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Diana Vickers


Blackburn, United Kingdom


When she was beginning her A Levels, at 16 years old, at an all-girls school in the North West of England, Diana Vickers had a little plan for how her next two years would ideally pan out. ‘I thought, right, I’ll study hard, and then after my exams I’ll go to drama school or go to Thailand and find myself.’ As it turned out, she didn’t quite get the chance. By the age of 18, Diana Vickers had recorded her first album and enjoyed a four month spell as the toast of London’s West End in a sold out revival of Little Voice. Not a bad little diversion, then. ‘Not bad?’ she splutters, ‘the last year of my life has beyond any of my wildest dreams.’

On the eve of the release of her debut album Ms Vickers is a brittle but bullish mix of confidence and nerves. After surviving three months of the solid and unscrupulous interrogation of four X Factor judges, not to mention the millions of viewers that were captured by her genre-defying weekly performances, it is time to make her statement as an artist in her own right.

‘Of course I’m terrified,’ she says, ‘Of course I know that this is my one chance and that I had to do it exactly right.’ But things are about to get even more exciting now. Diana Vickers knows that over a year of studio sessions, she has made the album that no X Factor contestant should’ve ever produced. A record that smashes up that particular rule book and starts all over again.

Diana Vickers was always the X Factee that didn’t quite fit in. The adjectives lent her by the judges in their sometimes brutal 10 second Saturday night summing-ups – ‘quirky’, ‘individual’, ‘kooky’ – only cemented how separate Ms Vickers appeared from the stage school-ish, tits’n’teeth, Mariah-esque girls that have become the resonant voices of the annual British singing bun-fight.

Indeed, the adjectives that were used against her in competition are the same ones she uses in glowing praise when talking about her own musical heroines. They span from time-honoured legends (Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper), to contemporary singer-songwriters ploughing their own unique musical performance path (Florence and the Machine, Nerina Pallot).

With a wilful singing style Diana Vickers became known as the rebel in the pack of 2008’s X Factor hopefuls. Luckily, it wasn’t just the 10 million regular viewers that clocked her difference. In March 2009 she landed a deal with RCA Records. ‘Right from the start they were interested in the fact that I wrote lyrics, I could play more than one instrument and that I wanted to make a record that could have only been made by me.’ Cutesy balladeering was out, and a breathtaking range from megawatt pop noise to delicate folk whimsy was in, all sung in her unique vocal style.

Nerina Pallott’s name was one of the first to be dropped in conversation with her label and she became the first of a succession of top flight collaborators for Ms Vickers. Vickers unique interpretation of Pallot’s contribution ‘Put It Back Together’ became an immediate touchstone for the record. Instantly anthemic, underpinned by electro-pop dynamics, strange sounds and heart-wrenching lyrics. Her special relationship with the song gave her the confidence to begin writing herself, with an eclectic array of collaborators. ‘It was important with me to be completely open with co-writers.’

Word began spreading about the album and a dizzying list of co-writers and producers offered their help. Failsafe artistic development from Ellie Goulding, Lightspeed Champion, Guy Sigsworth and Cathy Dennis gave the record its mature shape. Vickers herself kept it box-fresh youthful. It is testament to the singer that the straightest pop song on the record comes from her most unusual collaborator, Hackney digi-folk troubadour Lightspeed Champion. ‘Me and You’ sounds like it could be lifted straight from a vintage folk set, crackles still on the needle. ‘I think that ‘Me and You’ was the closest to what I imagined I would sound like before I started recording.’ Ellie Goulding’s co-write ‘Remake Me and You’ meanwhile, is probably the strangest cut on the record – a jittery stop-start electro boogie that lodges itself straight in the head.

The lead single is Cathy Dennis and Eg White’s ‘Once.’ ‘It just did something to my brain when I heard it. I knew it had something but it was virtually unrecognisable from the song that it has become. It was half the pace and quite jaunty.’ Diana knew that it needed to charge out of the pop cannons at full throttle if it was to be her opening shot on the nation’s pop palette. ‘I could hear a sort of rock-pop song in there and I just wanted it to get out.’ Re-arranged to build to a gob-stopping crescendo in the first minute, it was completely redesigned to her bespoke measurements. Diana Vickers pop career had found its opening salvo.

And just as she readied herself to launch as a solo pop star, a call came from one of the West End’s most noted producers. Was Diana interested in trying out for the lead in a revival of Little Voice. It’s author, the esteemed playwright Jim Cartwright, was himself flawed by her audition and took a personal interest in her getting the part. ‘These things just shouldn’t have happened to a girl like me,’ says Vickers, still a little dumb-founded at her starring role, ‘I was thinking about school plays this time last year.’ Luckily, her co-star, Shakespeare veteran Mark Warren, encouraged her with the words she needed to hear: that he too, one of the most respected stage actors in the UK, was untrained. If she didn’t try it, she would never know. ‘And boy, am I glad we did. Eight shows a week, singing in all those different voices. Making a part your own.’ She has clearly relished every second of it.

And now back to music. For Diana Vickers, a pop career is not built on the pressure of one single bolting to number one and a familiar crash and burn following. ‘I don’t care whether the single gets to number one or number 31 I just want people to hear the songs.”

North & South America: doug@silvascreenusa.com

Europe, Asia & Australia: david@silvascreen.co.uk

Music to Make Boys Cry
Music to Make Boys Cry
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Diana Vickers, Miranda Cooper, Simen Eriksrud, Simone Eriksrud

From the album "Music to Make Boys Cry"