It's been a while since Blackpool's Aiden Grimshaw was on The X Factor. Ahead of releasing his debut album, Misty Eyes, on August 20, he tells Andy Welch about his career so far, leaving
talent-show TV behind and his forthcoming UK tour.
The last time most people saw Aiden Grimshaw was almost two years ago during the X Factor live shows.
His final performance was Elton John's Rocket Man, sporting an outfit and giant quiff every bit as engineered as the platform (made of two grand pianos) he was standing on.
Today, he's hard to spot in a busy London restaurant, only the woolly hat he's wearing - it's scorching outside - stealing any attention away from all the other good-looking-if-unremarkable diners.
"I don't get recognised anymore," he says, convincingly.
"I did, after I'd been on X Factor and we'd all been on the tour. I was 18 when I was on the show, and part of me loved getting spotted, to the point where I'd be disappointed if people didn't
notice me and I'd find myself putting my best clothes on at 10 in the morning to go and get a bacon butty.
"That was just stupid, and a pain, so I stopped with all that, and the quiff was cut off. Now no one bats an eyelid."
Whether he bored of the attention, or whether his image change was part of a wider plan to leave behind the ITV behemoth is another matter. Since February this year, when Grimshaw announced he
would be releasing solo material, he and his management have been on a positioning offensive.
While other former X Factor contestants perform in plush London venues and talk of their starry collaborators, Grimshaw has performed in a number of indie cesspits, been spotted at numerous other
gigs and been interviewed by normally credibility-conscious publications who wouldn't touch an X Factor contestant with one of Simon Cowell's gold-plated bargepoles.
"Part of it is deliberate, I suppose, just to make sure everyone knows there's a difference between what I did on X Factor and what I do now. You need to be clear, I think," he admits.
"But it works both ways. When we sent samplers of my album out to journalists, it was my idea not to have a name on them, because it's a natural thing for people to pre-judge the former
contestants, expect them to sound a certain way and write them off before they've heard them."
The contents of the CD, then, are rewarding. There are ballads, yes, but not the dreary, over-produced sort that appeared on, say, Matt Cardle's album.
The sparse title track could be a song by James Blake, debut single Is This Love is the epic, air-grabbing pop Hurts do so well, while the rest of the album is full of angst and bitter heartbreak.
"We started the album in November, and we were finished by February," he says, the 'we' being Grimshaw and Australian songwriter and producer Jarrad Rogers, who most recently worked with Lana Del
After trying with several other producers, Grimshaw met Rogers and clicked, deciding he wanted to record the whole album with one other collaborator rather than a different producer for each track,
as so many of his contemporaries do.
"When we first started you could say I was a bit of a pain in the arse," he admits.
"I didn't know how to get my ideas across, so I'd just say no to everything. Eventually I learned how to speak up, and that just because we might be disagreeing in the studio, it's not a row.
"But that's to do with getting older. I'm 20 now. It's not that old, I know, but the past two years have been big, important years."
He goes on to explain how he moved to London shortly after X Factor and, after spending two miserable weeks in a hotel, found a place of his own in west London.
"I couldn't cook or clean or anything, but I've learned how to do all that.
"I think it's all helped me feel like I'm not in this X Factor bubble anymore. I never much liked how crazy all that was."
Aware of how that might sound, he corrects himself, saying the show is the most amazing opportunity you can be given, just that the intense spotlight shone upon him wasn't to his taste.
"I mean, how could it be a bad thing, though? Before I was on X Factor I was working in Pizza Hut, and my idea of a good night was if I could eat a few handfuls of chocolate raisins from the ice
cream station without the manager seeing me," he says.
He adds: "I think I could've used the show to get a No 1 single and an OK album, but I didn't want that, I wanted an album that was great from start to finish, like all the albums I love, and
that's what I think we've done."
He can't wait to get out on the road and perform, something he's been doing since his early teens, but this will be the first time he's toured with his own material.
Back when he was 13, three visits a week to drama school provided salvation from regular education, where he was "a bit too chubby to be good at football", and due to his unfashionable choice of
footwear, never a hit with the ladies either.
"I've sung a lot in public, in Grease and things like that, but nothing like my own tour. Now I've worked out what to do on stage, I feel at home.
"I've got all my family and friends coming to my show in Manchester, there's talk of hiring a coach," he says, before laughing and adding: "I've yet to break it to them I'm not getting them free
Extra time - Aiden Grimshaw
:: Aiden Samuel Grimshaw was born on December 4, 1991, in Blackpool, Lancashire.
:: He attended St Mary's Catholic College in Blackpool, as well as the Michael Hall Theatre School.
:: Aiden appeared on X Factor in 2010, singing Kanye West's Gold Digger in his first audition.
:: He made it through to the live shows before voted off in the sixth week after losing a sing-off to Katie Waissel.
:: Prior to X Factor, he played Tom Holmes in an episode of CBBC Show Half Moon Investigations, a series based on the books of Eoin Colfer.
19 - Bristol O2 Academy 2
20 - Nottingham Rescue Rooms
22 - Northampton Roadmender
23 - Bournemouth The Old Firestation
24 - Brighton Concorde 2
26 - Birmingham O2 Academy 2
27 - Glasgow King Tuts
28 - Leeds Cockpit
30 - Manchester Academy 3
1 - Oxford Academy 2
2 - London Scala Ends
:: Aiden Grimshaw's debut album Misty Eye is out on Monday, August 20