Being catapulted into the spotlight via reality TV can take its toll on a person, and after 10 years in the biz, X Factor sensation Rebecca Ferguson became disillusioned with music. The Liverpudlian singer explains how Nile Rodgers reignited her love for music and helped her re-find the balance.
Ten years ago, a shy singer from Liverpool forced herself to step onto The X Factor audition stage, putting her fate into the hands of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger. Eyes down, Rebecca Ferguson’s version of A Change Is Gonna Come may have been hindered slightly by nerves, but what shone through was her unmistakable smoky tone, which Cowell praised as sounding like a true “recording voice”. It was enough to see Ferguson all the way through to runner up of the series, which went on to change the course of her life.
“It's mad! I've changed so much since then,” says Ferguson in her unmistakable Liverpudlian accent. “I feel more settled now. I look at that Rebecca, and I can't relate to it no more. I wasn't that mature, and I was trying to be mature, but really I had a lot of growing to do. When I look at that [audition], I just think I needed to have an injection of self confidence and self love. I'm just not that person anymore.”
Unpretentious and completely unchanged by fame, Ferguson is down to earth and unguarded on the phone, often starting sentences with “to be honest,” regularly poking fun at herself, and laughing heartily. Despite her success and the number of critically-acclaimed albums under her belt, you can’t help but feel that you’re speaking to a woman who still can’t quite believe her luck.
“I was so skinny then!” she laughs, thinking back to her audition. “Do you know what? I've still got the dress hanging up in my wardrobe. I don't think I'd get it on one leg now! But I do look back and I'm proud of it and how far I've come. I'm not gonna lie, it was really scary – but I knew it was one of these opportunities that I needed to just get on with and get over the nerves.”
Admitting that she had “the worst stage fright ever” at the audition, Ferguson was determined to see it through:
“I tried my best but actually I was looking down. As the show went on I started to believe in myself more and more, but it was a process. It's absolutely petrifying getting on that stage, but I literally just told myself: get on there and face it. Because if you don't, you're going to get kicked off the show.”
The X Factor final saw her duet with a vocally intimidating Christina Aguilera on a rendition of Beautiful – probably the only time Aguilera had been introduced so endearingly in a thick, Scouse accent.
“I remember it actually!” she laughs. “At the rehearsals, they were like, ‘Rebecca, sing!’ But I was too busy staring at her like a super-fan. Sometimes you see those duets – which is the right way to duet – but they seem like they're having a sing-off. I just thought, ‘I can't compete; there's no way I'm about to start trying to do this.”