The interview: Lucy Kay
2014 Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Lucy Kay is co-headlining a charity concert in Lancashire. MALCOLM WYATT spoke with the Glasgow-based pyjama-clad soprano
Forget for a minute – if you possibly can – Belgium-based Blackpool dog-act Jules and Matisse, and cast your mind back to 2014’s Britain’s Got Talent final.
In that year’s hit ITV series climax, 10.7m tuned in as five-piece musical theatre boy band Collabro won a showdown with Lucy Kay Allen.
Lucy Kay – as she is known professionally – remains on a high 12 months later, and is preparing to showcase her vocal talent at Lancashire landmark Hoghton Tower next month.
The quirky soprano co-headlines Symphony at the Tower on Saturday, July 4, with Brit Award-winning classical vocal group Blake, backed by the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.
It promises to be spectacular, closing with a firework finale, just the latest of several glittering career highs for the Glasgow-based 25-year-old.
But how did it come to all this for Lucy, still in her pyjamas when we caught up on the phone last week?
“Absolutely! I’ve been watching the show when I can this year, and seeing the live semi-finals I was nervous. I know how it feels to be on that stage.
“I didn’t think I’d even get through to the semis, let alone the final. It’s been incredible.
“It’s like Marmite – you either like Britain’s Got Talent or you don’t, and shows like that either help make your career or dream happen or have the adverse effect.
“Luckily for me and quite a few others, we’ve managed to live out our dreams, and are still doing it.”
I confess to Lucy that I steer clear of most TV talent shows, but from clips I’ve seen, this gifted classical music lover is clearly no novelty act or manufactured pop puppet.
“First and foremost it is a TV show, so they have to make it interesting, throw anything in they can to make it emotional.
“In the beginning, I think people were put off by my sob story and wanted me to just go on and sing. I’d love to have too!”
More of that ‘sob story’, as she put it, shortly, but it’s been a bit of a blur since, Lucy going straight into a multi-album deal with Sony as the series ended.
“I said to Collabro that week, ‘You’re going to win!’ I could see how it was going. I was just so happy to come second.
“Then, soon as the show went off air, I was approached by my manager, who said we had a couple of record labels very interested.
“He said, ‘We’re going to choose which one we think is the best to go with’. I was just like, ‘What? No! As if!’
“I went for a meal with Liam Toner (Sony’s Head of Classics and Crossover), and he got the champagne out. I thought, ‘This is so weird!’ I’d never had a champagne lunch before.”
There have been many more ‘OMG’ moments since, including Lucy’s invite to perform at a birthday party for Simon Cowell just before her album came out.
Is she still in touch with the judges on the show?
“I’m in touch with Alesha Dixon’s manager, so find out what she’s up to next. And when I’ve met Amanda (Holden), she’s just hilarious and one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met.
“Then there’s Simon. When I sang for his birthday, he didn’t know I was going to sing Nessun Dorma. He told me it made his night. He was so lovely.”
Is she still in touch with the boys from Callabro, who she toured with after her series ended?
“Yes, it was great being with them, and I did a few pranks on them. I’m quite mischievous, and so far they’ve not been able to get me back!
“They’re on their second tour now, while I’m on my first this autumn – delving into more musical theatre, a bit of jazz, as well as a bit of classical and the big opera arias.
“I like to get lots of genres in there, see what people really like. I’m doing a lot of corporate gigs, then Sunday at the Musicals at the Hippodrome in London.
“Symphony at the Tower? I’m really excited about that, not having done an outdoor show before.
“I worked with some of the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra before on the Collabro tour, which was incredible.”
It’s fair to say Lucy’s been pleased with the success of debut album Fantasia too.
“It did very well, getting to No.1 in the classical charts and No.18 in the main charts. I was higher than Paloma Faith, and confused by that! I love her to bits. She’s crazy!
“I remember looking at the computer, seeing I’d made it to No.1, then Classic FM did a piece on me and made it Record of the Week.
“It’s all a bit odd. Lucy Kay always seems more like a character really. When I’m Lucy Kay Allen at home I’ve got my ‘jamas on – as I have now!”
When she turns 26 next Tuesday (June 9), will she get Simon Cowell to sing for her at a special party?
“That’s a good idea! I’m going to the Download Festival at Donington Park though – that’s my birthday present.”
That’s classical crossover gone mad, surely.
“I’m a bit of a metal-head! I went to my boyfriend’s gig last night. David’s in a band called Centrilia. They’re incredible.”
Who does she want to see most at Download?
“Oh my gosh – Marilyn Manson! I’ve never seen him live. Then there’s Clutch, Slipknot… oh, all of them!”
I can’t really see Slipknot sharing a bill with SuBo (aka Susan Boyle), but Lucy appeared live with the 2009 BGT runner-up while studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
“There was a Scottish tour she was doing and we had auditions to back her on I Dreamed a Dream and a couple of other songs. And I got through!
“She’s hilarious, so sweet, and has a really funny side. It was one of the most fun tours I’ve been on.
