‘My mum says I just waltzed on stage with the biggest smile on my face’

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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If good old-fashioned determination is the key to success, then Jamie Riley could be going a long way.

In an age when CVs and letters drop into inboxes in the blink of an eye and posted demo CDs arrive pronto, Jamie decided it was better to make an impression in person.

TALENT Singer Jamie Riley as he is today and, inset, on stage at the Kings Theatre in 2007.  'Picture: Allan Hutchings''(121437-819)

TALENT Singer Jamie Riley as he is today and, inset, on stage at the Kings Theatre in 2007. 'Picture: Allan Hutchings''(121437-819)

The ambitious young singer took a week away from home to trudge the streets of London, visiting every record label he could think of.

From the new independent labels to the giants of the industry, Jamie dropped in on them all. And eventually he landed himself a deal.

The Portsmouth singer and former winner of News talent contest Instant Star signed up with small label Downtown Artists and has just released his first single, Test Drive.

He recorded it at the legendary Berwick Street Studios (now Play! Soho Studios), which has played host to huge names like The Specials, The Sex Pistols and David Bowie.

‘I’m pretty determined,’ says Jamie.

‘I don’t give up. I’m one of those people that you can imagine at 70, saying ‘‘I’m going to make it one day’’. I love working hard towards something and being a successful singer is what I really want.’

The 20-year-old’s confident words show he has come a long way from the schoolboy who turned up at an Instant Star audition in Southsea back in 2007.

It’s that first break that he thanks for the career he has carved out as a swing singer and now budding pop performer.

The 15-year-old had been performing on stage in musical theatre and leaped at the chance to enter our search for talented performers. But the idea was to use the audition for experience and Jamie never dreamed he would win.

‘I remember it was in this hall and there were all these people around, so I was really nervous.

‘But at that point I wanted to go to drama school, so I thought I’d better get used to doing some auditions,’ he recalls.

But the youngster wowed the panel of judges with his rendition of the Dean Martin classic Ain’t That A Kick In The Head. And as winner he went on to perform the song in front of more than 1,000 people at a concert to mark the centenary of Southsea’s Kings Theatre.

He says: ‘I remember being really nervous. But my mum says I just waltzed on stage with the biggest smile on my face, like it was completely natural.

‘She says she was sat there shaking with nerves and then I came on as confident as anything.’

He says the experience was one of the most important moments of his career so far.

‘It gave me a massive confidence boost and a lot of exposure. I even had this woman coming up to me in the street and asking for my autograph. My mates thought it was really funny, and it was, but I was also really chuffed.’

It was also because of Instant Star that Jamie was able to sing professionally. The teenager was subsequently invited to sing at the Christmas lights switch-on in Commercial Road and it was there that an agent spotted him.

He was swiftly signed up to sing at weddings and combined GCSE studies with perfecting his Rat Pack repertoire.

Eventually he decided to go it alone and is now a businessman, taking his own bookings for weddings all over the country.

But Jamie’s heart lies with pop music and that’s why he’s been determined to get a record deal.

His debut single, which is available on iTunes, marks the transition from swing to pop.

He says: ‘It’s electro-pop, it’s quite dancey, I wanted to write a song for the clubs. But it’s quite cheeky, I wanted to keep that swing element in it. I’m singing about a girl and meeting her on the dance floor.’

Jamie has recorded another single and hopes to release an EP. He’s also planning a Portsmouth concert to mark his move from swing to pop. Swinging into Pop! will feature Rat Pack classics, pop covers and his own material.

He might be making new moves in the industry, but he has no intention of leaving his swing music past behind. Jamie is still taking wedding bookings and there is one song that will have a special place in his heart no matter what happens in his career.

‘I can’t listen to Ain’t That A Kick In The Head without thinking about that audition and the show at the Kings. It always reminds me of how exciting and fun it was.’

· For information on Jamie, visit jamieriley.co.uk The Swinging into Pop! concert is at St Peter’s Theatre, Fraser Road, Southsea on Saturday, May 19. Tickets are £6.50. Call 0845 293 9350 or visit southseaboxoffice.co.uk southseaboxoffice.co.uk