Monday 19 August 2019

'The thought of doing it now would make me so nervous!' - former Irish X Factor star Roberta Howett on how series has changed

She has just released a new single, Skin & Bone

Roberta Howett
Roberta Howett
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

It has been 13 years since Dubliner Roberta Howett made it to the live shows on the very first series of The X Factor but despite her experience she’s not sure she would do it now.

“I ask myself, would I go on it now?  But it seems so scary now that you have to fight for your seat before you get to the live shows. My God the thought of doing it now would make me so nervous!”

Roberta made it to the live shows after she was chosen by Sharon Osbourne and the star continued to manage her for a period after she was voted off in the first week.

The 36-year-old singer credits the show with giving her the confidence to pursue music as a career.

Roberta Howett performs on The X Factor 2004
Roberta Howett performs on The X Factor 2004

“[Before X Factor] I just never thought I was good enough to do it as a job,” she says. 

“I wasn’t out gigging on the road like other people.  I studied piano from the age of six and I was singing in choirs and doing solo work in school.  I always loved it, I just didn’t think I could do it. I was probably a bit shy.  X Factor definitely helped with that. 

“It just put it out there as a reality, like this is actually attainable - there are so many different directions you can take.  X Factor definitely made it much more tangible.”

Her involvement in the show prompted a move to London to pursue her dream and capitalise on the connections she had made in the industry through the show.

“It was brilliant.  I took the stance of okay, let’s start afresh gigging and build my name as a musician.  And then you get the call to be a backing vocalist with different artists and different bands.”

She’s still a big fan of the show and was supporting Irish act Sean and Conor Price this series.  Her advice to the lads as they depart the show is to simply keep going.

“Just keep going,” she says.  “It’s the beginning, it’s that first door that’s opening.  They should keep going.  They have lots of support around them from the public as well as the industry so they should just keep working on it and find their way through.

“I guess they’ll get an awful lot of attention now and, like anything, things move on quite quickly so hopefully they can put some music out there and keep the momentum going and stay in people’s minds.”

Roberta Howett
Roberta Howett

Since X Factor catapulted her into the industry, Roberta has carved a successful career as a backing vocalist for other artists including Beth Ditto and Billy Ocean and most recently Nathan Carter and Boyzlife.

However, she also writes her own material and has just released a new single, Skin & Bone.

Of the release, she says, “I just love putting music out there but at the same time I’m feeling nervous, because you’re putting your deepest thoughts, deepest feelings out there and just hoping that people resonate with it and understand it and maybe it will help someone feeling the same way.”

It’s a very personal single, “about following your own passions, your own purpose, your own desires rather than taking on what other people want or think you should do, not to get too philosophical about it, but not focusing on what society might think you should have but listening to yourself and following your own purpose.”

Although she has released singles before, she admits her solo career has been a bit “stop start” and she is writing more material with a view to releasing an album.  A second single will land in January.

“I love singing and performing but the majority of work I’m doing now is backing vocals for other artists. But I have another single in January and I’m trying to make plans and be more consistent.  Even though I have a back catalogue of songs I’m writing new songs that resonate more with where I am right now.”

Of writing she says it doesn’t feel like work.

“It feels like therapy.  I almost feel a release by doing it.  I feel such a rush, a buzz.  To hear that idea that’s in your head actually played back to you when it goes right and you get everything aligned and when you work with a great producer.  The main thing for me is hoping they understand how you feel and convey that in the track.  It’s really exciting.”

Roberta will continue to tour with Nathan in the coming weeks and the Nathan Carter show is currently airing on RTE with a Christmas special on the cards too. 

Skin & Bone is out now.

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