Max Stone, Contestant Interview
Q. Its ‘Movie Week’ this week – can you let us in on any secrets about your performance – as aware you originally had a couple ofchoices in mind have you settled on a song now?
Max:Yes that’s correct, so I’ve settled on Bruce Springsteen ‘Secret Garden’ and it’s a great song! The way we’ve looked at it is – when I went into the vocal session it was actually the first time I’d heard it. Initially I thought it wouldn’t really work because that song,out of all of Bruce’s songs, is quite monotone it doesn’t really go anywhere and there didn’t feel like there was much of a chorus. But what we decided to do, Ian the vocal coach got me to improvise on the song so we recorded the first half identical to how the actual song is but then Ian let me vibe with a pianist and interpret the melody however it first came to mind. That way I’ve managed to put my own spin on it and take it somewhere else. It really feels like it’s a song that works for me.
The performance itself is going to be quite stripped back; I’m going to be walking around the stage a little more this time. Working with the props a little bit, it’s going to be a kind of late night Midsummer Night’s Dream setting.
Q. You used to be in a band and you’ve performed on various stages such as Camden Roundhouse, how does it The X Factor stage?
Max:The X Factor stage is very different because you have to look into the whole TV aspect because visually what you see on stage isn’t necessarily what you see through the camera. It was really interesting seeing how they make the production on stage reflect through the TV screen. As much as I’ve been used to playing with bands and people I know and vibe with really well, which has acted as a comfort, so stepping out of that has been a bit of a challenge but it’s something that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more and I’m gaining more confidence.
Q. What made you decide to take the plunge and enter the show in the first place?
Max:There’s a couple of reasons, I came to London five years ago to continue studying song writing and basically, I got to a point where I was doing open mic nights six days a week. I eventually I got in touch with some promoters, got better gigs and got management and I got to a place where I felt confident with my vocals so started making songs. Stuff I was doing before was more reggae and soul but as I sent out music to people they didn’t really get it, some of the labels – they wanted things that were more ‘modern’. I started working with other producers, trying to get a more modern sound but I felt it was out of my control. I sent off some more songs but the general feedback was that it’s still not quite there.
I was at the stage where I just didn’t know what else I could do and I wanted to do The X Factor because I thought there might be a chance I could get far and build an audience based on the songs I love to sing. Another reason for entering is one of my best friends, he was my biggest supporter – he always told me I should enter The X Factor and a month before my audition he sadly passed away. That spurred me on and for him, I wanted to step in and take the plunge
Q. What do you think it is about your sound that makes you stand out from the other acts?
Max:The sound route I’d like to go down is more of a reggae sound not ‘traditional’ reggae but more soul perhaps with hip hop style production and soul elements. I think that’s something that’s different to what’s out there in the industry and something I would really like to do in the future. Someone I really aspire to is Maverick Sabre, I really love what he’s doing and I’d like to do something similar. I think what makes me different from the rest is my vocals allow me to take things in a way that means I can really give everything, I try and sing from the heart – not saying that the others don’t but I think I can give more intensity perhaps.
Q. What’s been your favourite part of the competition so far?
Max:Two points for me which have been the pivotal points in the competition and in my life in general really – the first is the six chair challenge and going off stage but having the crowd support me enough to bring me back. That was a really big moment for me because throughout the competition, I was always wondering if I’d be accepted but that night told me I was on the right path. The other one would be the first week of the live finals. I was standing behind the stage and Simon Cowell asked me how I was doing. I was really nervous at that point because I was wondering if people at home would get behind me and vote. And when they did, it was a huge boost.
Q. How is it having Simon as a mentor, what’s the best piece of advice he has given you?
Max:The best piece of advice Simon’s ever given me is to be myself, to show myself and not be afraid of who I am. He said I need to show the world my quirkinessand dare to be different
Q. Who would be your dream collaboration if you could collaborate with any famous artist?
Max:I would love to collaborate with Bruce Springsteen. I think it would be amazing and I don’t think The X Factor has ever had an artist like it and when watch his performances he has this energy that captivates people and I’d love to be a part of that
Q. How are you finding it living in The X Factor house now that it’s starting to get a little quieter?
Max:There’s certainly a lot going on and the long days are hard. Most days we’re doing like 15/16 hour days and then we have to fit in sleep and practice in between. There’s no sign of it slowing down, in fact I think it’s getting even more intense. I’m really enjoying though, I’m getting into the rhythm of things and when I go to sleep, I think about all that I’ve achieved in that day and it blows me away and gives me the energy I need to keep on going.
Q. If you could perform anywhere in the world where would it be?
Max:Dream location would be a beach in Fiji. I’ve always wanted to go to Fiji and I love that whole beach vibe. Don’t get me wrong it would be great to play in massive arenas and all of that but to be honest, down by the beach and the sea – that’s where I feel most comfortable. That could be really spectacular!
Reggie and Bollie, Contestant Interview
Q. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your musical background and how the act Reggie and Bollie came about?
