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Bite of the Cherry

Not winning can have its charms. Such as landing a lead role in the West End. Or watching your debut single and album climb straight to the top of the charts. For 18-year-old Diana Vickers she pretty much sums things up by describing herself as a "lucky loser".

"The last time I came over here, I did a gig at a club and had my first pint of Guinness," says Diana when we meet for a chat at Sony's Dublin offices. "Apparently it's really good for you, it's got loads of, like, vitamins in it and stuff -- is that true?"

Not if you drink too much of it, I say. But enough about alcohol and vitamins. What we're here to discuss is the Lancashire-raised singer's triumphant journey from unknown A-Level student to Britain's new favourite pop starlet. Her debut album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree, sees Diana carve out a funky electro-pop-coated facade; albeit one that received a little help from well-known wizards of the trade, such as producer to the stars Guy Sigsworth and hit songwriters Cathy Dennis, Nerina Pallot, and Ellie Goulding, to name but a few.

It's been a long time coming, though, what with Diana having participated in the 2008 series of The X Factor, alongside the likes of JLS and eventual winner Alexandra Burke. Late last year, her title role in the West End revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice was well received by both critics and audiences alike.

However, it's the recent success of her first album, along with lead single Once, that's really turned a lot of heads. We are, after all, talking about the same quirky, barefooted, indie-loving performer whose voice Simon Cowell once likened to, uh, Marmite.

"I loved that!" she laughs. "I loved the fact of people really loving me or really hating me. I like the passion behind it and, yeah, I'd rather that than, you know, people not really giving a tiny rat's ass about me."

Good point. It's clear, too, that Diana has nothing but respect for a show such as The X Factor. "It's a really great platform," she says. "For example, I came from a little town, Blackburn, where, you know, sheep are, and there's not a lot going on; I don't have any of these big contacts, I hadn't been to London a lot, and I wanted to be a singer -- I didn't know how I was going to get there and that was my only way.

"If there's anything I could have done differently," she says, "it would probably have been not to take it so seriously. But then, under that sort of pressure, it's hard not to because I was 17 and I was kakking myself every night!"


As the quick-talking singer further explains, she's kept in touch with some of the other contestants, too -- especially JLS. But what about baby-faced Irish youngster Eoghan Quigg? After all, the press had a field day with that supposed relationship.

"No, I mean, I lose my phone all the time and that's no excuse, but . . . if I ever saw him I'd literally pounce on him and hug him and it would be really great to have a good catch-up." Hmm . . . were any of those tabloid rumours true, I wonder?

"No, we were very good friends and I think people really wanted there to be something there, but no." Fair enough. So how does a young, amiable girl such as Diana manage to lead an enjoyable social life with such a hectic work schedule, then?

"Somehow, I manage to work hard and play hard -- I don't know how I do it, but I think it's because I'm 18. I'll always make room for a Saturday night out, I mean, I guess a lot of my good friends are up north and it is very difficult to see them, but the minute I get time off, I'm there!"

It must be weird paying a visit home to Blackburn, though. I bet the whole town are in awe.

"No, it's good, everyone's so grounded and they're like, 'oh right cocker!'"

Eh, come again?

"Oh right cocker!" she laughs. "Everyone calls each other 'cocker' and 'love' and things like that. You know, I am, like, the local celeb I guess, and everyone's just really proud."

Finally, what impresses me most about Diana is her consistent good humour. From what I hear, she's been doing press all day. You wouldn't know it. "I love meeting new people -- I really do," she says.

Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree is out now