Entertainment & Arts

Little Mix interview: Pop music, X Factor and dog biscuits

Little Mix Image copyright Record company
Image caption Little Mix: Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson and Perrie Edwards

Last year, Little Mix became the first band to win The X Factor, impressing viewers with their four-part R&B harmonies and quirky styling.

Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock all auditioned for the show as solo artists, but were asked to form a group by the judges, including their mentor Tulisa Contostavlos.

Their debut single, a cover of Damien Rice's Cannonball, topped the charts last December, although it missed out on the coveted Christmas number one spot.

Now, the quartet are gearing up to release their first "proper" single, Wings - a funky pop record with a Disney-fied message about believing in yourself.

Perrie and Leigh-Anne spoke to the BBC about leaving X Factor behind, writing their debut album, and Perrie's unconventional diet of dog biscuits.

Hello, Little Mix! How are you?

Perrie: Hi - we're very well, thank you!

You've just come back from performing at an X Factor launch event. How was that?

Leigh-Anne: It was actually really nerve-wracking. I reckon we work better in front of big crowds. When we did Party in the Park it was in front of 70,000 people and that was amazing. But with smaller crowds, you can see everyone looking at you. We're like "eeeee!"

I noticed people were taping the gig on their phones. Will you look up the footage on YouTube later?

Perrie: Yeah, we like to look at videos now and again to see what we're doing wrong. We make notes.

What's the biggest problem you've spotted?

Perrie: When we're dancing and we're doing "the arms", sometimes someone's arms will be higher and someone else's arms will be too low. So we try to get it perfect. We practise in mirrors all the time.

You should attach your arms to strings, like puppets.

Perrie: Yes! And get someone else to do all the work for us. That would be so funny.

Image copyright ITV
Image caption Little Mix, and mentor Tulisa Contostavlos (centre), weren't expecting to win The X Factor

This time last year, the first episode of X Factor was about to go out. Had you told people you'd be in it?

Perrie: I didn't tell anyone that I'd even auditioned. I kept it secret. I was scared in case anyone thought "ugh, why is she trying to get on the X Factor, is she crazy?". So it was all hush-hush. Every time I got phoned by the X Factor, I'd tell people it was about a job interview!

Is it true that you were initially reluctant to become a group?

Leigh-Anne: Me, Jesy and Jade were all told at our first audition that they could see us in a girl group. All of us were a little bit disappointed because they thought we weren't good enough on our own.

It's notoriously hard to make four voices blend and harmonise. How did you work it all out so quickly at boot camp?

Perrie: We've all got a good ear for sound and music. And we practice over and over, then we record it on our phones so that when we go to sleep we can listen to it in bed.

Leigh-Anne: I honestly think it was fate. The moment we stepped onto the stage at boot camp, and we performed together for the first time as a group, I looked around and thought "this is what I've been missing all my life". It sounds cheesy but it's true.

Will you watch the X Factor this year?

Leigh-Anne: We watched a little bit of it today at the press launch and it's a little bit upsetting because it's not our show any more. We're not going to be the winners much longer.

But you can't really watch it in the same way any more, because you know all the little things that go on backstage.

The band has been vocal about standing up to bullies, and the single reinforces that message. How important were the lyrics to you?

Leigh-Anne: We've all been through it and we wanted to write something that people who've experienced it can relate to. But also, we didn't want it to be cheesy. We wanted to be clever with the lyrics. The line "mama told me not to waste my time" was really important. It's not us preaching. I think we've done it in quite a cool way.

Image copyright Record company
Image caption The band received praise for their cover of En Vogue's Don't Let Go, and have recorded new material by that song's writer Andrea Martin

It's unusual for X Factor stars to co-write their singles...

Perrie: More than anything, we wanted to be involved in the writing and the production. I've always loved rock music. My dad brought me up listening to Journey, Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses. Then, on my mum's side of the family, I was into Motown. So when we started writing, we all had different tastes in different genres of music but we tried to blend it all together. At the end of the day, it's our name on it. If we're not happy, then I think people will see straight through it.

Leigh-Anne: On the album, there are some songs where we've literally done everything - melody and lyrics. We've got so much to say and so much to write about.

You'd both written music before Little Mix. Perrie, did your song Beautiful Summer make it onto the album?

Perrie: [Shrieks] Oh my God! How did you know about that song? No, it didn't make it onto the album… I didn't even put it forward. It's not very Little Mix. It's very indie, it was just me with my acoustic guitar writing songs when I was younger.

Do you at least get to play guitar on the record?

Perrie: You know, I honestly haven't had the chance. Since X Factor, I haven't played my guitar at all. It's so upsetting. My fingers aren't scabby any more. I'm bad. I'm a bad guitarist.

When you're recording, do you all stand round the microphone and sing in unison?

Perrie: Sometimes you go in there to do your solo vocal and belt stuff out. It's nice to focus and get it done. But when we're doing the group harmonies and the little quirky bits, it's good to go in together because we feed off each other.

Have you ever gone for a big note and shattered the glass?

Perrie: No, but every time I go into the studio I'll be like, "what does this button do?" and "if I slide this fader up here what happens?" There'll be a dozen people shouting at me, "no, no, no!"

Image caption The band performed their winner's single on the Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops

As well as the album, you've got a book and a whole load of merchandise coming out. Do you need those things because you can't make money from record sales anymore?

Leigh-Anne: It's not anything like that, I don't think. It's more "if you can, then why not?". We're even getting our own dolls. We've been sent the mock-ups of them, and they're all bald! When it's finished, mine will have a big afro. We can't wait to start dressing them up.

And drawing moustaches on them…

Leigh-Anne: Haha! I just can't wait to have them in my room.

What's Little Mix's secret formula?

Leigh-Anne: We're very approachable. We are four normal, silly, weird girls. We want people to feel like they can come up to us and have a chat. We're like your friends.

Except my friends don't eat dog biscuits...

Perrie: I just want to clarify that this was one time! This story has just got out of hand. I've eaten one dog biscuit in my life, but who hasn't eaten a dog biscuit? It's not like I ate the sloppy, gravy stuff. It was a Scooby Snack.

Wings will be released on 25 August. Little Mix's debut album follows later this year.

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