Interview: Sarah Whatmore
SARAH Whatmore was offered a life other teenage girls can only dream of — and she turned it down.
You see this 26-year-old from Manchester does not long for her 15 minutes where everyone knows her name, she just wants to sing.
Her chance of fame came in 2001 when ITV talent show, Pop Idol was born.
At 19, and a budding singer and songwriter, Sarah saw this as the opportunity she’d been waiting for.
To audition in front of the celebrity judges was a dream come true.
And after Simon Cowell’s reaction to her performance “Marry me,” everyone was talking about her.
Although she didn’t make the final, she was signed up almost straight away by pop mogul Simon Fuller, who created the show and has been behind the likes of the Spice Girls and discovered Amy Winehouse.
Two singles followed “When I Lost You” which landed at number six in the charts and number 11 hit, “Automatic” and there was talk of a third accompanied by an album.
But neither materialised and many wrote Sarah Whatmore off as another casuality of reality talent TV.
Unsure about the direction her career was going — billed as Britain's answer to Britney Spears — Sarah took the bold decision not to release her debut album choosing instead to disappear and concentrate on her own writing.
“The album was all finished and ready to go. We'd released the first two singles and we couldn't decide on a third single.
"Then the song 'Toxic' came through the door and, for like two days, I was going to do it,” Sarah said.
“But then obviously Britney got it and I was like, 'You know what, I want to go and write and see what I come up with myself'.
“When you're 19 and you don't know the industry, you're a little bit naive. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having a sexy image and that kind of thing, but it wasn't really me.
“I don’t want to take my clothes off to be a success. It can take over what you're actually doing in terms of credibility, so I've moved away from it.
"I just wanted to disappear and write. I was determined to make my own mark, I just didn't know how long it was going to take.”
For most people, Sarah’s journey began when she appeared on Pop Idol.
In fact it started long before that. Sarah was 12 when she first started singing, having previously always wanted to be an actress.
“Then my mum and dad got me a karaoke machine and I was singing|Whitney Houston every night!” she said.
From the age of 14 Sarah began writing, poetry at first, but after her dad died when she was just 16, Sarah wrote her first song, Goodbye.
“I wrote it in 10 minutes, with my sister on the guitar. It got me a B in my music GCSE!” she said.
And after six years of travelling and writing lyrics it might have been a long wait but Sarah’s comeback is certainly being done with the help of the right people.
Her latest single “Smile” from comeback album “Time To Think,” out this month, is the result of Sarah's collaboration with songwriter Greg Fitzgerald who has worked with big names including Madonna and Kylie Minogue.
Fitzgerald saw Sarah perform at the Royal Albert Hall and was impressed by what he heard, despite her microphone failing in front of a full auditorium.
Sarah said: “It was the most cringeworthy experience. But Greg heard something he liked.
"The next day he rang up 19 Entertainment, who put on the concert, and asked to work with ‘the girl with the broken mic’.
"I have loved working with him and I think we have created something really timeless,” she added.
Sarah explains how her songwriting is inspired by her own emotions, writing her current album while she travelled world: “At the time I was really down,” recalls Sarah, “I'd met a guy but when it ended I was heartbroken - and it was at that point I started writing my best stuff.”
Sarah freely admits that saying no to her big break was tough and she knows that people might find it hard to come back to her this time around.
“People will have their opinions of what I did but now I’m being true to myself.
"I’m really proud of my album, it takes you to a place that's far away from the normal world.
"You have to be on your own when you first listen to it and let it take you away from yourself,” she said.
“I don’t want to be pin up I want to be seen as a soulful and sophisticated artist who is passionate about music. I don’t want to do massive arena tours, although that would be good, I am happier with more intimate gigs where I can see all the faces of the members of the audience.
To reinvent herself with a brand new image is Sarah’s main goal now but despite working with Kylie’s writer she is determined not to follow the Kylie-esque route.
She said: “Last time I was being pushed as a sexy, Britney/Kylie artist, but I felt like I had more to offer as a musician and a singer.
"I love people who don’t care about trying to impress, they just do what they do, go into their own little world, shut their eyes and lose themselves.”
So if her career doesn’t take off second time around would Sarah ever consider paying a visit to her biggest fan Simon Cowell on X Factor?
“No! It's great for some people, depending on what they want to do, but it wouldn't work for me, especially now.”
• Visit the website below for listings of her gigs across the North West being announced soon.