ALEXANDRA BURKE DOES NOT INTEND TO GROW ANY VEGETABLES IN THE NEAR FUTURE: JUST ONE OF THE MANY THINGS YOU WILL DISCOVER IN THIS ILLUMINATING INTERVIEW
Are you a keen gardener?
You know what? No.
Not in this weather! [EDITOR'S NOTE: IT WAS A BIT GLOOMY WHEN THE INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE] I’m not getting down on my knees and getting wet for no reason!
No no no. But if it brightens up, I was saying this to my mum the other day, I want to do some planting. Some planting in my garden. It’s not cool, it’s a bit grannyish, but I’m sure it will be calming.
Will it be decorative planting, or some sort of practical allotment sort of thing? It must be nice to grow your own vegetables, and then to cook with them…
Oh I don’t know about that babe, I haven’t got the patience! I’d rather go to Tesco!
This is the problem with bread.
My mum likes making bread!
But the thing is: bread is not expensive, but making it is very labour intensive.
You can’t beat freshly made bread though. YOU CANNOT BEAT IT. I don’t care what anyone says. My mum makes amazing bread.
Let’s not fall out over this but it does take a long time.
I know, all that yeast, all that rubbish. I totally get it. That’s why I’d rather make a cake.
It’s like a science, isn’t it, baking. Get one tiny thing wrong and it all goes tits up.
It’s also like pop. It’s the details that count.
Get one thing wrong in a pop song and it all goes wrong.
I couldn’t agree more.
As an artiste are you more about the big sweeping moments, or the details?
I’m more about the detail. It’s very important for an artist to be able to tell a story, to mean what they say, and to not just sing a song for singing’s sense. Does that make sense?
Yes it does.
I just believe at the end of the day that if loads of people thought a song was rubbish at least you as an artist could say, ‘well it meant a lot to me and that’s what I wanted to do and nobody told me to do it’. I like having no regrets. Once you decide something’s important, you just have to go for it.
Is that a sort of freedom that came easy? It can’t have been easy at the start?
Not that I put my foot down with Syco but even from the beginning it was always a mutual decision. It was a team decision. They always knew the kind of person I am in terms of if I don’t believe in something I won’t put my name to it, or do it full stop, because you have to believe in something 100%. I’m the one who’s got to perform it or talk about it all day. I can’t do that if I’m lying. It took a while to get to know each other’s limits. (Dog barks in background) If something didn’t feel right I’d be open about it but I’d listen to my label because they’ve been in the business a lot longer than I have. If I don’t believe in it nobody else will. I guarantee my fans would know if I wasn’t be honest.
You don’t seem like you’d be a very good liar.
Although maybe it’s a double bluff.
I’m not a good liar at all!
Is there anything you’ve had to front then afterwards you’ve gone, ‘you see, that’s an example of why I shouldn’t have to do this sort of thing’?
No, never. I’ve been very lucky.
You mentioned needing a personal connection. What is the personal connection you have with ‘Let It Go’?
Well I didn’t want it to be a cliché about letting go of love. For me, and I didn’t write this song, I was involved in the writing camp when it happened though… For me, it’s about letting go of life’s stresses full stop. I’ve had to gain some thick skin while being in this business. I’m not going to say I’m perfect at tackling the negative but I try to turn things that don’t feel right into something positive. ‘Let It Go’, when I heard the song, I was like, ‘right, this speaks volumes about what I want my album to portray’. I really really wanted this album to help the listener understand that when life throws you lemons you have to make lemonade. You have to let things go, and be positive, and smile, and try your best to be happy. And it’s not easy. I’m only human. I have my ups and my downs. I break down all the time. But I try my best to be very honest in my music. My biggest fear is opening up and with this album I’ve touched on subjects I never thought I’d be able to touch on. And although it’s uptempo, when you really listen to the lyrics there’s a deeper meaning.
When you talk about life throwing lemons at you… When life does throw you lemons, and a lemon hits you on the back of the head…
Do you think it hurts more than if an orange had been thrown at you? A lemon has a pointed end, but it’s hard to be certain.
Yes that’s very true, it’s down to the pointed ends.
Has there been a career lemon that’s been thrown at you that you’ve had to turn into lemonade?
