By Anna Louise Dobbie
It's that time of year where the nation forgoes their sunny Saturday evenings in favour of staying in to watch Simon abuse and Cheryl coo on ITV's reality show, The X Factor. But, one Ipswich singer is progressing in another talent show.
Talent competitions have gone from strength to strength in recent years, and with acts like Will Young and JLS selling out the Ipswich Regent, thousands of youngsters nationwide are looking to them as a platform to a dream career as a chart-topping recording artist.
One of these hopefuls is Ipswich youngster Callum Robinson who is in the regional final of Open Mic UK, a national singing competition in which contestants face a panel of familiar faces in the music industry for the chance to win a recording contract to release their own single: "I feel over the moon to be given the opportunity to sing in the finals, I was too excited to care about anything!"
Callum believes that these competitions are his ticket to success: "I get such a buzz out of entering competitions.
"I grew up watching shows like X Factor and it makes me excited to think that I could be on stage, with the audience around me listening to what I have to say, with everyone looking at me and admiring me. I just love the idea of that - it brings so much joy to me to be able to do that."
Callum auditioned for The X Factor earlier in 2009 with limited success: "The first audition, I got there at 3 o'clock on the Saturday afternoon and my audition wasn't until 9 o'clock Sunday morning! Me and my friend stayed in her car, then we went over to queue up at midnight and everyone was just singing together.
"It was such a brilliant atmosphere - by the morning there were thousands of people going right back into the car park, it was crazy. We stayed up all night and I didn't sleep so I looked like death's door!
"The audition went really well. Dermot O'Leary came and we all had to 'Flex the X' as they say. Because I was at the front, I auditioned quite early and I sung I Will Be by Edwin McCain - it's a beautiful love song, one of my favourites, from Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff.
"The judge asked me how much I wanted it and I said 'With all my heart' and I got through, I got a gold ticket. There's three or four auditions before you see the main four judges. The first round you see the producers and get a golden ticket.
"The second round was a week or two weeks later at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. We danced for the cameras and I was practising in front of different producers. They said how great I was.
"I got so emotional, I was crying - I couldn't believe it was happening. A year ago I was saying to my friends 'I'd never go on that show, it's so degrading there's such a small chance you'd get anywhere' and here I was auditioning for a second time and I thought 'This is such a good chance, why not?'
"I went in shaking, I was even more nervous than the first time. I really slipped up because my voice was very shaky and I think they noticed that.
"I told them I was nervous and they told me I hadn't got through, not this year, but to come back next year. I wasn't what they were looking for.
"I felt very upset and disappointed, of course I was. I asked them why but they couldn't tell anyone.
"This is just one of so many avenues of how you get where you want to go, so I applied for Open Mic UK, went for an audition and I got through."
The Open Mic UK final takes place in November 2009 in Portsmouth, but before that Callum has to get through the regional final in London which takes place at the Beck Theatre in Hayes on 11 October.
Future Music is the organisation behind Open Mic UK. They also run the Live & Unsigned contest, which has a good track record - the 2007 winners Bkay & Kazz followed up their victory with the hit single You Know It's Right.
Judges at Live & Unsigned have included Radio One's Annie Nightingale and the former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Future Music is promising a similar calibre of judge for Open Mic UK - which is in its first year.
Callum is not discouraged by his rejection by the judges, enjoying the challenge that impressing the panel poses: "I like a bit of danger!
"I don't want life to be boring so I like to be put on the spot because it makes you stronger, you have to overcome it. It really helps you to grow as a person to help you deal with criticism.
"In the music industry you have to put up with a lot and you have to just brush it off and try again, like Aaliyah said, otherwise you're never going to make it - I've learned that in the last two or three years."
Callum is inspired by the success of other talent competition winners: "I really, really loved Will Young, he's great and so original.
"I was very proud of Alexandra last year, I got really emotional - I was so happy for her, I literally said right from the start that she would win!"
The sky's the limit
Callum has set his sights high for the future: "My musical ambition is to become a worldwide recording artist, high profile and in the charts.
"It does sound such a cliche, but it's not about the money. That'd be great, don't get me wrong, but I believe I was given a gift and I want to share that with people.
"I live music, I breath music, everything I am is all about music and I really have to share that with the world because it's my passion, it's my drive and I feel that there's so much that people can learn from my music.
The cover design for Callum's single
Callum draws musical inspiration from a troubled childhood growing up in a foster home: "I have a mum and a dad although I never knew my dad.
"I left home at thirteen and moved in with a relative and then into a foster home. It's made me stronger as a person and it inspired me.
"When I was at home, I was so tired and stressed out and I went through depression. I had a couple of months out and my grades dropped and everything just fell apart.
"I made the choice to leave home and I'm glad that I did because, if I hadn't, I'd never have had the time to be able to think for myself, to have my own space to grow with my music and as a person.
"I moved away and in the long run it's the best decision I've ever made because it's brought my family closer together - me and my mum are getting on better than ever, she's my best friend and my confidante and I love her so much.
"We've got such a mutual respect that would never have been there if I'd stayed at home, so it was a good decision.
"I'm a big fan of message songs. I haven't written songs in a while, I guess I've been busy with other things, but when I was younger at home I'd sit there and start writing songs and poems.
"I wrote about ten or fifteens songs and then developed from there to writing scripts for films and stories and books and stuff. I've got about five folders at home full of songs - they're very important to me.
"A lot of them are relationship songs about a girl and a guy, the cliche songs that you get in the charts, but a lot of them are really important message songs.
"My song It Starts With Me - the lyrics are all about the birth of a new artist and a new era and it's about making your dreams come true and never giving up. I've got a lot of songs like that. It'd be such a shame for them to go to waste and I really feel I can bring them to life."
Back to the start
"It all began two years ago when I did a media course in Ipswich at CSV Media where I learnt how to use a recording studio. I started recording cover songs and I got offers to sing at parties and play at venues.
"I went to college for a national diploma in Music Performance and from then I just did loads and loads of performing and recording and made two demo albums. I planned to release a single Dark Child in Ipswich's HMV, but I had to postpone that to audition for The X Factor.
Callum believes that he can improve the local music scene with his songs: "I've got a lot of drive and a lot of passion for music.
"A lot of people that are in bands in Ipswich that I've come across don't have that same big ambition, they just want to be small time bands. I'm very different in that respect because I want to be big, I want to be huge, I want to be in the charts - why not?
"People get quite funny with that because they think that I'm aiming too high. You've got to think that you're good enough, you've got to believe that.
"If you don't love yourself, who's going to love you? If you don't respect yourself who's going to respect you and if you don't believe in yourself then no one else is going to believe in you."
Words of advice from a talent show veteran
Ben Groom, from recently deceased Suffolk-based band Rosalita, has experienced first-hand the joys of winning Channel 4 talent show Road to V: "The win was beneficial as it immediately gave us more attention and profile as well as the experience of playing a festival on a big stage, but the obvious con was that we became 'Rosalita: Road To V 2007 Winners' and then needed to top that achievement.
"We got gigs straight away off the back of it but nothing big time, although the contact with Virgin was good. The profile got bigger, but then you need something to follow it up or else the win fades away. I think it can be of some kind of assistance in the industry, but it cannot be relied upon to guarantee success.
"It's what you do after that's important!
"You have to enjoy the talent show experience and meeting the other artists and, if you're exposed to people on a higher level, take it in and learn from it. The future success of these competitions depends upon how long millions of people are prepared to pay premium rate phone calls - as long as that continues, other talent shows will follow!"
last updated: 27/08/2009 at 11:31
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