Reggie: The two of us started singing back in Ghana. Bollie started in 2004 and myself in 2006 and since then we tried to push into the industry but it just wasn’t happening. We then decided to relocate to the UK, back in Ghana we were solo acts but it was in the UK we decided to come together and become a group. That’s when the group Reggie and Bollie were formed. We were initially Men on Point and then we became Reggie and Bollie. The original group came together in 2012 and we’ve been together ever since.
Q. What made you decide to take the plunge and enter The X Factor?
Reggie: We’ve always dreamt of making it internationally, even when we were back in Ghana. We not only wanted to be singers in our country but we wanted to sing in other countries and get that recognition. We felt like in the UK, the biggest platform you can use to showcase your talent is The X Factor and that’s how we came to audition. Now we’re through to the lives, it’s amazing.
Q. This week’s theme is ‘reinvention’ – what can you tell us about your performance/song you’ve chosen?
Reggie: So this week is reinvention week and we’re doing a mash up of Omi’s ‘Cheerleader’ and One Direction’s ‘What Makes you Beautiful.’ It’s going to be wicked. The stage, choreography and everything is coming together. I think we’re going to have a great weekend. We don’t think a lot of One Direction fans will expect the song to be how we’re going to perform it and I love that we get to put our own spin on it. I think everyone will have a great time this weekend.
Q. On Twitter there was a video of you two showing off your dance moves with Cheryl, how are you finding having her as a mentor?
Reggie: Having Cheryl as a mentor is like a dream come true. Cheryl really gets us; she knows what we’re about even more than we do. When it comes to song suggestions she just knows exactly what we want and what works, even when it comes to clothing – we just stand there and go ‘yes, yes, yes.’ Sometimes you might think we’re saying yes because she’s our mentor but it’s not that it’s because she just gets us and don’t need to argue or say anything. With the dance video that’s on Twitter, we went to the studio with her to work on choreography and she was like guys ‘I want you to introduce so new moves, some fresh moves’ and she was like just like this and that was it. It wasn’t anything planned it was fun. For us, we see her as our big sister because she’s giving us a lot of direction that we didn’t even think about.
Q. You talked before about wanting your music to travel internationally, so it would be great to find out a more about what kind of artist you see yourselves being?
Reggie: We see ourselves being a new kind of afrobeat, pop music artist. Looking in the charts now,I think that it’s a real trend for that kind of genre and you see people like Omi and Nico and Vinz doing it at the moment. We have got different sides to us we’re not just singers, we can rap, ragga and a whole lot more which we feel is a very good advantage. We are happy and see ourselves getting into the charts and actually dominating in a few years’ time.
Q. What’s been your favourite part of the competition so far?
Bollie: I think coming on the Saturday live shows. When you are performing on Saturday all you think about is having fun, you don’t think about going home or anything. The Sunday is when it gets a bit emotional but Saturday is like I’m here to enjoy myself, come here and let’s party.
Q. How are you finding it living in The X Factor House?
Reggie: I would say it’s an absolute pleasure. It’s been a great environment to learn our songs and get along with everyone. We all have fun, we’re all full of compliments so for example if you’re rehearsing and someone likes it they’re really supportive. There’s no bickering or anything like that. I think it’s great, I think the X Factor house could easily be the best Big Brother house but one where there’s no drama.
How do you relax in your spare time and chill out?
Reggie: When we’re relaxing we’re either in our room listening to music or chatting. We share a room with Anton and Max. Sometimes we grab the girls like Kiera and Lauren and we have a party, we start the party and others join in. It’s fun funfun. Sometimes we go to the cinema as well. The other day we went to the cinema with Che, Matt and Mason Noise. The funny thing was throughout most of the movie we ended up being stuck on our phones so we had to go outside and missed most of it.
If you could collaborate with a famous artist who would it be and why?
Bollie: I would say one artist who has really inspired us from day 1 and was the first person who encouraged us to get into performing is Shaggy. That is the reason for our very first live performance where we performed his song.
Also we would like to fingers crossed/when the time is right perform with our mentor Cheryl. That would be the biggest thing, it would be amazing
How are you finding your fanbase?
Reggie: We’re always so surprised because we’re like where are all these people coming from. It’s crazy! We post stuff on social media and it’s getting like 2000 plus likes and we’re like wow. I think our fans are really lovely, nice happy people and that is the vibe we want to come across. Everyone has got their own issues and we just want to be the band that comes and along and for that moment when you’re interacting with us whether you’re watching our videos or performances, we just want people to forget about your troubles and have a good time. When we are around we want you to throw your troubles away
The X Factor is shown in over 150 countries worldwide, is there a dream destination that you’ve always dreamt of performing at?
Reggie: Yes Madison Square Garden or in fact, actually before Madison Square Garden we’d love to perform in the main Wembley Football Stadium. To see our name in bright lights at Wembley Football Stadium would be incredible. I’m sure that day we will both cry.