Regular viewers of The X Factor may be familiar with Leeds-born singer Carolynne, as perhaps could keen-eyed fans of Emmerdale.
The 36-year-old, who grew up in Bramley, twice appeared as a contestant in Simon Cowell’s TV talent contest, in 2011 and 2012, and has also had two acting roles in the Yorkshire-set soap opera.
But her first love has always been country music – and this week sees the release of her debut solo EP, Coming Back To Me.
The five-track collection includes an arresting country version of The Supremes’ Stop In The Name of Love that Carolynne – who last year married the Yorkshire and England cricketer David Willey – first performed on Terry Wogan’s Sunday morning show on BBC Radio 2. It swiftly became a favourite of her Nan June.
“My Nan introduced me to country music and always loved that song,” Carolynne says. “I’d done a little version of that before and she really liked it so I said I’d do that one of [Wogan’s] show. Afterwards it was the one that got a really good response because it’s a bit different and he got hold of me afterwards and said, ‘You really should release that, we loved it, I loved it’ and I just took it on board and thought I’d stick it on the EP.
“I didn’t want any covers on there, I wanted it to be all original music of mine, but it’s completely different to The Supremes’ version so [because] he loved it and my Nan loved it everybody’s happy.”
Carolynne’s singing career began at 14 when her aunt introduced her to the father and son country duo Sundown at a club in Kirkstall. “When I was 14 she took me to this gentleman and said, ‘My niece likes country music’, he had a listen to me – I remember I sang in his house and I wouldn’t want him to look at me so everybody else had to go out of the room and I faced the wall and I sung and he said, ‘Why don’t you come and join the band for a bit?’ I ended up singing harmonies and doing a couple of solo songs,” she remembers.
In those days the country scene was “hidden”, she recalls. “It was very close-knit. At the country clubs and the working men’s clubs up and down the country you’d often see the same faces going to listen to the UK country bands that were on the scene. But now it’s just got bigger and bigger, especially because more pop artists have come through and there’s been the TV show Nashville that glamorised it a lot more which is really good in one sense because it makes everyone more aware that country is a bigger genre of music, it’s more eclectic than cowboy boots and stetsons, there’s so many colours to country music.
“But on the other hand there’s lots of people coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘I sing country music’. Do you really or have you just decided now because it’s getting popular. But it is good there’s a new generation following country music because otherwise it would just die off.”
The title track of the EP reflects Carolynne’s own relationship with the music business, which as well as brushes with TV talent shows X Factor and Fame Academy also included a spell writing songs for others while signed to BMG.
I’ve fallen in and out of love with music all the time, it’s a hard industry to be in, but you only really keep your head afloat if you love it, because you keep coming back to it.Carolynne
“You can interpret that song lots of different ways – it could be about coming back to a person or coming back to a place – but for me the lyrics are very much about coming back to music. I’ve fallen in and out of love with music all the time, it’s a hard industry to be in, but you only really keep your head afloat if you love it, because you keep coming back to it.
“Lots of people have said to me, ‘You’re still doing it, you’re still searching, you’re still chasing your dream. Are you ever going to stop?’ and I say, ‘No because it’s part of me. I’m always going to sing, I’m always going to song write because that’s me.’
“Sometimes it hurts me. About 18 months ago I got very close to signing quite a big deal and that all fell through at the last minute when there were changes at the head of department etcetera etcetera, all things that are out of your control, which often happens in the music industry, and it stung me, it really hurt me again and it reminded me that this was what it used to feel like when I was young, when I moved to London when I was 17 and I was eating Pot Noodles trying to be a song writer and living off 30 quid a week. It made me retreat again but I soon came back. The next thing I knew I’m writing another song or I’m planning another gig. It never really leaves you even though it hurts you sometimes.”
With the prospect of another record deal on the horizon, Carolynne is likely to be around for sometime yet.
Coming Back To Me is released on Friday April 7. Carolynne will play at Bob Harris’ Under The Apple Tree Session at the Warehouse Recording Co in Harrogate on Friday April 28. For details visit www.carolynneofficial.com or www.facebook.com/WarehouseRecordingCo