Grace swaps village pub for arena tour
Ever since teaching herself the piano at age 16, Grace Davies (20) has dreamed of playing her songs to thousands of fans.
And this month the Lancashire singer will live her dream when she stars in The X Factor Tour 2018, stopping off at Manchester Arena where as a young girl she watched her idols perform chart-topping tracks.
“I’m buzzing and cannot wait!" she said.
"It’s absolutely insane!
"I was looking back at my first audition and I’ve grown so much.
“I was working in a warehouse and singing in a pub and now I’ve got a record deal I can go off and write songs full-time.
"I’m moving to London soon and I’m really excited.
"It’s everything that I’ve ever wanted."
The tour will see Grace reunite with fellow X-Factor contestants Rak-Su, Kevin Davy White, Lloyd Macey, The Cutkelvins, Matt Linnen, and wildcard act, Sean and Conor Price.
Her time on the ITV talent show isn't to be scoffed at: a duet with "Stone Cold Sober" singer, Paloma Faith, in the finals; millions of online streams of her performances; and thousands of fans singing her songs back to her in her first ever headline show.
Since finishing second, Grace has also joined past contestants One Direction, Little Mix and Susan Boyle in being signed to judge Simon Cowell's record label, Syco Entertainment.
But despite making national headlines in just a few weeks, this Northern star vows never to forget her roots.
“I was given so many opportunities from the Northern music scene from age 15 to 16 to get my name out there and reminding myself of that keeps me grounded," she added.
"When you’re singing to thousands of people each week and have hair and makeup teams, it can go to your head.
“But remembering when you carried your keyboard across Blackburn or was paid £20 after three hours of driving to a gig is important.
"It makes me appreciate everything."
And that's exactly why she's proud to be a voice of the North.
“When I did my homecoming on The X-Factor lots of people were there to support me and I wanted to help put Blackburn and Lancashire on the map," she said.
"I was telling the producers not to expect too much.
"I said, 'there’s not going to be thousands', but when I rocked up I was completely shocked as there were around 3000 people there!”
Having found fame through reality TV, the next few years could see Grace become a household name or a 15-minute star.
In a time when anyone can become famous overnight - and fade away from the limelight just as quickly - this singing sensation dreams of making music that will last through the decades.
“I want to create a timeless album," she said, "while also keeping it current and trying to be individual."
So when it comes to life, Grace has two golden rules: be brave; and be real.
And in a time of manufactured music, she looks to influences like Etta James and Ed Sheeran as reminders to stay true to herself.
“What I love about them is just the realness of the music," she said.
"It’s not about the glamorous production but their voices and their stories.
"That’s what I want people to say about me in 20 years time.
"I went to grammar school then left by myself while my friends went to university," she added.
"I didn’t go out with friends on the weekend because I was trying to get my songs out there.
"And when I was on the show I knew the kind of artist I wanted to be.
"I was headstrong.
“My sound is piano-based and I love Gospel choirs so I would probably stick with that, with lots of pretty and layered vocals.
“People got behind me because of what I’d done on the show so they might be shocked if I dropped a dub-step album!”
But when it comes to staying relevant, Grace needn't worry - for the singer has plenty to say.
“Everything inspires me," she said.
"My songs are mainly about things that have happened to me but I want people to be able to relate to them.
“Music means everything to me.
"It’s my full-time job but it’s also my hobby.
"After going to work and writing a song, I’ll come home and write another one!
"It’s my life now and that’s incredible.”
The Northern legs of the tour are: Tuesday, February 20th, Manchester Arena; Thursday, February 22nd, Newcastle Metro Radio Arena; Wednesday, February 28th, Liverpool Echo Arena; Friday, March 2nd, Sheffield Arena; Saturday, March 3rd, Leeds First Direct Arena.
Tickets are on sale from £20 at www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.gigsandtours.com