On her voicemail message, the tone is refined. But when we make contact, it quickly becomes clear that the Brummie in Niki Evans is still intact.
The housewife who stormed to fourth place in The X Factor in 2007 has since played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the West End and on tour, but at 38 she has not lost the down-to-earth values of her upbringing.
Whereas Mrs Johnstone is a downtrodden mother on a Liverpool council estate, Niki grew up on a Birmingham estate and worked in butchers and factories.
She had never even seen a musical before being offered the lead role in dramatic musical Blood Brothers, and regards theatre as ‘just a different kind of work’.
But she did always want to sing, and at 18 began with a four-piece band ‘playing in pubs and clubs for no money’ and warming up for the Grumbleweeds, Jim Davidson, Bernard Manning and Chubby Brown.
It was much later, after her father died, that she discovered X Factor envelopes among his papers – with her name on them.
‘He had said “You should do that” and I said I was too old. But he must have applied for me. I had them for three weeks and then after we buried him I thought: “I’ll do it.”
‘I never told my husband or kids. When the kids heard I was doing The X Factor they were gobsmacked. “You?” they said. “You?”
‘It wasn’t until they saw me on the first show that they thought I could pull it off. Then when I went into the West End, it was “What, you?” all over again. So I am quite grounded.
‘The boys are now 16 and 14, and quite glad not to have mum around! Their dad keeps them fed and I get home on a Saturday night from wherever I am and spend Sundays there.
‘Everywhere I go I feel guilty but I say if they want me to come home and be normal, they need only say.’
Meanwhile, she adds, as long as she is in Blood Brothers she will give everything every night.
‘When I feel I am playing the role rather then being the role I’ll say I need to get away and sort myself out.’
· Blood Brothers will be at the Kings, Southsea, from Tuesday to Saturday, May 3-7, with two performances daily except Tuesday and Thursday. Tickets: (023) 9282 8282 or kings-southsea.com.