From his debut appearance on X Factor, when he stunned the judges with a spine-tingling take on Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven, to his storming performance in the final, backed by Boyzone, Eoghan Quigg oozed star quality. Just 15 when he entered the contest, Eoghan had a confidence on stage way beyond his years that came first from a genuine love of singing, but also the support of a music teacher in his school in County Derry, who spotted his talent at the age of eight.
“I always sang around the house, but never thought much of it,” recalls Eoghan. “Then my primary school started a choir. To be honest, I only joined because you got to bunk off lessons to rehearse. At first, I didn’t even sing. I just moved my lips and mucked about. Then, one day, I was asked to sing a solo. At the end of the rehearsal, the teacher asked me to stay behind. I thought I was in trouble for messing around with my mates, but she told me I had a really good voice and if I was prepared to practice, she would put in extra time to teach me.”
Although his parents weren’t at all musical, both sets of grandparents had been.
“Both my grans and granddads played Irish folk music,” says Eoghan. “Not professionally, but they wrote their own songs, won competitions and played gigs all over the country. I always say my voice comes from them. I wish I’d had the chance to sing with them, but I was too young.”
Two years in to secondary school, Eoghan had become a local star in his hometown of Dungiven. He took the lead roles in productions of Joseph and Oliver and, aged 14, reached the finals of Irish Schools Stars In Their Eyes.
“My confidence on X Factor definitely came from doing school musicals,” says Eoghan. “When you’ve performed in front of all your friends, singing to a room of strangers doesn’t seem so scary.
“For Stars In Their Eyes, I was James Blunt. I sang Goodbye My Lover. The finals were filmed for TV and I was really annoyed at not winning. Not because I’m a bad loser, but because I was beaten by a terrible rock band. Who were they meant to be? Green Day, I think. It was hard to tell.”
Nevertheless, when Eoghan auditioned for X Factor, he had no idea of the impact he would make.
“Honestly, I was worried I wouldn’t even get through the first round,” he laughs. “I knew I could sing, but I didn’t think I was anything special. It wasn’t until the boot camp that it finally dawned on me I was in with a chance.”
At his first audition, Simon Cowell & Co declared Eoghan a natural star. From the moment he appeared on TV, he won the hearts of an army fans all over Britain. Thanks to the show, the 16 year old began his recording career with a chart-topping single, a cover of Mariah Carey’s Hero, featuring the show’s final dozen contestants.
While X Factor opened to the door to the pop career Eoghan had dreamed of since singing along to S Club 7 as a kid, it is his hard work since that reveals his real determination to succeed as a solo artist. Signed by major label RCA almost immediately X Factor ended, Eoghan spent Christmas back in Dungiven with his much-missed family (including the baby sister born while he was on the show) , before returning to London to begin work on his eponymously-titled, debut album.
Recorded at Sphere Studios in Battersea and released on April 6th, Eoghan Quigg is a collection of covers - some from X Factor, others chosen and reworked by Eoghan – plus anthemic lead track, 28,000 Friends, a playful, pop-rock song written by former Busted member James Bourne.
“We began by discussing which songs to put on there and how we were going to change them,” explains Eoghan. “They had to be songs I felt I could make my own. Of the covers, my favourites are probably She’s The One and Never Forget. I only know Take That from the reunion, but I absolutely love them. I also really enjoyed doing Abba’s Does Your Mother Know and We’re All In This Together. I’m not particularly a High School Musical fan, but we made a very disco version of that song that’s such fun to sing.
“28,000 Friends is a fantastic first single. James Bourne wrote it for me and I’m honoured. He’s a great writer and a really nice guy. He was very helpful when he came down to the studio. The lyrics are about collecting all these so-called ‘friends’ on sites like MySpace and Facebook. I mean, MySpace is great, but there’s nothing like interaction with real people. Personally, I’m not so big on Facebook, but I do Twitter. About what? Just what I’m doing day to day. I like to let people know what I’m up to.”
Still endearingly down-to-earth, despite being mobbed every time he sets foot outside, Eoghan’s aim is simply to keep making music. His X Factor highlight, singing with idols Boyzone, is set to continue when he supports the band on their UK and Irish tours in April and May. He recently completed the X Factor tour of arenas, on which – reported The Guardian – his set was rightly greeted with the loudest cheers. In any free time – though there hasn’t been much – he has started to write his own songs.
“At the moment, I’m focused on my album and the Boyzone tour, but in the future, I’d love to write,” says Eoghan. “Right now, singing is enough. My favourite moment from the last six months was a homecoming gig in Derry. 20,000 people turned up and went crazy. It was incredible. It made me realize how much my life has changed, though I don’t think I’ve changed as a person. I’m still the boy from Dungiven who just loves to sing.”