gig saying, 'I've found her man, i've found her, we've gotta get this girl!' She came down to the studio and smashed it - which is pretty good.
Who is she?
She's actually Labrinth's sister, ShezAr. We found her at a gig smashing it. I think they've got a pretty huge, talented family.
What of your own music tastes are reflected in the album?
I didn't think about that as much. I went through a weird stage of not wanting to listen to any music, and I was thinking that if I listened to music i'd steal other people's ideas - I don't know why. I listened to Eva Cassidy a little bit, that's all I listened to. After i'd written it and showed it to my friends, the influences become clear and when I listen to it back I can hear a lot of my dad's indie-punk he'd have on after a night out that i'd have to listen to from my bedroom because he'd have it on at full blast. I listen to a lot of Moby - and you can definitely hear a Moby influence on there.
The album is great - but there's not much 'fun' to be found. Where's your joy Aiden Grimshaw?
It's not fun, but some 'fun' music isn't fun either! I'm only 20 so I haven't done much yet. I was on the X Factor but you can't really write a whole album about that. The one thing that I have done is be in love and then break up with somebody. It's not a fun album, but it is supposed to be feelgood. If you listen to the whole album all the way through it's kinda the same theme of 'if this is real love then all your problems are irrelevant'. Life is worth living but love is worth everything - quote from me there. So as you can see, i'm quite an easygoing person, don't think too much, I like bright colours and Playdough.
How do you feel about discussing something as personal as a break up on your album?
I was thinking last night, maybe this is too moody. I was watching a video of myself last night from the Great Escape, checking if I was alright or cringeworthy, and that was the first time I realised it's not a first hand scenario of how I feel right now, it's just what I was thinking about at the time and I think that everyone goes through something like this.
Does having been on X Factor make you more comfortable watching yourself perform?
No. No no no no no. I didn't used to like watching myself back on the X Factor, especially because you had that whole bit of talking afterwards where i'd turn into a weirdo who couldn't say anything. I've never been a massive fan of watching myself perform. I'm my biggest critic. If I ever do anything that's even a little bit out i'm devastated for the rest of the night.
Whose opinion do you get when it comes to your new tracks?
My friends and my dad. They're all pretty blunt really. Over two years i've gone back to play them tracks and they've just said 'NO' to some of them. With the album, they all seem to like it, all support it. I brought my dad up to London to see my flat for the first time after i'd finished the album. I got him a bit pissed and put it on. I was in my own world dancing about, I was smashed, and I turned around and my uncle and dad were in it, they were 'in the vibe'. It was amazing.
Is your music geared towards the fans you have, and brought from your time on X Factor, or do you have a whole new audience in mind?
I think to still have support from X Factor is massive, but the people who do follow me most on Twitter wouldn't want to be known as X Factor fans. I think I was quite lucky on the show, being the weird rebel one, maybe the guy who shouldn't have been on there. I think the people who follow me and show support are just cool people who like music and the only thing i've tried to do with the album is make good, honest music. Hopefully they'll like it - and I don't think they'll be the same people as they were two years ago. All the ones who were a bit young will be a bit older now anyway.
Do you think it's a benefit having a huge army of fans who want to have sex with you?
I suppose it's good! It means you can't post many pictures of yourself online though because they'll catch on to the truth. We're just talking pictures of my face here by the way. They'll see the truth and think 'I don't really like him any more'. And don't be in your video - because all your fans will still think you're hot.
Are you prepared for inevitable criticism of your attempt to be a 'credible' artist?
I think you'll always get that. Already i've had a few comments 'Aiden's trying to do drum'n'bass - what does he think he's doing' but people just need to get past the whole X Factor thing. We haven't tried to do anything here, just taken our time and done something that feels comfortable. The songs didn't have 12 people sat in a room writing it, i'd just turn up to the studio after having scrambled eggs on toast, take a pack of mints. I'd say 'i've got this idea' and we'd take it from there. It doesn't feel like we've pushed for anything, I haven't sat in a room saying 'I was on X Factor - so now I should make some bad-man drum'n'bass so everyone thinks i'm a bad-man'. We just wrote some songs.
Have you had any negative stuff yet?
I do try to keep away from it to be honest, but there's been a bit. I had a Tweet saying: 'Just listened to Aiden Grimshaw's song - it sounds nothing like Aiden Grimshaw'. There's been talk about me sounding nothing like X Factor, but I think if people hold on for the album, there'll be songs they like.
What's been the worst or least professionally appropriate offer that's been put your way?
To be honest, it was more a case of me running around trying to find people to work with. I did only come ninth on the X Factor after all. People are wary of it. I didn't have many offers at all. It was more about doing the nitty gritty and finding people who were willing to get rid of a few points of street cred and work with the guy who sang 'Mad World' on TV. We did a few racecourses and gigs, earned a bit of money here and there but I didn't get any requests. I did do a Christmas thing straight after the X Factor where I had to sing carols, I got there and was like 'what kind of carols?' and they gave me the sheets of paper with lyrics on. When I went to sing them I had to do it with jazz backing tracks in the middle of a shopping centre. Aiden Grimshaw ruins Christmas with light-jazz carols...
Do you think you would have stood a better chance on X Factor if you'd been in a different year?
Not so much. I think any other year I wouldn't have even got through. I felt odd in the competition, I didn't feel like I fit. It was such a high year for talent I think they were looking for someone who was just a great singer. There were some really cool people on that year, like Matt Cardle. I don't think I could have picked someone better than him to share a beer with and just say 'this is f***ing mental, isn't it?'
Do you still see much of Matt?
Yeah, we did share the same local pub. I just found out today that it's been closed down. I'm going to have to find a new place to go drinking now.
Who do you think is the best ever X Factor contestant?
I'm going back over every year now in my mind - because i've watched it forever. I'm going to go for... My favourite ever? I must have one. I quite liked Wagner to be honest. He was cool. I'd probably go for Danyl Johnson for a little bit but everyone started hating him. Actually - new favourite one - was the woman who got to bootcamp in my year, I forget her name she was Chinese. I remember being sat there and she was just rolling around on the floor and I saw her whole vaginal area. I think I was sat next to Zayn from One Direction at the time.
Are we right to assume that you have not yet tired of talking about the X Factor yet?
No. I love it. I think it's the best thing i've ever done. I was a bit of a cynic before I went on it and now I realise, to anyone who goes on it and gets on it, it is a huge opportunity. You can say it ruins the industry or whatever but I don't think you do. One Direction have smashed the whole world. Rebecca's doing well, Matt did well. It's just a massive opportunity. I used to serve pizza and get £10 tips a night and thought I was a millionaire and that was it for the rest of my life. I'd be a pizza server who occasionally did extra jobs. Now, i've got to do what I wanted to do thanks to being on the telly.
Thank you very much. Aiden Grimshaw releases 'Is This Love' on 3 June, 2012.