IF anyone knows how a hit record can change your life, it’s James Arthur.
The 2012 X Factor winner had racked up huge debts after being dropped by his record label in 2014 and spiralled into depression and suicidal thoughts.
But after writing multi-platinum single Say You Won’t Let Go two years later he doesn’t have to worry about money again.
Speaking exclusively from the dream home he has now bought— complete with a swimming pool and recording studio — James says: “Financially it’s made me for life and I’m lucky that I’m still able to sell-out arena tours across the UK.
“But if I wasn’t able to gig ever again and this was the new normal, I think I’d be fine.
“I’ve got everything I need, I’m blessed.”
Thankfully for his huge fan base, James isn’t thinking about retirement just yet.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week he has just released an acoustic version of his 2016 song Safe Inside.
All proceeds will go to mental health charity Sane, which he is a patron of, and the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal.
And he will soon be teaming up with his old X Factor mentor Nicole Scherzinger for a surprise new record to entertain fans during lockdown.
The collaboration is something James has been keen on for some time, as he is eternally grateful to the Pussycat Dolls singer for sticking by him through all his troubles.
James says: “We’re in touch all the time, she’s so supportive. Any gig she can make, she’s there like a proud mentor.
“I’m working on something with Nicole right now. I can’t say what it is but I think it’s going to be a nice surprise.
“We got our heads together and thought, ‘How can we entertain fans during this lockdown?’.
He is also working on his fourth album, the follow-up to last year’s You, which reached No2. And it will be a change from the sound fans are used to.
James says: “I want it to be a massive departure from the middle-of-the-road pop that people hear from me on the radio.
“I’m not really bothered whether the radio picks stuff up any more because it seems like they only want to play stuff that sounds like Say You Won’t Let Go.
“We have to resist that temptation to write these acoustic pop ballads all the time because it bothers me that I’ve managed to get pigeon-holed.
“Before The X Factor and before Say You Won’t Let Go I considered myself to be a musician who was versatile, did lots of different styles of music and was a bit edgy. I feel like maybe I’ve lost that a bit.”
Thanks to his recent success, James can now dictate his own future. But only five years ago it was a very different story.
Despite his self-titled debut album going to No2, he was dropped by Simon Cowell’s Syco label following a string of controversies and looked set to be consigned to the history books of reality-show flops.
More alarmingly, he was left with spiralling debts he was unsure if he could ever repay.
James says: “I was in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt. I was doing gigs in Moldova every other Saturday to pay the rent and get myself out of the red. It was tough times.
“I made an awful lot of money after The X Factor and my first album. I don’t know how I burnt through it all.
“My management at the time didn’t claim their commission so they let it rack up to a lot and by the time I was dropped and a couple of years had gone by it had accumulated.
“It’s that and the lifestyle, I guess. You get in a tax bracket where you just can’t afford it.”
In January James was forced to postpone the majority of his European tour when he found out he had a gallbladder infection and had to have emergency surgery.
And at one of his final shows he had a panic attack, convinced he was going to die on stage.
He says: “I have had social anxiety and health anxiety and various different types of anxiety and depression, but I never felt it when I was on stage. That was the one place where I had a lot of confidence and self-esteem.
“You always have a bit of performance anxiety but it was really, really bad. It was pretty crippling and I didn’t think I’d be able to perform again. I had a month of intensive therapy to get myself up for the UK arena tour.”
It is those experiences that inspired him to release his new version of Safe Inside.
James adds: “It is a song that took on a whole new meaning during this time and the lyrics are apt for right now. I’m glad I’m able to do something.” Good on him.
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