It’s 10 years since Andy Abraham was runner-up in the second series of The X Factor. He’s still going strong and talked to Chris Broom about appearing in Godspell.
From The X Factor to playing Judas Iscariot, it’s been an unusual ride for Andy Abraham.
The 50-year-old first came to fame when he was the runner-up in the second series of ITV’s ratings juggernaut The X Factor.
Despite ultimately losing out to Shayne Ward, his down-to-earth style which saw him dubbed ‘the singing binman’, and soulful voice won him an army of fans.
Since then there’s been a platinum album, Eurovision, stints in panto and now he’s touring in a revival of Godspell. The Guide caught up with him during rehearsals for the tour, which hits 12 theatres in 28 days, including The Kings in Southsea.
He says: ‘It’s been crazy, but it’s been brilliant, I have to say we’re sounding amazing already.’
Godspell, a musical based on Biblical stories, has been a huge global hit since it was first staged off Broadway in 1971. But it had been decades since it had been put on in London until it was revamped as Godspell in Concert for a gala show in aid of the Make a Wish Foundation last June. The sell-out performance convinced the production team to take it on the road.
In self-deprecating fashion, Andy describes how he got the role.
‘I was in the gala show, so I’ve reprised John The Baptist and Judas for this and I’m really looking forward to it.
‘Russell Scott, the MD and the main guy behind it, along with Mark Pettitt and Ken Avery-Clarke, I think they saw me in my History of the Big Band show and decided: “He looks a bit of a dodgy character, maybe we could cast him for Judas.”
‘I was thinking: “Do I really look like someone who would put a holy man on the cross?” But there you go.
‘It is really in a concert form, so it’s big songs, emotional songs, and great singers – incredible singers.
‘We live for performing, us entertainers, and the instant reaction of the audience makes it well worth doing, let me tell you.’
This year marks a decade in the public eye for Andy. When he appeared on The X Factor it was yet to become as embedded in popular culture as it is now.
‘It’s been a great ride,’ he says. ‘Ten years on, there are only a few of us that can say we’re still working in the business.
And he has no regrets about not winning: ‘I think the biggest problem winning the show is the expectation, and sometimes it’s a lot for young shoulders to carry.
‘I think first of all, when you’re labelled as the UK’s Justin Timberlake (as Shayne Ward was), Mariah Carey or any of those established legends. It’s tough, they need to just let them be themselves.’
And how does he feel now about his unofficial title The Singing Binman, during the show’s run? ‘That’s what I was at the time, so I was quite happy with that.
‘I was lucky, I was just Andy Abraham, they called me the voice of the people, and I was happy with that.’
And although he keeps tabs on The X Factor, The Voice et al, he wishes they’d keep the focus on the talent.
‘I do watch them, but even with the very, very young, there’s way too much focus on the back story. If they concentrate on the talent, that would be so much better. Oh, and stop the crying,’ he sighs, ‘it drives me mad.’
During his time on The X Factor, Andy was mentored by the indomitable Sharon Osbourne. While they are no longer in touch, Abraham has nothing but praise for her: ‘She was incredible for me.
‘I do my own thing now but I wanted to prove to her that I can stay in the business, and make my own success. That’s what I’d like to say if I was to hook up with her again. But for now, for me, it’s still about learning my trade and becoming a success in my own right.’
Having come to fame later in life, Andy is under no illusions about its fickle nature.
‘It definitely helped, being a bit older when I went on The X Factor.
‘One of the things that shows like The X Factor need to have is life coaches or therapists, just to help them keep their feet on the ground.
‘There may be now, but when I did it there definitely wasn’t. The kids really do need it. It’s very difficult going from a huge show like that, then to a tour, and then... nothing.
‘If they’re brought into the real world and they’re told some of you will make it, some of you won’t, some of you will have relative success, some of you won’t, you need to be able to deal with that.’
In 2008 Andy represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Even If, but he holds the dubious honour of coming joint last – scoring just 14 points.
‘It’s a strange thing. As much as I didn’t understand the whole political voting at the time when I was doing it, the actual competition itself was brilliant to do.
‘If they can sort out the political voting it could be a flagship competition.’
Former Sugababe Jade Ewen briefly joined the cast of Godspell, but had to pull out due to injury.
She represented the UK in Eurovision the year after Andy. Did they get the chance to talk about their experiences?
‘We really didn’t get a chance to speak about it. She had Andrew Lloyd Webber and they did the whole promo thing before they went, which they never did my year. If I’d had that chance, I think I could have done a lot better.
‘Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think I would have won, but positionally, I think I would have done better.’
And it’s not tarnished your career like some other acts who’ve had a crack?
‘No, people still seem to like me, thankfully,’ he laughs.
I’m not sure why The Voice isn’t connecting with the British public on a sales level. I’m hoping Jermain (Jackman, 2014’s The Voice winner) does well because he has a cracking voice.
...missing his family when he’s on the road
The kids are 20 and 18 now, so they’re kind of doing their own thing. It’s more my wife. I miss her more than anything else, and she comes to as many shows as possible.
I think for my birthday, my daughter’s going to take me to see Kwabs. Because I’m so busy now it’s difficult to see people I really want to see, but I’m looking forward to that.
Where & when...
Godspell is at The Kings Theatre in Southsea on Tuesday at 7.30pm and Wednesday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets from £25. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call (023) 9282 8282.