“First time she met us she was quite frightened of singing in front of us and doesn’t cope well with those situations.
“But we all made friends before and she opened up. Then you see that other side of her. I just hope people continue to look after her. She’s so lovely.”
Lucy knows all about struggling to mix, as anyone who’s picked up a red-top tabloid in the past year knows. Is there truth in talk of her troubled youth?
“You have to be honest, because it will come out eventually. I was badly bullied. I’d moved from Leicester when I was four, to this new city, Nottingham, and didn’t really know anyone, and nor did my Mum.
“We had a different accent, and I just wasn’t very good at making friends. Also, Dad had left. Sometimes children need that stability. For me, my only rock was my Mum.
“I was bullied from around seven upwards. It went on until my 20s, actually.
“I joined the Cantamus girls choir, and was with them every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That made me unpopular and uncool, singing ‘God music’ as people saw it.
“By the time I was 10 or 11, people were saying they’d seen me on Songs of Praise, If I’d had any guts I’d have questioned why they were watching in the first place!
“At the time I was frightened, just wanted to keep my head down. People do anything to fit in, and some of those that bullied me were just doing it because others were doing it, thinking that was the way to gain power.
“Mum didn’t really know what to do. It was just so painful. The reason I decided to talk about all that is that my singing helped me through those bad times.
“That’s important for young boys and girls in that situation - if you have a passion for music or anything really, you’ve got to hold on to it.
“Whether you’re having a bad time at home, at school or anywhere, things like that can help. Music did it for me. I hate that it happened, but it makes you who you are.”
Is it right that her Dad’s been back in contact since her TV break?
“Yes, but he’s always been there for a few minutes here and there. I think the loss of his Dad was a turning point - he realised what was important to him.
“He rings every couple of weeks and we have a natter. It’s nice.
“He saw a lot of things written about him and that probably made him feel even worse.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with Britain’s Got Talent. We were coming into contact before. It’s just building bridges really.”
Lucy’s move to Glasgow came in 2010, and it’s been her happy home city ever since.
“I failed my GCSEs because I was hardly ever at school. I was either in the girls’ toilet or skipping school because I was too terrified to go in.
“Mum didn’t know that, and was upset I didn’t tell her about it. But I felt I couldn’t. I didn’t want to upset her any more.
“My singing teacher, Pamela Cook, who sadly passed away before she saw my success, knew there was something special there, and helped a lot with vocal lessons.
“Mum wasn’t in a position where she could pay a lot, so she helped out every now and again.
“There was another singing teacher who lived around the corner who helped. I re-sat GCSEs in English and Maths then got my A-level in Music so I could move away and start a new life.
“She did that off her own back, spending every night of the week with me, never wanting anything for it. Credit to those ladies.
“It was either going to be Manchester, where I’d been a few times with the choir, or Scotland. I wasn’t strong enough for London.
“I went for an audition in Glasgow and fell in love with the city. They offered me a place on the day, saying, ‘You must come here!’ I was like, ‘OK!’”
Five years on, Lucy’s working on a second album, ‘a bit more classical crossover’, some of her fans wanting more ‘out there stuff’.
“There’s still another side of my fans I have to please with more classical, but others want a few covers and curveballs.
“I love Katherine Jenkins. She’s still my biggest idol, but she’s very girl-next-door. Image-wise I don’t think that’s me.
“I’m more into my rock, so I suppose I’m going down more of a darker angel side.”
And what’s your other half’s take on it all?
“David’s very protective. He managed me on the Collabro tour. Because he works in that industry he’s used to it all, and my little tantrums!
“He watches out for me. He’s a bit more cautious, rather than flattered like me!”
Lucy has already forged links with St Catherine’s Hospice, the Preston, Chorley and South Ribble palliative care centre and charity behind Symphony at the Tower.
“I’m very honoured to be a part of this. Why not use your voice - if you’ve got a gift - for a good cause?
“I plan to visit the hospice again. Last time I sang in the chapel, during my tour with Collabro.
“I donated to a guy who had a purple Mohican, raising money for the hospice. His spirits were so high and he was so happy to see me.
“I was so overwhelmed with how bright everyone was there. It puts your own life into perspective.”
Will she perform with Hoghton Tower co-stars Blake on the night?
“We were talking about doing Nessun Dorma together. They were already set to do it, and I said, ‘But that’s my party piece!’”
Can we expect some of that Lucy Kay quirkiness on the night?
“I like to have a laugh on stage. I’m very light-hearted, never taking anything too serious. I believe in a real connection between the artist and the public.”
Will she be there to see Status Quo headline on Friday night?
“I’m doing a gig in Ipswich on the day, but then I’ll be there. I’ve always wanted to see them live.”
So she might harmonise with Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi on Caroline or Down Down maybe?
“Hey, perhaps I could jump on stage and join them!”
Remember, you heard it here first.
For Symphony at the Tower tickets, including weekend and VIP packages and more details, visit www.stcatherines.co.uk, drop into the Lostock Hall hospice or call 01772 629171.