Just a girl, innit?
As the bad girl of X Factor, Cher Lloyd certainly knows how to create a bit of banter. But she’s getting used to having the last laugh, she tells LAUREN MURPHY(just don’t go calling her a pop star)
‘CONFUSING. AMAZING. And . . . oh, I dunno . . . surprising.” They’re the three words that Cher Lloyd would use to describe the past 12 months of her life. “Surprising” is perhaps the most apt description of the twists and turns the 18-year-old’s life have taken over the past year, ever since she was propelled into the spotlight after joining the X Factorranks (ultimately finishing in fourth place). Before she was portrayed as the enfant terrible of last year’s competition, she had played the odd holiday camp gig, entered a few singing competitions and unsuccessfully auditioned for X Factortwice.
Now living in London, Lloyd has left her smalltown Worcestershire roots behind – but thankfully not the accent. Her debut album Sticks + Stonesis finished, and is an accomplished and surprisingly diverse collection of bolshie pop songs that incorporate her well-documented love of hip-hop. She has worked with some of the biggest names in pop production and songwriting – RedOne and Max Martin amongst them – but whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of calling her a pop star.
“I just don’t like the whole being called a ‘pop star’ thing,” she protests. “I’m just me, innit? I’m just an 18-year-old girl from Malvern. I still do all the crazy things I used to do, so I’m just the same. I’d just say that people know me for my music.”
One-to-one, Lloyd is a likable, smart young woman with a determination to succeed – but her outspokenness and, at times, bloody-mindedness during her stint on X Factorled some people to view her self-belief as conceit. Her alleged backstage arguments with Louis Walsh and apparent lack of co-operation meant that she was customarily considered as troublesome – but would she change a moment of it? Would she ‘eck. “I’ll never ever diss The X Factorbecause that’s the thing that brought me to the place I am today,” she says.
“But d’ya know what? One thing I’ve learnt is that the world of TV can be messed around with so much. I could have sat in a chair and said the most nicest things ever, but do you think they would put that on telly? They’d rather have me sticking my middle finger up and saying ‘F the world’. Because, y’know, it makes good telly, and everyone wants to watch it. It’s happening in this year as well – but it’s just something that makes good telly, and I can’t deny that I love watching it myself. I love to see a bit of banter. I like to see the arguments and the bitching, because it’s enjoyable to watch.”
TV duets with Black Eyed Peas man Will.I.Am are a long way from Lloyd’s first foray into the world of music. That came via a “beat-up karaoke machine” bought by her parents when she was eight years old, which she refuses to throw out. Yet her financially humble working class background has led to much bitchiness among tabloid gossip columnists who labelled her a “chav”, and in school she was often bullied because of her ethnic background (she is of partial Roman gypsy descent).
“The thing with my family is we never talk about money – because, in our eyes, what’s the point in talking about it if you haven’t got it?” she shrugs. “We’ve always coped with what we’ve got, so nothing’s ever changed. My nan was the one who paid for all my lessons and stuff. A couple of years ago when I left school, my nan brought me to London for the first time to try and get into [theatre arts academy] Italia Conti.
“It’s a top, top school, and I went in there and they just didn’t want me there. I was just the odd one out; everyone else turned up in ballet leotards, and I turned up in a tracksuit. I just stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll always remember that day, because now I look back and think ‘I made it. I didn’t need you’. I had the last laugh when they looked down their noses at me, so it’s all good.”
Lloyd is getting used to having the last laugh. When her debut single Swagger Jaggerwas released it was routinely panned by critics, yet still got to number one. Even this early in her career, she’s already resigned to being dogged by opponents. Former News of the Worldshowbiz editor Dan Wootton was so ferociously disparaging of Lloyd on Twitter that Lily Allen had to step in to admonish him. “No matter what song I put out first, there would have been critics,” she says. “It could have been the most amazing song ever, but it still would have split people’s opinions down the middle. But I’m glad that people are like that with me, it makes it more interesting. I like it when people love me or hate me. I don’t wanna be just okay.”
Luckily, the album is more than just “okay”, too. Lloyd’s determination to have her say meant that she co-wrote a large proportion of the songs on Sticks + Stonesand her stamp is all over the likes of the jerky strut of Grow Up(featuring Busta Rhymes) and Over the Moon, which contains the lyric “When Simon told me I was trouble, all I said was ‘okay’” .
“At first, because of the big producers I was working with, it was difficult,” she says of the writing and recording sessions. “I felt . . . I dunno . . . really uneasy. I didn’t know whether I was gonna be good enough, I didn’t know whether or not I was what they were looking for. But as the weeks went on and time went by, I got more and more comfortable, and I realised: this is their time that I’m using, so therefore I need to work hard.”
It certainly sounds like Lloyd is in it for the long run, and she confirms that being just another clone off the X Factorfactory line was never an ambition. “I guarantee that I’ll still be here in five years. I am not gonna be the one to get me pay cheque next year and fizzle out. I’m in this for the long run, and there’s no one who’s gonna stop me or chuck me out. I’m gonna keep writing, keep working as hard as I have been, because not many people realise how hard it is. Everyone thinks it’s a glamorous lifestyle, everything’s cushty. It’s hard, but I’m prepared to keep working to make sure I stay here.”
But, given the association with the majority of that programme’s past contestants and their track records when it comes to longevity, would she have preferred to take a different route into the business? “Nah. No way,” she says resolutely.
“D’you know what? X Factoris the best thing I ever did, because not only did it make people aware of me, but I opened the door. I slammed it open. I kicked it open. I didn’t arrive quietly, and I’ll never be quiet. At the end of the day, who’s gonna kill ya? No one’s gonna kill ya.
“So do what you want, innit? Have a laugh.”
Sticks + Stonesis released today on Syco Music