I would probably think it’s about my private life being talked about all the time. I’m a very private person. And that’s where I have to make lemonade. That’s where I have to realise that I’ve been given a very very awesome life, I’m very lucky and I’m very blessed, but at the same time comes the up and down of it all. I’m not one to complain because that would come across as ungrateful… Especially coming from a show like The X Factor where the public have voted for you. I would never sit and complain about hating this or hating that… Hate is a very strong word. There are things I avoid, yes…
Do you think that because of the nature of how you came to fame, and a lot of people come to fame now, with the public either voting for you or just watching you and that in itself creating your career, do you think that because of all that and the relationship you therefore having with the public that the public feel they have an ownership of you? Or that they feel that they deserve to know, or are entitled to know, about your private life? “We’ve made you famous…”
You know what, being on the show, everything was filmed. It was Big Brother in a way. You allowed the public to get in. I was that person who was very emotional and I wasn’t afraid to show it…
Will you be doing any more watches for Argos?
(Lengthy laugh) I’m actually working on my second collection. And we’ll see where that goes. I’m not sure if it will end up in Argos or somewhere else. Argos was a nice starting point and I really enjoyed having my first ever collection be exclusively through them.
The TV show you did for Argos TV was an hour long. It was hard to watch it without thinking, ‘she’s had a multi-platinum album. Numerous Number One singles. This feels like it’s below Alexandra’. Did you feel that at any point?
I didn’t ever feel that it was below me, I never ever think like that. That’s not in my nature.
Or maybe ‘Alexandra deserves better’, is a better way of putting it…
Well thank you and you are allowed your opinions but they asked me to do it and I thought, ‘why not?’. At the end of the day nobody in this country can say they’ve never shopped at Argos.
Can’t go wrong with a bit of Argos.
I was that girl where every Christmas mum would give us the catalogues and say, ‘pick what you want, make a list’. So Argos played a really big part in our lives when we were younger. So for me to open up a catalogue and see my face – believe it or not – no matter what I’ve sold or what I’ve achieved, that WAS an achievement for me. Because I’ve never had my own range of watches. Everything as it comes is a blessing for me and when it comes I give myself a tap on the back and I say, ‘well done, on to the next’. Or I say, ‘SHIT! Look what I’ve achieved’. It doesn’t matter if it’s a watch sold at Argos or four million records, an achievement is an achievement.
In the course of your Argos TV programme launching the watch range it was noted that buying a watch is ‘like buying a house’. Is a house not more of a commitment than a watch?
I would say it is, yes. But then if you’re buying for example a watch… Well for example I was in the airport the other day and I was looking at some Rolexes. Just for the fun of it. And there were some there for £60,000. And that’s the deposit on a house!
It’s quite a big deposit.
Do you think many people watching Argos TV would also be buying Rolexes?
They should be buying mine to be fair, they’re just as good.
You know you’re supporting JLS this summer and people are sort of going, “ooh, Alexandra’s supporting JL…”
(Interrupting) I’m not actually supporting them!
Hm… Well they’re above you on the bill aren’t they?
Well, no, the way it is is that JLS called me and said, “will you be a special guest on the show?”.
So really it’s just friends doing a gig together. Supporting is definitely the wrong word to use.
Well anyway, you could wait in the wings with a microphone until after they’ve finished the very final song of their encore and left the stage, and then you could run on and sing a quick song, so you could say that you still headlined it and there would be no question as to who was the headliner.
That would be quite unnecessary because there’s still no question about it: I am their special guest. Their support acts are Little Mix and Cover Drive. I’m sorry but to have Little Mix, Cover Drive, JLS and me on one show – people are going to have an amazing show.
It’s going to be a lot! It’s going to be a lot for people to handle!
Let’s ask you this directly because perhaps it hasn’t been covered properly elsewhere: when you moved from Syco to RCA was it because Syco were like, “we’ve come as far as we can with Alexandra, who else in the Sony group wants her?”. What happened?
It was pretty much a mutual decision between Simon and my management. I think all of us thought that because he was taking on American X Factor he wouldn’t be in the country, and for me to do my album and release it when I wanted to release it he would need to be here. Because he has the final say. And if he couldn’t be here to commit to that it was best that I move. So it was really a mutual decision. But he still looks out for me and I’ve still got major major respect for him.
So reading between the lines you’re saying that with RCA you’ll have a team who will put a lot more effort and focus into you as an artist whereas maybe Syco, every year, they have the new people coming through. And you need people who will give you the attention you deserve.
Um… I don’t want to agree with you, because if I agree with you it’s my quote, right?
Shall we let the silence do the talking?
THERE WE GO! I like you man. (Laughs)
‘Let It Go’ is out on May 27 – she’ll probably mention it on Twitter once or twice – and you can pre-order it here.
Answers: Alexandra Burke (obviously)