Thursday, 18 February 2016

Interview - Sam Bailey

THREE years ago Sam Bailey was a prison officer. Then at the end of 2013 her life changed when she won the 10th series of ITV's hit TV show The X Factor.
Following her win and signed to Simon Cowell's company Syco Music, she released her debut single Skyscraper which reached the coveted Christmas number one spot that year. It was followed in 2014 with her debut album, The Power of Love, reaching number one in the album charts.
Although she is no longer managed by Syco Music she hasn't let the grass grow under her feet.
Far from it. In fact she's added a new string to her bow by making her debut in musical theatre in the role of Mama Morton in a touring production of the hit show Chicago, which is at the New Wimbledon Theatre this week.
The Chicago story is based on real life events back in the roaring 1920s. Nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to avoid death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.
Created by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Chicago has won six Tony, two Olivier, two BAFTA and six Academy Awards.
For Sam, who was born in Bexley and grew up in Sidcup to be in the current revival of the show is a dream come true.
"I've always loved musical theatre and I've seen Les Miserables about 18 times!" she tells me. "Musicals draw you in, they can make you laugh and cry and come out afterwards going 'wow, what an amazing experience'. It's very special and I love the extravagance of it.
"So to be in Chicago, which doesn't tour regularly, and for this to be my debut in musical theatre is a dream and I'm loving it."
Despite this she admits to feeling a certain amount of pressure attached to the role and to do Mama Morton justice.
"It's a new challenge for me as I've never done this before - it's totally out of my comfort zone but when it was offered I couldn't say no," she says warmly.
"However, it's such an iconic show and a brilliant role with some absolutely fantastic numbers - there is definitely pressure!
"It's not just about singing but about getting the accent right and acting the part. When the curtain goes up I want the audience to see Mama Morton and not Sam Bailey. They have to believe it's her so I have got to really immerse myself in the character and make sure I do a good job and don't screw up!"
Warm, friendly and down to earth Sam says she's loving the challenge and even admits to having a sneaking admiration for her character.
"Mama Morton may be a game player and in it for the money, but she's a great businesswoman," she says. "She's also strong, sexy, sassy and very clever and keeps everyone in check - which I love.
"And she's got one of the best songs - When You're Good To Mama - which is fantastic. I come out to that song and I'm literally laying it all out on the table.
"Playing this role has taught me a few things - that you have to work hard to get rewards," she adds. Mama Morton works hard, she's forever playing the game, but you can tell she has a heart.
"Although I never had any training, and would love to take a year out and go to drama school, I have always worked hard.
"Being on X Factor was amazing but I never went into it to be the next Beyonce! I just wanted to sing and get an extension on my house," she laughs.
"A lot of people go into the competition and spend all their money and have no career to show for it. I wanted longevity and I'm in for the long haul. I know there is a shelf life in the music business so I want to make sure I do as much as I can.
"I've got a single coming out in the summer and an album later in the year and I've been booked for panto at Christmas which is great. I like to be busy."
To help her on her way she says she's lucky to have the support of her family and friends, not least her husband and 10-year-old daughter.
"Being on the road a lot is tough and I couldn't do this without them," she says. "My daughter comes out with me when she's not at school which is fantastic and she loves it.
"In fact she's my biggest critic and gives me a list of all the things she thinks I should and shouldn't do in my performance!" she laughs.
"She comes backstage and asks all the guys behind the scenes loads of questions - about what qualifications she needs to do these jobs - she's such a creative kid and I love it when she's here with me.
"My husband is a one in a million too. My diary is planned with military precision so we manage to make it work and I see them all as much as I can."
And with the tour this week in Wimbledon Sam says it will be a chance to catch up with family and friends, and take advantage of what the town has to offer.
"I love the theatre," she say. "It's a beautiful place and I've seen a few shows there over the years so I'm really excited to be performing on its stage.
"There are also a lot of great shops in Wimbledon so I expect I'll get to use my credit card a lot! And there's a lovely Wetherspoons for me to have some fish and chips. I can't wait!"

Chicago is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre, the Broadway, Wimbledon until Saturday, February 27. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 0844 871 7646.

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