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Sam Bailey: “this time around I’m in control”

Submitted by on May 27, 2017 – 7:24 pmNo Comment

Sam Bailey 4Almost three years since becoming one of the oldest contestants to win The X Factor, former prison officer Sam Bailey is going back on the road – and she promises it will be completely different from her last tour.

That’s because she has left X Factor boss Simon Cowell’s record company after feeling “like a puppet” and is now taking control not only of her career but also her life.

“At the end of the day I’ve got three children and record labels work to a time frame. I wanted to be able to say when I wanted to work, when I wanted to take my kids to a park or take them out for dinner. I love the fact that I’ve now got that freedom.”

On her Sing My Heart Out tour she will be accompanied by three backing vocalists who she has known for several years. She will also be spending as much time as possible with her family. And she is running a competition to give artists the chance to support her at one of the venues.

In a frank interview she said she was not concerned about anyone upstaging her – she simply wanted to give something back after being given a “wonderful opportunity” to pursue her own career. Can you imagine Simon Cowell agreeing to that?

Winning the television talent show and a £1million recording contract led to her single Skyscraper hitting the top of the Christmas charts while her debut album The Power of Love – named after the Jennifer Rush song which Sam covered – went to number one in the album charts. It sold more than 72,000 copies in its first week.

But despite her first tour being a sell-out, Sam had no say in the direction her career was going.

“I was like a deer in headlights. All these people came along with clipboards and said ‘right, we’re gonna get these guys to do this and this is what we think you should wear’. I was pretty much like a puppet.

“I’m really looking forward to having that freedom on stage and letting go a little bit”

“It was fantastic working with those people but this time it’s going to be a little bit more comfortable. I’m going to be doing stuff that I want to do rather than stuff that people suggest. I’d just go ‘yeah, okay, we’ll do that because you know better than I do’.

“This time around I’m in a bit more control so I’m really looking forward to having that freedom on stage and letting go a little bit. And because I’ve had a bit more experience in the last couple of years it’s a lot easier for me now whereas before I was a little bit nervous. Now I’m itching to get on stage.”

Sam will be choosing the songs that she’ll sing on her new tour as well as having her own backing singers and musicians. She’ll be promoting her album Sing My Heart Out – she co-wrote most of the songs and it was released on her own label towards the end of last year.

Despite a stratospheric rise through winning The X Factor, Sam maintains the down-to-earth persona that endears her to millions of people. She says she doesn’t have the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle – “I like to be in bed by half ten with a cup of Horlicks”, although being with the backing singers who she’s known for years might change that.

Sam Bailey 1“We might go for a meal at one o’clock in the morning,” she jests. “I wanted them with me to showcase them because they’re amazing performers. It’s important to have people around me that I trust.”

Samantha Florence Bailey was born on 29 June 1977 in Bexley, south east London. Her grandfather was a singer in a group called The Four Vinos and her father was also in a band.

Although she won a Search For A Star talent contest in Crayford when she was 16, her first love was football. She played professionally for a number of clubs including Millwall, West Ham and Crystal Palace.

After that she became a prison officer, working at Gartree in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. But she was also singing, performing on cruise ships, in clubs and at music festivals.

She first auditioned for The X Factor in 2007 but didn’t get past the first round. However, in 2013 she raced to victory, with Gary Barlow describing her voice as “incredible”.

So what happened in the intervening six years? Sam who still speaks with a southern accent says her win was probably because she had more experience.

“I’ve learned so much in the last year, especially vocally. Six years is a long time to better yourself. I might not have been ready (in 2007) – they might have seen that in me.

“My dad was really poorly at the time – he was terminally ill. I never mentioned that to anyone because I didn’t want it to be a factor. Maybe they saw something in me that was just not ready. They saw the desperation the second time that I did it.”

“The show has the ability to make controversial decisions but that’s what people watch it for.”

The show has been criticised over the past few years for a drop in quality and a staid format. Simon Cowell’s flagship programme has been regularly trounced by the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings battle. But despite that Sam is a great believer in the saying “never bite the hand that feeds you”.

“I’ll never slate the show,” she says. “But I always say to people who watch the show or if they audition for it, just remember this: it’s a TV show before a talent competition.

“The show has the ability to make controversial decisions but that’s what people watch it for. No one watches EastEnders to see people doing normal things – they watch it to see people getting battered black and blue, for the adultery, all sorts of things. Then they talk about it.

“It’s exactly the same with The X Factor. It’s there for controversy. It’s happened before and it will always happen in that show. But people can’t stop watching it. I’m really proud to say that I was a part of it.”

Sam Bailey 2Last year her career moved in a different direction when she was cast as Mamma Morton in the UK tour of the musical Chicago alongside ex-EastEnders actor John Partridge and former soap actress Hayley Tamaddon.

“Playing a prison officer – where did they get that from?” she jokes.  “I loved doing musical theatre. It’s something I would definitely consider in the future. There are loads of shows that I would love to get my teeth into. The other cast members in Chicago taught me a lot and I’m very grateful.”

Back to the tour which will be more than 30 dates over three months. Sam who lives in Leicester is hoping she will be able to spend time with husband Craig and their children Tommy, Brooke and Miley. She has decided to take Easter off so that she can spend a couple of weeks with her family.

“I’m doing Sheffield and Nottingham which are not far from me – Sheffield is just over an hour and Nottingham is just over half an hour, so I’ll be going home on those dates.

“Being away on tour is tough but there’ll be dates when the kids can come along and watch the show or sit and ransack my dressing room and eat all my sweets and chocolates.

“The last time I toured Miley was only a baby. This time it’ll be a little bit easier, so we’re going to arrange to visit theme parks or farms that are close by. It’s going to be a real family kind of thing.”

Sam Bailey 7Sam says she will never forget her roots and empathises with many struggling artists who are looking for their big break. That’s why she’s giving performers a chance to share the stage with her.

“I’ve had that step up the ladder so I want to find people who are just like I was who don’t deserve to be singing in a corner of a pub where no one’s listening or in a social club where everyone’s waiting for the bingo.

“It doesn’t bother me if someone upstages me. It’s about giving someone an opportunity they deserve and that’s what I want to do. I would have loved someone to have done that to me 20-odd years ago.”

Artists who believe they are good enough for a support spot should upload a YouTube clip of themselves to Twitter and use the tag @SamBaileyREAL.

“It’s going to be hard but I’m going to enjoy it,” she says of the tour. “I’m going to soak it up and have a wonderful time.”

After the tour Sam, who doesn’t drink, will have a big bash to celebrate her 40th birthday before going on holiday to Florida.

Sam Bailey is proof that if you possess talent, work hard and have an engaging personality you can achieve great success with or without Simon Cowell.

* This article appeared in the February 2017 edition of Country Images magazine

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