Stevenage's Got Talent
PUBLISHED: 10:01 30 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:01 30 October 2013
Two Stevenage singers were watched by millions as their talent took them to prime-time TV audiences this summer. Louise McEvoy discovers the people behind the voices
Teenage singing sensation Gabz Gardiner came to the attention of the nation as she made her way to the final of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.
The final was watched by a peak of 13.1 million people and, with an average of 11.1 million viewers every week for the ITV show, it is the highest rating UK TV programme of the year so far.
Music mogul and creator of the show, Simon Cowell, called the 14-year-old from Stevenage ‘a future popstar’.
About her self-penned song, called Lighters (The One), Cowell said, ‘I absolutely loved that. I really did. I think that’s a cute little song, great chorus. You know, produced properly, that song, you may have something there.’
He was right. Lighters – where Gabz raps, sings and plays piano – has been released as a single, produced by Sony Music. The single reached number six when it entered the Radio One charts in July – the second highest new release of that week. She was invited to introduce her song on Radio One on the official chart show, which she described as ‘very special’.
Gabz says her talent for singing was first noticed when she used to sing in the back of the car with her brother to her mum’s music. ‘When my dad first heard me sing Warwick Avenue by Duffy he couldn’t believe how good I was,’ she laughs. ‘Before Britain’s Got Talent, all I had done is sing at church and school. It was my idea to audition, and it was a great experience. I think I have learnt a lot and gained more confidence from being on the show.’
She says she got the idea for writing Lighters from watching movies, and then sat at a piano and penned the lyrics. ‘I’m so glad my song is doing well in the charts as this could mean I get to release more of my music.’ She adds that shooting the video and recording the single was great fun. ‘I have been to a studio before, but it was just to record covers, and this was different because I got to work with music producer Graham Stack, who is amazing.’
Gabz, who loves pop music and is inspired by singers Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Justin Bieber, hopes to go on to release more of her own music, tour and work with other artists. ‘If I could perform with any well-known singer it would be Jessie J because I’m a massive fan of hers and I would love to write a song with her,’ she says.
A former pupil of Lodge Farm Primary School in Stevenage, Gabz now attends The Nobel School in the town, and admits juggling school with her success, is an issue. ‘It has been quite difficult trying to do school work and music, as I’ve been getting lots of homework, but I’m enjoying myself!’
Singer-songwriter Nadeem Leigh says he was at the end of the road musically and had started working in sales when he decided to audition for BBC1’s The Voice. The 34-year-old from Stevenage was selected by The Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue to go forward in this year’s competition, making it though to the battle rounds.
‘I never have any regrets for things I’ve done, only for what I haven’t done,’ Nadeem says. ‘The experience was amazing. Working with some of the best vocal coaches in the industry off stage and performing to a live studio audience is an experience I’ll never forget. To have validation by so many people that you are good at what you do is something I’ve wanted for a long time. It makes the hard work all worth it.’
Nadeem says his mum knew he could sing from when he was just 21-months-old and recorded him singing Bob Marley songs. Since starting school he has been in bands, and has played live since he was 15. ‘I started busking then too and learned a lot from it,’ Nadeem explains. ‘Busking was great. When you look down in your case and there’s over £200 in change you know that’s a genuine response.’
Life has been far from easy for Nadeem. He got involved in drink and drugs at the age of 15 and by the time he was 17 he was addicted. With the death of his mum when she was just 37, things spiralled further out of control and he was admitted to rehab in 2010. He says, ‘I suffer from the disease of addiction as so many do. I was admitted to rehab and have never looked back. It’s had its ups and downs but now I’m sober and no longer desperately looking for solutions to my low self-esteem and crippling fear in the wrong places. I get great pleasure in giving of myself these days, as I took so much from well-meaning people and feel it’s a duty to pay back.’
Nadeem is now involved with family support charity Home-Start and says it has been a humbling experience. ‘I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the families, and it was touching to be at their AGM recently and play a couple of numbers,’ he says. ‘Music is such a powerful way of interacting with people and crossing boundaries, and to be able to help the families lose themselves for a moment in music is truly an honour.’
Nadeem is currently working on a new album and is playing festivals this year. ‘I’ve got some great session musicians around me and we have been working on new material,’ he says. ‘It’s been hard work without any financial backing, but that’s what being a musician is about. A lot of hard work and sacrifice, but it pays off when I play live and get that flow between the audience and the stage. That energy is better than anything money can buy.’