Ella Henderson on her new single, a UAE gig, and what life would have been like if she didn’t appear on The X Factor
July should be a good month for Ella Henderson. The British pop starlet is tipped to take the UK No 1 with her next single, Glitterball. Appearing as a featured vocalist on a Sigma production, Henderson’s track isn’t officially released until July 24.
But the song is already setting alight radio playlists and streaming services, prompting speculation that it will earn the 19-year-old former X Factor contestant her second top spot, following last year’s summer smash, Ghost from her debut album Chapter One.
What you might not know, however, is that UAE-based dance duo Hollaphonic were invited to contribute their own authorised remix to the package, which adds a hardier, clubbier approach, and is available to stream now.
Fresh off the road from an arena United Kingdom tour with what’s left of Take That, we caught up with Henderson, a star on the verge of superstardom.
We’re speaking to you from the studio in London. Is Chapter Two in the works already?
I guess so. I’m not really putting any pressure on myself to name it anything – I’m just getting back into writing and the whole creative process. I’ve been working with quite a few people from last time around [on Chapter One] – Ryan [Tedder, of OneRepublic], the TMS boys, and I did a bit of writing with Danny [O’Donoghue] from The Script, which was really good. We wrote two songs and it was a lot of fun – he’s so, so talented.
Ryan Tedder appears to be something of a magic maker.
He is – I told him I’d spent two years writing my first record and I still hadn’t found my first single. I said: “I’m not eating, sleeping, I’m getting bogged down.” And he said: “You’re haunted,” and that’s how we grew on the concept of Ghost. There and then we wrote a chorus in the space of 20 minutes.
Where do you get the lyrical inspiration for a song like that?
Most of my best songs happen when I’m singing in a very strong or heightened emotion that day – whether that be anger, sadness, or really happy – I just go to the piano and let it all out. It’s my form of therapy. So if I’m angry, a song like Mirror Man happens, or when I was so frustrated, Ghost happened. When you’re feeling something very strong it can all be thrown into a song.
Any chance of a UAE gig soon?
I can’t wait to come to the Middle East. I’ve never been before, so I’d love to come and work, and then maybe have a week’s holiday as well. I’m sure it will happen in the near future.
Let’s go back to The X Factor. How traumatic was your controversial exit from the 2012 series?
I wouldn’t say it was traumatic – it was one of the best experiences I had, at the age of 16, to get a sense of what the music industry could feel like – it was like boot camp. I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s an entertainment show, at the end of the day – not the be all and end all. And I think that’s the biggest mistake a lot of people make when they go on those shows , [they] treat it like it’s life or death.
How did it feel to have the likes of Adele, Simon Cowell and Stephen Fry speaking out in your support?
For someone such as Adele to know my name – to even know that she watches TV like the rest of us – was crazy. I was speechless at the time.
Another X Factor alumni are One Direction. Do you think their time is up?
Those boys have always got to make sure they’re happy with what they do. They’re so talented and they’ve worked so hard for years, so whatever they choose to do is their decision. I don’t reckon it’s the end at all. I definitely think there will be a day when 1D are all together again.
The big question – if you’d never found that first fame on The X Factor, where do you think you would be today?
I’d probably be renting a flat with all my old mates from college and doing a nine-to-five job, but I’d also be playing in a bar or gigging as much as I could at night. I’d [also] be writing. My [original] plan was that by the time I turned 21 or 22 I would head into a record label, sit down, play them my songbook and – fingers crossed – get signed as a songwriter. So to actually find my deal at 16, I almost see it as a five-year apprenticeship.
• Chapter One is on sale through Sony Music Middle East. Hear Hollaphonic’s remix of Glitterball on YouTube now
Updated: July 8, 2015 04:00 AM