Music Interviews

Interview: Rowetta

Interview: Rowetta

Eagle eyed Happy Mondays fans will have noticed a familiar face in the last series of ITV1’s hit show The X-Factor – former Mondays backing vocalist Rowetta Satchell made it through to the final four.

From getting thrown out the local choir at the age of eight to singing at Jordan’s wedding, she’s come a long way.

We caught up with her as she perpared to release her first solo album – and she’s not comparing it to work by Lennon & McCartney…
It has been a tumultuous journey accompanied by abusive relationships, rejections and latterly tabloid stories, but Rowetta has emerged with a refreshingly positive outlook on her life and career.

While X-Factor winner Steve Brookstein has experienced a media slaying, and runners up G4 have been enjoying chart success, fourth-place Rowetta has been busy laying down tracks for her eponymous debut album. “I wanted a diverse mix for the album,” the singer says of the work, which mixes cover versions of songs from artists including Oasis, The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, show tunes and three of her own tracks.

She recorded 39 tracks and struggled to narrow the track listing to 12, opting for 18 in the end. The selection process was tough. Although she had the chance to show off some of her own material in this dbut, not all her own songs made the grade. “Some of my songs were left out. I’m not Lennon and McCartney. I like doing covers,” she admits.

“I tried to think of the X-Factor fans and what they would like, they were the ones who voted for me and they are the ones who will buy the album,” she says and it is clear that Rowetta has not forgotten where she found her second chance at singing success. In fact, shes been visiting the series’ chat rooms, offering tips to wannabe candidates and asked fans to vote for songs they would like to hear on the album, with Somewhere and Over the Rainbow – two of the album’s strongest tracks – proving to be the most popular.

“I’m not Lennon & McCartney – I like doing covers.”
– Rowetta on the lack of her own songs on her album

Rowetta is an avid viewer of the new series as she’s writing a column about it for gossip mag, Reveal, and talks about it with as much enthusiasm as any regular fan. The ex-contestant is full of praise for the new candidates. “I dont know how theyre going to choose,” she exclaims, but identifies James Bellamy, the teenager who has the voice and look of a young Michael Jackson, as someone that has caught her eye.

She is indignant towards criticism that the X-Factor deliberately exploits those who are significantly less talented than herself or Bellamy. “People say its cruel but they know what to expect,” she says. She talks about Robert Unwin, the rejected chicken factory worker who stunned the judges with his dismal rendition of Tragedy. “Robert got to sing at the final. Only Steve and G4 got to sing at the final. All the contestants would have loved to be in his shoes. And he did brilliantly, knew all the words. Steve forgot his words.”

She does point out that auditionees have to make it through two rounds before they face judges Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, and says that this gave some of the candidates a sense that they are better than they really are. “But it makes good television”, she concedes.

Rowetta is always realistic about the nature of the X-Factor, referring to it often as a game: “Some people said that the judges’ egos got in the way but youve got to stand there and take it because its a television programme.” She has nothing but kind words for the panel, however: “I love them. I was very close to Simon, he said some lovely things to me. Sharon is a gem. She is just real. And Louis has done brilliantly, youve got to give him respect.”

She also defends her emotional outbursts on the show: “It’s difficult not being so emotional when you look into the audience and see your family. I tried to hold it back”. Fans of winner Steve would accuse her of being an attention seeker but she points out: “We’re all attention seekers, we’re on a show.”

“We’re all attention seekers, we’re on a TV show.”
– Rowetta on accusations that X-Factor contestants are just a bunch of show-offs.

Initially, she didn’t harbour ambitions to sing when she was a child. Although she would watch Top Of The Pops, it wasn’t the singers she aspired to become: “When I was younger I wanted to be in Pans People”. Her interest in singing began when she joined the choir at the age of eight because her friend was in it. She didn’t last, however, getting chucked out for being too loud. “I couldnt hold a tune,” she claims. At the age of 10 she entered a Butlins talent contest and Opportunity Knocks but failed to impress so forgot about singing seriously limiting her singing to the family, despite complaints from her mum.

But it was her mother, a Diana Ross fan, who led her to the next step in her singing career and introduced her to singing in pubs a couple of years later. “I loved singing, I loved the response” she says. Her school loved her singing too–so much that they would pick musicals especially for her to perform in, which gave her a confidence boost. She later won Manchester Evening News’ Search for a Star contest, which Lisa Stansfield won two years prior, and regular gigging in Working Men’s Clubs ensued. Not all her experiences were savoury: “I went to the British Legion Club, which had National Front graffiti all over it, but just had to get on with it because it was a job.”

Rowetta is clearly one of life’s troopers. Her road to success was halted when she met her ex-husband, whose abusive behaviour towards the singer has been well documented in the tabloids. Her appearance at Jordan’s wedding this month was a far cry from her own nuptials. “People say it was tacky but it was a real fairy tale wedding. A real family do. It was amazing. I got married at a registry office and then on to the local youth club.”

The singer was never one for the limelight, though. While she was a backing vocalist, people asked if she wanted to be at the front of the stage and she would reply that she just wanted to sing. “I wasnt hungry for fame. I didnt want the limelight,” she says. And now? She is clearly enjoying herself but it is still the singing takes priority over the fame, although she is adapting well to the promotional aspects of being a singer in our celebrity-led culture. “I’m handling it better than I thought,” she reveals and talks excitedly of her week of TV and radio appearances.

She is surely a dream for any chat show host – she can talk for Britain, is open, honest and warm. By her own admission she is “a people person,” and this is part of her charm. Rowetta garnered a reputation for being a bit of a nutter on the X-Factor and says that people still come up to her on the street, referring to her as that “mad bird off the TV”. The 39-year old is emotionally raw and utterly genuine and in a world of PR overload this could easily be defined as mad. Instead, Rowetta displays a wisdom that comes with her 39 years and a determination to give this second chance everything she’s got.

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