Joe McElderry - Popstar, Operastar, West End Star!

Josh Barrie

"Tommy is a big role to take on, but it’s fun to do because it’s fun music." - Joe McElderry

Joe McElderry’s been busy! Since winning the X-Factor in 2009 he’s had a number one single, released four albums, won Popstar to Operastar and now he’s gearing up to take the lead in a special performance of ‘Tommy’ in London’s West End. Thankfully he found time to catch up with London Calling’s Josh Barrie to tell us all about it.


LC: Tommy is very different to what has gone before for you. How are you finding the stage? Could this be the start of a glittering West End career?

JM: Well, this is a one-off show – so I don’t know if they’re any plans afterwards. But for me, being my first big stage production it’s quite good because it means I can dip my toe in and see how it feels. Tommy is a big role to take on, but it’s fun to do because it’s fun music. It’s quite rocky, but it’s still quite ‘poppy’ in terms of musical theatre. It’s great to do and I’m really enjoying it.

In terms of future roles, it’s almost a definite that I will do something eventually. But it’s about doing the right show at the right time – when I can commit fully to something long-term. I don’t want to take on a role where I’m going to have to keep missing four shows a week and have to go off somewhere else. I’m sure at some point there will be an opportunity for a six-month show and I’ll say, ‘yes, let’s do it!’ but for now, Tommy is perfect. It’s a fantastic insight into theatre and I can give it my all as it’s a short-term thing. And theatre is great to able to expand and develop as an artist, and not be ‘put in a box’ by the media and industry.

LC: Besides doing Tommy, your new album came out in September and you’ve got a single out later this month. How are you finding juggling the recent release with a theatre production?

JM: Yes, there’s is a lot going on, and it’s quite weird because I’m in Tommy world one minute, and then I have to step out suddenly and I’m me again, doing my own music. But it’s fun and I like being hectic.

LC: This is your fourth album since winning X Factor. What can you tell us about it? How have you progressed as an artist?

JM: Firstly, it’s very personal. I’ve drawn a lot on personal experiences: friendships; break-ups; that sort of thing. It wasn’t even deliberate to be honest – it just came about that way. It’s a very emotional, heartfelt album, but there are uplifting songs on it as well. I’ve been really creatively involved, more than any of the others I think, because of the song writing. It’s the first time I’ve done any writing, so it felt like my ‘baby’ and I’ve been very protective of it. It’s been a long process, but it’s so much more rewarding to go out there and perform my own material.

LC: You’ve recorded classical material as well as pop and operatic songs. Where does this album fall in terms of musical expression?

JM: I would say it’s pop, definitely pop. I went back to what people knew me for originally on this album. I felt that as all the albums that have gone before have been either X Factor or Christmas themed, I wanted to just do an album because I could. And I could put whatever I wanted onto it. It was exciting to record. I had loads of fun making it and it’s one I definitely needed to do to develop as an artist.

LC: You’ve played all over London – doing Tommy at the moment means you’re here for a period again. Where are your favourite places to perform in the capital and what impressions do you get while here?

JM: I’ve played very different venues across London: St James’ Church; the O2; Wembley; the Royal Festival Hall. I enjoyed performing at all of them.

St James’ Church was really beautiful to do the album launch, although I was worried we were going to blow the windows out at one point! But it was lovely to play such an intimate gig – the atmosphere was incredible. Obviously everyone wants to say they’ve played at the O2. It’s a great venue to perform in – it’s quite daunting but the buzz you get is incredible; much like Wembley. There’s something brilliant about Wembley when the crowd shouts… It’s a like a roar.

London seems to be painted as the town where you’ve got to work really hard to get the audiences on their feet. But I’ve always found them really enthusiastic. Maybe that’s because they’ve come to see me so you’d expect it, but whenever I’ve come on stage and said ‘hello London’ or something, it’s always been special – there’s something grand about London. It feels very different to any other city. I must mention though that Newcastle is still my favourite place to play, of course!

LC: Any exciting plans for the future?

JM: We’re discussing a tour at the moment, but nothing’s decided – it’s still early days. I’d love to get back on the road – that’s my favourite part of this industry really. We’ll have to see.


Joe McElderry appears as Tommy at The Prince Edward Theatre on Monday 12 November. The concert performance is in aid of the Pure Theatre Development Fund. To book tickets click here.

His album, Here’s What I Believe, is out now under Decca Records.

Image: Dean Freeman

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