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Sam Bailey: ‘I want to see Sharon in a prison officer uniform’

By Will Stroude

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After weeks of blowing us away with incredible diva ballads, it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when former prison officer Sam Bailey was crowned X Factor champ last year. The show’s best female vocalist since Leona (sorry Burko!) is already gearing up to release her debut album, The Power of Love next month, so we caught up with her to see how she’s been getting along.

The last few months must have been crazy for you! What have you been up to?
Well, I’ve had a few gigs: I’ve done Twickenham, I’ve done the Leicester City game, I did G-A-Y on New Year’s Eve – that was pretty cool! I’ve just taken every day as it comes, and I’ve really been concentrating on getting the album out and making sure it’s the best it can be.

Have you finished recording it?
Yeah, the album’s recorded – it’s just the mastering and the mixing now, and then afterwards it’s the photo shoots and stuff. I’m very excited!

You’ve got a mixture of covers and original songs on there: is it going to be power ballad-heavy?
Yeah, there’s new material and duets as well [as covers], but there’s light and shade to my vocals on the album too. Every song has been sung with every ounce of energy and emotion, and there are a few tracks where I’ve literally been reduced to tears while singing. I’m really, really looking forward to people hearing it, and hopefully they will feel the emotion as much as I do.

Would you have liked more time to work on the album or are you glad to get it straight out there?
No, I like the fact that I’m sort of fresh on people’s minds really, you know? I think they’ve sort of made that mistake in the past where they’ve left it for too long, and by that time people have lost interest in that person. I think it’s a great time to get an album out, while people are still raving about the show. There’s no time like the present. Life’s too short to be waiting around for things, do it while you can!

You were the first ‘Over’ to win The X-Factor since Steve Brookstein in 2004. Why do you think the Overs have traditionally struggled and what do you think set you apart from that?
I think it does help to work a back-story into these sorts of things. I think people warm to me because I’m a mum-of-two in a relatively unusual job from the norm – and the fact that I’ve been singing for so many years as well. So many people singing out there have got dreams and aspirations and they’ve always been worried about coming forward and fulfilling those dreams. I’ve given people hope, I’ve killed the curse of the over 25s, if you will! If I could go back and do anything, the only thing I would do differently in the competition is sing all my songs again because I totally destroyed them! But that’s just me all over. I’m very self-critical.

As a viewer, it was quite apparent that you were the one to beat: was there a moment when you thought to yourself ‘I’ve got a chance to win this thing’?
I never ever thought that for a second! The whole time from week one I set myself a little target, ‘I’ve got to make it to next week’ – and the same on week two and week three and so forth. I only ever wanted to get to the final, because once you’ve got to the final it’s out of your hands, it’s just down to the general public. At the same time, it was being written in all the papers that I was a ‘sure thing’ – well, that became the bane of my life really, because wherever I went in the house they’d all make jokes about it, like, ‘Oh here she comes, the winner of The X-Factor’.  I felt uncomfortable about it. I think anyone would feel like that.

Was it hard to deal with that pressure?
Not just the pressure. I found it quite embarrassing. It’s hard when you’re in a house with people you really do love and all you hear in the paper is ‘Sam Bailey is going to win the competition’. I never thought I would win it because I thought people would vote hundreds of times more for Nicky.

It caused some controversy when Louis said in the final that he wanted you to win even though he was mentoring Nicholas. Was that awkward for you?
I didn’t really know what he said if I’m honest. When you’re up on that stage and you’ve got the roar from the crowd and there’s so much going on, a lot of the time you just end up nodding along! It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised what he’d said – and I was completely and utterly shocked by what he said. If I’d heard what he said at the time, knowing me I would have probably said something. I did when he said, ‘Oh Tamera should take some pointers from you’. I came straight back and said something, because I felt uncomfortable about it. To get a comment like that was being a bit horrible to her so I felt the need to stick up for her a little bit.

Are you enjoying the limelight and all these glam celeb events you’re invited to now – like last year’s Attitude Awards?
I’m still quite star-struck to be honest! I still get very star-struck going to all these celebrity parties.

Is there anyone who’s particularly stunned you into silence?
I think Ant and Dec and Danny Dyer! I saw Mr. Big as well! Oh my gosh, and I had like a real – I’m going to say it – a wanker moment. Basically a wanker moment is when you meet somebody that’s famous and, well, I’ll give you an example. I met Jason Donovan at The X-Factor and instead of going up to him and saying ‘Hello Jason, I’m a huge fan and it’s really nice to meet you,’ I went up to him and just started singing Especially for You! And that, my dear, is a wanker moment. I’ve had quite a lot of them, to the point that I’ve had to hide to hide myself away if there are famous people around in the fear of having another!

Have you been in touch with Mrs O. since the show?
Yeah, she texts all the time, but I keep forgetting the time difference so I phone her at about four o’clock in the morning! I’m not in trouble over it, but she has to keep reminding me! Kelly Osbourne has been in touch as well. But you know, Sharon’s busy – she’s got her own stuff and she’s being a grandparent as well. Fair play to her.

We’re desperate to know whether Sharon would make a good prison officer.
Oh my God, she’d be amazing! I’d love to see her in a prison officer uniform, that would be unbelievable! She’d tell ‘em straight, she would. She could do blockades couldn’t she? It would be brilliant.

Have you had any fan mail from old inmates?
No, no, not that I know of! Thankfully not, it would be completely awkward!

You’re known for being a big Michael Bolton fan – but who are your other musical icons or people you’d love to work with?
Gary Barlow. Oh and Celine Dion! I got to meet her. I was absolutely blown away by meeting Celine. I nearly had a wanker moment, but I kind of held it together! I was so close to becoming a completely obsessed wanker fan.

You didn’t sing My Heart Will Go On at her, did you?
Hahaha no! Well, I’d been told that I was going to meet her about 15 minutes beforehand, so I had time to sort of like gather myself and not be an idiot that time!

The Power of Love by Sam Bailey is out March 24.