|The change came one evening, when I was at a pub in Hastings with my family. It was a karaoke night and my mum made this big deal out of the fact that she'd never heard me sing, and made such a fuss that I agreed to go onstage. She wanted me to sing 'Love Is All Around' by Wet Wet Wet, but I thought, 'Bugger that', and went for 'Don't Look Back In Anger' by Oasis instead. I did my whole Noel Gallagher thing, finished the song and sat back down with my mum. Almost immediately I was acoosted by some bloke who'd been in the audience, who explained that he was entering one of his songs for something called the Vivian Ellis Award, which I later found out was the annual prize for songwriters. He explained that he needed someone to sing on his track and that I'd be perfect.
So I went over to his studio a week later. When I arrived I thought the studio was amazing, firstly because it had carpet actually on the walls, and secondly, more importantly, because i'd never been in a studio before! (When I look back now, I can see that the studio was actually a bit crappy). I did the track for him and thought nothing of it - but a week later he phoned me up and said, 'I hope you don't mind, but I've heard that there's a scholarship going at Sylvia Young theatre school, and I've put your name forward for it.' To be honest I thought the idea of stage school was a bit poncey, and nobody in my family had ever done anything like that before, so it was all strange territory. I said, 'Well, that's very nice of you, but I can't afford it', because I didn't understand anything about scholarships. But my mum insisted that I took the chance, so I went along to the audition, which involved a bit of acting and singing a song. I came out of the audition thinking I'd done OK, but after a week had passed I thought I'd had my chance and blown it. Just when I was beginning to forget about going to Sylvia Young's, Sylvia actually phoned my house. She said that she loved what I had done - but that the scholarship had already been given away. Then she offered me a deal - she said that if I went on her agency books for ads and TV programmes and things, I could pay off my fees using the money I earned. I'm still really indebted to Sylvia for taking me on.
|I remember my first day at Sylvia's really clearly. My first reaction was, 'There are so many fit birds in my class. This is awesome.' There were about 24 girls in my class, and only 5 boys, which is the kind of ratio I like. But it was a total culture shock to go from my old school, where there'd be fights breaking out all over the place, to Sylvia's where the most dangerous thing in the corridors was someone pirouetting widly by a window. I got a few acting jobs while I was with Sylvia, but I wasn't too enthusiatic for three reasons. Firstly because when I did things like The Bill and Casualty I'd always end up being cast as a drug dealer!
Secondly because I preffered the idea of immersing myself in a part, rather than just flicking into it and out of it for 30 seconds on the screen. And thirdly, most importantly, because by that point I was really getting into my music.
There had always been music around me when I was young. My dad, for example, had been a huge fan of Madness, a band I still love today - I think they've probably been a big influence on Busted, because they always wrote really well about what it was like to be young, with a sense of humour and a real talent for pop songwriting.
|My brother, being a couple of years older than me, had got me into some of his favourite bands, too - bands like Green Day, and the whole pop punk movement that was coming over from America. When I was thirteen I entered a competition on TV to win a drum kit and somehow won it, so this huge top-of-the-range kit arrived through the front door one morning. Bad news for my parents but good news for me and my mates Peter and Chris - before long I'd formed a band with them and my brother. We called ourselves Sabotage. We were actually bloody awful, performed nothing but Green Day covers, and never played a single gig, but it was a really good laugh.
While I was still at Sylvia's I went into the recording studio for a second time, to help out a mate - Miles Slater - who was putting together a garage track. We recorded two songs - 'Sunshine Lover', which was rubbish, and 'Make You Mine', which I still really love. When that track went down really well in the clubs, I knew I wanted to pursue music. It was just a question of what style. I knew I didn't want to be in a rock band because I've always had a really commercial ear, but at the same time I hated the pop music that was around at the time. But when I first heard Blink-182 I heard 'All The Small Things' on the radio, then saw the video a week later, and fell in love with them. It really excited me, and it was just what I was after. Not long after that, I met James.....
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