What a difference 12 months makes. Just a year ago made-for-TV pop band Hear’Say were the talk of the nation. The five unknowns were propelled to stardom by the ITV1 show Popstars.
The group’s debut track Pure And Simple became the fastest-selling debut single of all time, they were mobbed by thousands of fans wherever they went and undertook a 23-date nationwide arena tour.
Whereas the five unknowns who made it into the final 10 of Popstars, but were not chosen to be in Hear’Say, were labelled flopstars and dismissed as also-rans by the majority of critics.
A year later and the picture looks pretty different. Liberty X’s third single Just A Little is at the top of the charts. Hear’Say, by contrast, appear to have fallen off the face of the earth.
Liberty X are Michelle Heaton, 22, from Newcastle, Tony Lundon, 23, from Galway, Kevin Simm, 21, from Chorley, Lancashire, Jessica Taylor, 21, from Preston, Lancashire and Kelli Young, 20, from Derby.
They still feel like pinching themselves over their good fortune.
Heaton says: ‘‘We never could have imagined being in this position 12 months ago. We were only just signing the record deal and getting things together.
‘‘We never thought much beyond releasing our first single let alone anything else. We are absolutely gobsmacked and to be honest it all feels a little weird.’’
Young adds: ‘‘The reaction to the single has been wicked but it has taken us all aback. Radio 1 playlisted it seven weeks before release which is phenomenal.’’
While Liberty X appear to be riding along on the proverbial crest of a wave the group remain modest about their achievements and won’t criticize Hear’Say.
‘‘We are really nervous,’’ admits Young. ‘‘I’ll have to take a week off to recover from getting to No 1.’’
In recent months the group seem to have grown in confidence. They have matured both in style and the presentation of their music. They feel this is natural progression.
Taylor says: ‘‘It’s like any job. Once you get settled into it and get to know your colleagues you are more confident.
‘‘As you get to know other bands, the people who work on TV and how to handle interviews it all becomes easier. I also think over the last 15 months we’ve got to know each other really well so we are just comfortable with each other.’’
Unlike some groups where members continually vie to see who can get most of the attention Liberty X seem to be happy to let each other take a turn at answering questions.
‘‘No one is bossy or takes the lead all the time,’’ says Taylor. ‘‘We are five people who just get on well together. We didn’t win Popstars and we could have all hated each other. We don’t come from similar backgrounds but we just clicked.’’
And for those who are under the impression that Liberty X were put together in the same way as Hear’Say they should think again.
After being told they had failed to make the grade for Hear’Say the five were asked not to contact any of the other pop hopefuls - but they did.
‘‘We knew who was in the band and who wasn’t,’’ reveals Young. ‘‘The five who made it had their mobile telephones switched off permanently.’’
A turning point came when they were reunited in London as it was revealed to the public who had made it into the Popstars band.
‘‘I invited everybody round to my house, we got talking and decided to stick together,’’ says Young.
They found there was plenty of interest in signing them up but eventually decided to go with Sir Richard Branson’s V2 label.
‘‘We didn’t really need to do anything as a lot of record companies had contacted LWT about signing us,’’ reveals Simm. ‘‘But the deals and their idea of what sort of band we should be was not what we wanted.’’
Heaton adds: ‘‘It’s worrying when somebody who hasn’t even heard you sing as a band offers you a deal. Our record label V2 told us they liked us but asked us to go away and write some material - so they obviously cared about what we wanted.’’
Young chips in: ‘‘It was always our intention to be a proper band and have our own music and style. We don’t want to forget about Popstars because we wouldn’t be a band without the TV show.
‘‘But it is brilliant that people now see us a pop band and not just a group of people from a TV show.’’
Liberty X are now aiming to help other young hopefuls on Disney Channel’s Star Ticket, this gives five youngsters the chance to perform in front of 12,000 people at the TV channel’s Kids Awards ceremony in October.
Young says: ‘‘We are going to be judging some of the kids. But I think we are all a little nervous about turning into judges. I don’t want to say no to anybody.
‘‘It’s great to take part in something that the younger generation can get involved with and if we can help out that’s cool.’’