After her rollercoaster ride on 2015’s X Factor – where she famously got ‘nasty’ on head judge Simon Cowell before exiting in the first round of the live heats – Leeds singer Nicola ‘Bupsi’ Brown says she has spent the last 18 months building herself back up.
“I was quite poorly when I was on X Factor so it was just a case of ‘Mum, Dad, I need you to cook some soul food’ and just have a really good rest,” says the singer from Chapeltown. “What I did is I spent a lot of time writing songs and recording in the studio. I decided which lane I wanted to go down with my music. I did a lot of gigs. It was a combination of Bupsi shows and the Tina Turner [tribute act, which she had been doing as her ‘bread and butter’ before X Factor]. I also manage Midnight Soul Sisters, there’s 13 of us all around the UK and we put shows on. I thought, ‘Do you know what, girl? Go back to basics, get yourself back to work, save all those pennies to try to move yourself forward with the music.’ I just thought I’m going to put everything I do back into launching myself as Bupsi. It’s been busy, it’s been really tiring but I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.”
The first fruit of her labours is the single Turn It Up, a slick combination of garage and dancehall produced by Rodney Rymez that is out this week, accompanied by a video that moves Bupsi firmly into the contemporary pop arena. “I thought there are so many things I could write about – I could talk about heartache, I could talk about all sorts of different things, I always like to write about things that have really happened in my life. This time rather than me just deciding what am I going to put on the table for everybody, I thought let me ask people at all my gigs, ‘what do you want from Bupsi? Do you want a nice ballad or do you want a party?’ and they were like ‘We want the party, we haven’t got time for doom and gloom’.
“Also I remembered what Simon [Cowell] told me, he was a man of few words but when Simon talks to you listen. Him and Cheryl said to me ‘Don’t ever come out here like that again, Bupsi. Whatever you do be remembered and keep nasty’. I thought ‘What is the point of me singing a really good ballad because it didn’t work the first time?’ Let me just do something a little bit different.
“I think people need to see my personality, they need good energy. There’s been a lot of people that have passed away, especially in the past year, and there’s a lot of sadness in the air as well. I thought ‘We need some good energy, we need something to feel happy about’, so Turn It Up is a combination of things – the song is saying ‘if you’re happy to go down that path then go down it, don’t let anybody stop you doing what you need to do’.
“There have been quite a few people in my past that have told me I wouldn’t amount to anything, they’ve told me ‘you’re a two-bit singer, nobody’s going to pay you more than 100 quid’ and all of those negatives that I’ve got my trick is I take that and I put it in my handbag and when it’s time to write that song I remember and I think to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to absolutely prove these people wrong’.
I think people need to see my personality, they need good energy.Buspi Brown
“I don’t feel it is too late for me with singing, I don’t think I’m too old. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, so Turn It Up is about upping your game, rising to the challenge , finding that courage to do new things.
“I think sometimes we hide behind wigs, we hide behind hats, we hide behind so many things. The thing is in my experience you cannot fool the audience. People need to see who you are and what you’re about and you don’t necessarily have much time to prove yourself – just like on X Factor when Simon said ‘That was absolutely horrendous, I can’t believe you’ve come here and you’ve not blown me away. Why are you even here?’ When I said ‘Right, I’m going to show you nasty now’ that came from thinking ‘Simon, I can’t believe you’ve stopped me singing a good ballad and you know I’m not feeling well. Are you having a laugh or what?’ At that point I’m like ‘I’m done with you Simon’.
“I was at the point where I don’t want to hear any talking, I need to prove myself. I had to change and transform myself right there and then in front of the nation. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I knew I wanted to put a smile on Simon’s face and I needed to turn everything around. That’s what Turn It Up is.”
The video features dancers from all over the UK who auditioned for a part. “There were about 50 people who came to audition in Leicester and it broke my heart not to take them all on board,” Bupsi says. “I was like why couldn’t this song be 12 minutes long? I could have had all of you in here’.”
The single is now available digitally. Bupsi is planning gigs around the release. “I’m trying to go down the route of the festivals,” she says. “I want to try to get on the Gay Pride. I just want to perform this live.”
She sounds full of hope for the future. “Even though I’ve done my own material for years and years I’ve always kept it to myself, it’s been so personal but I’m not getting any younger, I need to make sure that I do it now. Life is too short and I’ve just thought ‘I’ve got to do it and I’ve got to do it now’, so I can’t wait.”