Lowestoft: I’m proud of this album, says The Voice’s Leanne Mitchell
- Credit: Archant
Winning last year’s The Voice seemed like a storybook ending to a career full of ups and down for Lowestoft’s Leanne Mitchell; but that’s not been quite the case. She talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage.
When we meet, Leanne is bursting with excitement. Her debut album is about to hit shelves and lead track Pride is Radio 2’s record of the week.
“I’m really excited. We started it around last July and I was adamant I didn’t want to do a covers album, anything that would be typical or expected, and I wanted to write it,” said the 29-year-old singer.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was eight, mostly as a hobby rather than on this scale. I’ve co-written or written the majority of the album. I’ve got a really great label with Decca, my management team, the producers... I’m just looking forward to everyone hearing it now.”
Barely two weeks later and The Voice’s credibility is under fire after the album failed to make the top 100, selling less than 1,000 copies in a week - prompting anger from the show’s Will.i.am and, later, Leanne.
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Mentored by Sir Tom Jones, her victory on the BBC One series has been dogged by controversy.
Her cover of Whitney Houston’s Run To You was branded a flop after reaching number 45 in the single charts with runners-up Tyler James and Bo Bruce both faring better with their post-show efforts. There was added disappointment late last year when The Voice’s official live tour, due to feature all eight finalists, was cancelled following reportedly poor ticket sales.
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“Things like the tour; that was nothing to do with us. As for them calling Run To You a single... all I can say about that was I didn’t even know it was a single and if I didn’t know then I don’t really know how anybody else could have,” said Leanne.
One of several acts called into the studio to record favourite songs from the show so far, she thought she was just laying the track down for The Voice compilation album.
“I think because it was available to download after the show it got branded a single. I don’t know how all of that works to be honest and maybe I was naïve. I don’t regard that as a single... if it had (gone to number one) I would’ve been shocked. It sounds like you’re making excuses... but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that didn’t really dent anywhere.
“What I’m proud of is what I’ve spent the last few months doing, which is this album. I will be judged whether that does well or not... I really hope it does, I’m proud of it.”
Leanne’s been accused of being reluctant to do publicity and admitted she can be a bit of a closed book sometimes; but I saw no evidence of that during our chat in Lowestoft’s Sparrow’s Nest Park back in May. She talked openly about her ups and downs in the music business.
How she was gigging in pubs from the age of 13. How fear saw her turn down a deal with a major label aged 14. How another deal a year later saw her performing in London and America only for things to fizzle out.
“Music is everything, I’ve never ever had any other job that isn’t to do with music,” said the former vocal coach, arranger, principle singer and theatre company manager at Potter’s Leisure Resort in nearby Hopton.
“As for doing it on this stage, I never could’ve predicted this was going to happen. You always think ‘what if’… then something comes along like The Voice.
“I’d spent my whole teenage life trying to make it work. I carried on at Potters thinking I’m going to chill for a little bit, then I’ll try again but that turned into 10 years. I was still singing, performing, writing... I was really lucky to have a job I loved.
“You always have at the back of your mind ‘I need to push this again’ but over those years there was always little things that would come up. You’d think ‘oh I’ll give it a go’ but you just think maybe ‘I’m just not good enough’. You go for that first audition and think ‘oh we’ll see how it goes’ and couple of months later you’re still in it and think ‘how the hell did this happen’,” she laughed.
Whatever’s been written, Leanne’s come a long way since belting out Sailing and Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue on the massive karaoke machine her parents bought her when she was eight or nine and clearly felt blessed to be in the positition she is.
“I hope to take the album on some sort of tour and get performing again; that’s one thing I find really odd, how little amount of singing you actually do,” she laughed.
“I went from singing six nights a week to now not and I really want to get out performing again. I did a thing at the UEA last weekend and sang Pride. You feel that buzz again and think ‘I want to sing again’. It’s what I love to do.”
It’s been a month after our conversation. In that time The Voice coach Will.i.am has hit out at Leanne’s record label over her failure to succeed in the charts and she’s complained she’s been made a “scapegoat”.
“The record company should be freakin’ embarrassed. Somebody should be held accountable. These singers are on television every week. So you’ve already accomplished things that stars don’t accomplish,” The Black Eyed Peas star told the Radio Times recently.
He said it was a mistake a record was not ready for release within days of the winner being announced.
“Do you wait a year later? Somebody should get slapped because you waited too long. The show paid all this money for make-up, the lighting guy, wardrobe person, editor, director. Where are the b****y songwriters and producers? Boom! Somebody should be ready.”
“If you’re having performers sing other people’s songs, you should have a whole bunch of songs ready in your arsenal. It’s hopeless to release a record so long after the series finished, especially in the attention deficit disorder society that we live in today.”
Just days after the climax of this year’s series, Leanne hit back in an online message following the criticism she has endured since only reaching 134 in the album chart with her first release.
She complained no one was “on my side from the start” and countered suggestions she did not want to work to make the album a success.
Leanne said she had no hand in the timing of the record - which came out almost a year after her win but had been completed many months earlier - and said she had trusted people around her to make the right decisions.
She said: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been used as the scapegoat? For the record, I’d written and finished the majority of my album by the end of last summer, around September time.
“I don’t know why it was decided to wait so long to release it, but unfortunately, being very new to all this and probably too naive, I had to trust the people around me in making the right decisions.
“I have absolutely worked my backside off to WRITE this album, not copping out on all covers. And as some people have speculated, I absolutely wanted and still want to work for it.”
Leanne said she had worked hard since she was 13 “doing what I love, and felt that maybe it would have all been worth it for this past year”.
She went on: “I wonder if everyone that has said/written negative things about me have even listened to the album? Again, unfortunately, I don’t think anyone was particularly on my side from the start.”
Leanne added she did not want to appear as though she was “bitter” and she actually felt “very lucky” to have had the experiences of the past year.
“If people actually gave me a chance, and didn’t judge me on what has been said or written, maybe they’d see some people are just in it for the music,” she said.