Talking with: Andy Abraham

Soul Star Andy Abraham is spearheading an innovative approach to releasing records with his new album Remember When….
Combining book, C.D. and D.V.D, Remember When… is a deluxe release delivering a comprehensive package that downloads can’t match, helping to put the magic back into buying records.
Pop music has always been about stories. Songs have a powerful ability to trigger memories and transport us back to times in our past. Mark Keable caught up with Andy and found out more

Q: Where do you come from and where did you grow up?
Andy: I was born in 1964 in East London, I was born in an ‘archway’ so that’s why I’m an Arsenal fan. We moved to Camden Town when I was 10, a lot of my musical influences came from that area, from my brother, sister and mum, I was just a normal kid.
My sister was quite musical and my mum was a church-going Catholic West Indian lady, so she would be singing hymns and we always had to go to Sunday School, but at the same time she loved her ‘commercial’ music, she loved Soul, Reggae, Ska – this was the early stuff, before Bob Marley even. So I heard people like Prince Buster and then country and western from people like Skeeter Davis and Charlie Pride, she had a very broad taste and her musical tastes influenced me also.
I used to love playing the ‘records’ the 45s, I must admit I was the culprit who also scratched a few of them, but I used to love the music even from an early age.
Then my brother and sister were into ‘Lover’s Rock’, Jazz-Funk and Soul but I also loved the more commercial music as well, albeit reluctantly.

Q: So did you always have ambitions of being a singer?
Andy: My very first thoughts of wanting to be something was to be a chess player, even at a very young age I was very good at it, I used to beat the teachers! So I wanted to be a Chess Master, so my mum applied to the British Chess Society but they turned me down, I was so down-hearted.
I’ve also always loved animals, and when I was a kid, from a very young age I wanted to be a vet, so once again my mum encouraged me and she applied for me to do day work at London Zoo and I got knocked back from that too!
So all my enthusiasm for wanting to be something was knocked out of me from a very young age with the rejection. But my sister was very into her music and she introduced me to groups like Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic and she had a great jazz voice and joined bands, so she would drag me along too. She felt like I could make a good singer, but I was too busy at time hanging around with my mates.

Q: So when did the road to stardom begin?
Andy: I was working doing normal jobs, but also doing all the pubs and clubs singing too. That’s great schooling for any would-be singer, I would advise anyone to do that before they attempt the ‘quick-fix’ routes. Do your apprenticeship first!

Q: So it’s fair to say you got your big break, on the X-Factor, a little later than most people. When you entered the competition was it a last crack at stardom?
Andy: No, not at all. In actual fact, Denise, my wife forged my signature on the X-Factor application form without me knowing. When she’d asked me about doing the show I’d said no that wasn’t my kind of thing. I was more into performing in the clubs and keeping it low-key. But Denise sent the application form in and I got the acceptance letter back and I’m like ‘what’s this?’ and Denise says that I wasn’t doing much anyway so I might as well go.
So eventually I thought, ok I’ll go, see what they think of me and that’ll be it. So I went to an audition at Wembley Conference Centre, and I think they liked my story and my flippant attitude of how I was just a ‘bin man’ so I guess I wrote the headlines for them.
It was a whirlwind, but there were so many things going on, there was lots of negative elements to the competition that I didn’t like, in fact I nearly quit quite a few times. But Denise kept pushing me, going to America and everything, who knows if I hadn’t done it if I’d have still had the success so I would never want to take that away.

Q: So are you still in touch with Sharon and do you still watch X-Factor?
Andy: No I’m not actually, she was brilliant though throughout the show but now I need to move on and work on my act. I want to make Sharon proud of what I have done to the point where I can say ‘Sharon come down and see what I have achieved’.
If I’m about I watch The X-Factor, but, if I was young, I’d still work the circuit and do the conventional route. I wouldn’t recommend the quick-fix route into the industry.

Q: Following X-Factor you were in a West End musical, is that something you’d like to do more of?
Andy: I was in a musical called ‘Respect The Diva’ I’m not sure if that’s something I’d like to do more of though. It wasn’t really a musical per se it was a celebration of great hits from soul divas so it’s perhaps not fair to call it a musical as it was more like a concert.

Q: And now you have a new album out ‘Remember When’, which also has a great book with it too, what does the album mean to you?
Andy: It’s a musical journal of my life. There are songs that mean things to me personally and the book has the stories behind the songs, the singers and songwriters and also the meanings for me, telling the stories of my loved ones, those who are here now and those who have gone. There’s covers of songs that many people will know, classics like Born Free, Let’s Stay Together, however there are some original songs on there too. There’s lots of pictures, including a few embarrassing ones of me too.

Q: What do you like to listen to in your spare time?
Andy: Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, The Script but also people like Pavarotti in fact anything and everything.

Q: What next?
Andy: Well I have the album out, I’m also touring with a big band show, sadly not coming to Ipswich. But hopefully next year touring with this new album, so who knows.