Q&A with Union J
Union J's George Shelley on overnight fame, overcoming crippling shyness and why his band are not the new One Direction
Hi George. How is your day going? Many screaming teenagers chasing you?
Do you know, those girls who break into hotels and all that ... we're very much like them. We listen to our fans a lot and do surveys and stuff. What comes back is that they see us as an 'emotional' boyband. At the same time, they think we are crazy -- the weirdest boys ever. Some of the stuff we come out with in interviews is just off the wall. Our fans are crazy and emotional and we are too.
You must have young ladies flinging themselves at you ...
We see our families a lot. There's nothing better than being sat down by your mum and her telling you 'stay who you are, don't be an idiot'. Plus, if any of us gets too big for our boots, the other guys in the band will give them a slap. We want to get the most out of our career. Everything else is a distraction. We don't see ourselves as celebrities. It's weird to have people screaming at you. We did a book signing the other day and the queues were enormous. It was weird. Having all those people come out to see you is a shock. We don't take any of it for granted.
Because you were discovered on X Factor, lots of people will assume you are four Brylcreemed puppets at the mercy of your record company.
Actually our label have had a nightmare with us. We want to make sure everything is right. We were put together as a band on X Factor. When that happened, the four of us had a meeting where we decided what sort of band we wanted to become. Even on X Factor you can see we always had a vision -- the kind of music we want to do, the way we want to present ourselves. For instance, I designed our logo. We have regular meetings with our stylists. We get final approval on record covers, the photos that go up on the website. All of it. It's great fun -- at the end of the day you are in a business too and you have to remember that.
Your record label reckons you might be the new One Direction ...
Those are massive shoes to fill. They are the biggest boyband in the world. We look up to them hugely. We're on RCA, they're signed to Syco, which operates out of the same building. We have met the guys -- gone golfing with Niall. They have worked very hard to be where they are. We want to take a leaf out of their book. At the same time, from day one we were very clear in our minds that we didn't want to be a copy of One Direction. We are Union J -- there is a major divide. One Direction are very poppy and upbeat. We're more a vocal group. There are songs on our album you wouldn't expect from a boyband.
You must be the only person in the history of X Factor to be chucked out of the show only to be brought back and then nearly win.
I got three 'yes' responses at the audition. The only 'no' was from Louis Walsh. He didn't think I was ready to be a solo artist and told me to come back next year. Then I got the call from him -- he had an idea. So I joined the band Triple J and we became Union J. It was weird -- it's all ups and downs in this business. If you want to enjoy the ups you have to stand strong in the face of the downs.
Do you enjoy fame?
I am not the most confident person in the world. I was too shy to sing in front of my family. Basically my best mate made me go on X Factor. Some people on the show have done massively well from putting their personality out there. I was bullied at school. I got a hard time for being overweight. My confidence has been an issue.
What about the future ? Surely you don't want to end up like one of those craggy boybands featured on The Big Reunion, pulling back-flips on stage in their late 30s ...
We've got career paths to follow. I see myself as a songwriter. Obviously Union J is not going to last forever. It will have a shelf-life. As long as Union J is a going concern, however, it will be my priority.
- Union J play The O2, Dublin, on Tuesday.
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