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Music Interview

Will Young interview: "I badly want to be in Downton Abbey"

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Will Young
Ten years after his Pop Idol win, Will Young remains a shining (albeit, rare) example that reality talent shows can occasionally find, well, talent. After four studio records, an impressive retrospective and a number of film and TV spots, Will has turned a corner for his fifth opus Echoes, calling on electro-pop expert Richard X to help him navigate a new, club-friendly sound. With said LP out this week, we caught up with him to find out more.

Your new single is a slight change in sound from your previous material; are you pleased with the response?
"Really pleased! Before a song gets released you're in your own bubble with it and worry that you could be the only one that thinks it's good! Changing your sound is a tricky thing to do, but I think it's come about at the right time and from the right place. It's not a massive change, and it's very genuine."

The change feels like a natural progression, particularly after your greatest hits...
"I think that was a big part of it. Not a lot of people heard my duet 'History' with Groove Armada, but that also gave me a lot of confidence and I'd been writing songs for the album for the last few years and filing them away. 'Good Things' was written six years ago now, just after Friday's Child. Dance was always a long-term goal."

The song is called 'Jealousy'; are you a jealous person?
"I'm not a jealous person in relationships, which seems to be quite rare! It's a horrible thing, and it makes people do such crazy things that don't make any sense. If I'm out with a boyfriend and I see him talking to a stranger it doesn't bother me."

Will Young


What was it like working with Richard X (Goldfrapp, M.I.A) on Echoes?
"I wrote a letter to him and stalked him until he agreed to do it! I've always been a huge fan of his work - he's such an intelligent producer and I love his musical choices. I was really nervous, but he was the real linchpin of the record. I'm so pleased with how it's turned out."

We heard you were supposed to be doing something with the Shapeshifters too...
"I did do something with them but it never came out. It was a song they'd made and asked me to put a vocal on it. I did it at the same time as 'History', and I think you've got to be conscious of not ramming something down people's throats. I've learnt to be patient!"

How would you describe the rest of the album?
"The songs are quite direct this time, which is probably because we wrote the central line of most songs first and worked from there. They're all very personal things that are usually about what's going on that week, which is what I usually write about!"

You've filmed an ITV special to go out later this year; were you nervous about it?
"I was initially weary about doing the ITV special because I wanted it to be done in my way, but ITV were great. They trusted me and my team and we've come up with something great. The performances reference this woman called Ann Margret who did a lot of TV specials in the '60s. It was very simple and graphic but I think it really works."

You're one of the few males succeeding in a female-dominated pop market at the moment; why do you think that is?
"I have no idea! I love female artists, but I suppose girls represent more for the populist and the papers. You don't ever see what I'm wearing in the news - I suppose women are more marketable. We have some amazing female artists though - someone like Adele is hands-down amazing. I don't mind though, it's less competition for me!"

Will Young


You haven't done many collaborations in the past; is there anyone you're keen to work with?
"There was actually one collaboration that was meant to happen on this album but didn't in the end. I'd love to do something with Beth Ditto - that would be so cool! Her EP is so amazing - very Madonna. I don't know why she didn't do a full album!"

Are you planning to return to acting soon?
"At the end of next year I've got a couple of things. I really want to do a musical, and I badly want to be in Downton Abbey! I've also been working on this spoken word project to do with music; it sounds really pretentious but it's great."

Are you looking forward to this year's X Factor?
"It's great Saturday night TV - it'll be interesting to see what happens with the new judges. People get really worked up over it - including me! I've been known to shout at the TV at Louis Walsh. I'm more interested in the contestants, especially if they can find another Leona Lewis."

It's ten years since you won Pop Idol; could you handle the pressure of The X Factor today?
"The show has evolved with the media so it must be harder in that respect. I think I could still handle it; I was so focused on having a pop career that everything else would be periphery. It was different back then as it was all new, but I was so focused on getting a recording contract that I think I'd still be the same way if I was entering today. All you need is your foot in the door!"

Will Young's new single 'Jealousy' and album Echoes are out now.

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