Catherine Musgrove speaks to a friend of Paul Akister who is in the X Factor final.
“HE’s living a lot of people’s dreams”, said Stuart Michaels, who will be performing on stage at The William Mitchell pub in Morecambe, as Paul runs the gauntlet of Simon Cowell and co tonight.
“But I don’t want to put any pressure on him, I don’t want him to have any regrets. He needs to seize the moment.”
Paul and Stuart met six years ago, when they were both singing in the pubs and clubs of Lancaster and Morecambe.
They soon struck up a close friendship, and started rehearsing together before gigs.
Stuart said: “We’d rehearse together, perform at local venues, and also go out socially together. I think I’ve lost my rehearsal buddy now though!”
He added: “We’d plough through loads of different songs, and if he came across one he liked, he wouldn’t be able to move on until he’d got it just right.
“He’s got a very soulful voice, and in the last two years his voice has really, really improved, but he works hard at it.
“He’s like me, when he gets up in the morning he hums around the house and sings in the car to work at it.
“I’ve worked all over the world and I’d say he’s the best male vocalist I’ve ever heard.
“He can do all sorts of tricks with his voice, he’s very impressive.
“If this was going to happen to anyone around here, it was always going to be him.”
For Paul, 25, it is his second bite of the X Factory cherry, after being kicked out by Louis Walsh at the judge’s house stage last year.
The former Ripley St Thomas student, who lives at home with his parents and sister, has blamed his elimination on his lack of confidence and has recently undergone a transformation, losing three stone and having £9,000 of dental work done.
Stuart said: “Paul is very, very quiet unless you get to know him.
“He’s not shy, he’s just a bit wary when he meets someone new, but he’s really easy to get on with.
“The person you’re seeing now on the X Factor who appears shy because it’s all new.
“But I spoke to him on the phone the other day about the live finals and he said he’s not nervous at all - he’s looking forward to it.
“I’ve never heard him speak like that before.”
He added: “I’m really proud of him, and I hope that the people of Lancashire vote for him.
“I did put a message up on my Facebook site though the other week, having a bit of a pop at people who are all of a sudden Paul Akister fans.
“I told them to prove it by showing up to his last free gig for a long time, at The Study Room in Lancaster, and to be fair they did. The place was rammed.”
Last Saturday night, Paul won over mentor Mel B and guest judge Emma Bunton with a heartfelt rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel in Cancun, Mexico.
At the time he said: “All the way through, I’ve shown I’m an old-school soul singer.
“But to survive in the music industry, you have to show you can put that voice on to a modern track so I want to show I can do modern things. And show that I will last a long time.”
Bookies have placed him at 6-1 to win the show.