Since the show ended, you have come out publicly as gay. You have talked before about how it was difficult for you to come out initially, so how did you deal with that when you rose to fame so quickly on Britain’s Got Talent?
It was really difficult because I lived a very normal life, I lived all my life in the northeast of England, in Hull where I was born. I lived very normally and in terms of personally as well -- by that time my friends and my family had known about my sexuality and I was still getting to grips with it, but especially being thrust into this life. The press obviously want to know your personal life, your romantic life, so it made it a little bit more difficult. It felt like a magnifying glass. I’d always been a little bit uncomfortable talking about my sexuality just because it took me a while to fully accept it, I had a bit of traumatic time with my friends when I was younger and it kind of just put me off talking about it. I was thinking if I talk about it I’m going to lose friends, lose people’s interest.
The show just catapulted me into the public eye, and I felt a little bit under pressure that I would have to talk to people about it before I was ready. I struggled with it a little bit until songwriting came into the equation. I’ve used songwriting as a tool, I‘ve used it as a way of being able to talk about how I feel… it was only a couple years ago I came out to my dad. I wrote a song about coming out to him, and I also wrote a song about coming out to the press, the fears I had, the anxieties I had. One of the lyrics is “If our love is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” kind of in an empowering way, to try and hopefully be an answer for people who are going through the same thing I went through.
But songwriting has significantly helped me to explain how I feel, to put into words all of the emotions that stir up inside me, all of the anxieties and worries I had, and I put it into music. For that to be able to serve, through my experiences, as help for other people kind of brings me a lot of comfort, and in that made me a lot more accepting of who I was. It was difficult at first to embrace who I was, considering the complications I had when I was younger, but I said to one of the people I was talking to at my label, I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m loving what I’m doing with my music, I’m loving where I’m at personally, I’m very happy with who I am, I’m very happy with my sexuality. So music has definitely made me feel more confident and happier. If I can help one person to have the confidence to come out and to be happy with themselves and who they are, then it’s been worthwhile.
It sounds like songwriting has been really helpful for you personally, with coming to terms with your sexuality.
Of course, I mean it’s changed things from me being vulnerable and feeling like there’s a magnifying glass on me and kind of feeling like I had to talk about it -- not that I was being pressured at all by media or anything like that. It was just my own anxieties and my own voice making me feeling like I’m going to have to talk about this, because I’d rather talk about this and be happy with it than see a story in the press and feel like I’ve lost the opportunity to tell people how I feel before anybody else does. But these songs that I’ve written, to read the words back. I’ve got a song with a guy called Toby Gad who wrote “All of Me” with John Legend, he’s written countless songs – “If I Were a Boy” by Beyoncé, there’s all these huge songs that he’s written. I wrote a song with him about the experience of coming out to my parents, about the anxieties I went through and how when I told them they just said that they love me no matter who I am and they just want me to be me. I played that to my mum and she was in tears, and I said to her, “How come you’re so upset?” and she said “It’s just so beautiful that you’re able to put into words how you feel and you get a sense of how much that meant to you and what you went through.”
To be able to put it to music and to be able to share it with people and for people to go “I know exactly how that feels,” is such a beautiful thing. She pointed out something I knew all along, which is that I wanted to be able to help other people with music -- music is almost like a medication, you know? You just stick your earphones in and listen to music and kind of escape the world that we live in and the problems that you’re going through -- and hopefully it inspires you and makes you confident enough to face your demons or face your own issues. Without music I don’t know if I would’ve been confident, maybe I would’ve eventually found the confidence, but music has just brought me to that conclusion so quickly, and now I’m so happy talking about my sexuality, talking about my experiences. I always just think in the back of my mind if I can just help one person through talking about these experiences. If somebody catches this interview, or hears my music, this could be their lifeline, to know that I’ve been through exactly what they’ve been through and are going through the same things or whatever, hopefully just inspires people, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.
What have you heard from fans or other people since coming out about your experiences in the public eye?