Shayne Ward is not only switching on Belfast's Christmas lights next week, but the X Factor winner is back with album number two and a whole new image. Edwin McFee talks to a grown-up, officially sexy Shayne ...
They say there are two sides to every story and that couldn't be more apt when it comes to Shayne Ward. When 24/7 caught up with him in Belfast's Merchant Hotel, he came across as a man with two distinct sides: on one hand there is the down-to-earth Manc who loves his family and has a lot of time for his fans.
On the other hand, there is a cheekier, racier young pup - a side which was, by the star's own admission, suppressed during the making of his self-titled debut album for fear of alienating his younger fans.
Now, nearly two years on from that first record, and armed with his new opus, Breathless, Shayne is taking a leaf out of Justin Timberlake's book and trying to bringing sexy back to the charts. Brace yourselves ladies ¿
"Breathless is a really sexy album," he grins. "This record is a complete change for me. It's a lot funkier and a hell of a lot sexier and, because the songs were written for me, it feels much more special because I had a say in making this album.
"I also know the fans are loving the new sound and seeing me act my age more. They're now getting to see my personality, which is great. I think I'm also starting to appeal to different groups of people and I want to continue with that."
A lot has happened in the world of music, even in the relatively short space of time that Shayne was off the radar. Boy-bands are officially a thing of the past, singers such as Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen now dominate the headlines and the days of a pop star singing constant ballads while sitting on a stool and grabbing the air for all his worth is a bit naff.
Shayne, to his credit, realises that the times they are a-changing and, although it is only a couple of years since he won X Factor, he knows it's time to move on.
"I want people reading this to know that I put everything into my album, " says the 23-year-old. "I didn't want to come back with any old crap. I took my time for you guys. It's funny because, although it was only two years since I did X Factor, I feel like an old timer now.
"I'm really happy that I went away to Asia for most of the year and took my time to make this album. I didn't want to give people too much too soon. I didn't want people to get bored with me."
An old-fashioned work ethic is what helped Shayne weather the storm since he appeared on the TV talent show. In fact, it's probably what has kept him sane for most of his life. While most teenagers were snogging behind the bike-sheds and taking their first sips of alcohol, Shayne had other ideas about what he wanted to do with his life.
He wanted to be a star and was willing to work as hard as he could to make his dream come true.
"My first public performance was at a school talent show 10 years ago and I haven't looked back since," he smiles. "Strangely enough, the song that I sang was Westlife's Swear It Again - which is so weird because we're now on the same label [Syco Music] and we're both managed by Louis Walsh.
"I've always been a musical kid though. My whole family are musical, it's not just me."
And so, inspired by the positive reaction from his peers at school, Shayne joined a band when he was 16 called Destiny which also featured Tracy Murphy and Tracey Lyle. He spent his days working in a women's shoe shop and his nights performing at local working men's clubs. It's all a far cry from his current platinum record-selling status but, in many ways, he misses those innocent early days.
"Sometimes I miss being in the band," he confesses. "I always had someone to rely on and there was a camaraderie to it all. There are times I find myself reminiscing about singing in the working men's clubs. It was just a totally different world to what I'm doing now.
"It's something that I'd recommend to anyone with an interest in being a musician. If you can get into the caberet scene it'll give you so much confidence and you'll learn your craft the right way. It'll also toughen you up because if your audience don't like you, they'll tell you. That's where most of my confidence comes from I think."
But Shayne's confidence got a pretty huge knock five years ago when he failed to make the finals with his first stab at reality TV superstardom on Popstars The Rivals. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, though, as the show would later become notorious for creating one of the most criticised boy-bands of all time - One True Voice.
"I can honestly say that if I had made it into that band then it would have ruined me," he says candidly. "To be honest, it was my sisters who convinced me to audition in the first place. Lisa and Emma both auditioned so I thought I would too, just for fun. When I was getting through all the rounds I thought, what the hell is going on?
"When I look back at it now, I'm really happy that I didn't make the finals. Not because of what happened One True Voice, but because I was too young for it. The way it is now, I can handle it."
Undeterred, Shayne auditioned for ITV's X-Factor three years later and sailed through. Not only did Sharon Osbourne lust after him live on telly every Saturday night, he was hot property with the viewing public too. Since winning the show, life has become a bit of a Cinderella story. His first single, That's My Goal, shifted 313,000 copies on the first day of its release and is the third-fastest selling single ever, behind Elton John's Candle in the Wind and Will Young's Evergreen.
Shayne then notched up another No 1 single for No Promises and his debut album sold 300,000 copies in the UK alone. But while many thought that Shayne's recent inactivity was due to his bubble bursting, nothing could be further from the truth as he has spent most of his time touring Asia, where he has so far scored an impressive 10 No 1 singles!
"I spent a lot of this year in Asia. It was my first time ever going there and I was treated really well. The fans are all very polite and they say the nicest things. They'll say things like 'we'll support you forever', which is brilliant to hear.
"But once you give them that opportunity to come over for a hug or something like that, they're on top of you!"
Now that Shayne's on the comeback trail, he has his sights set for even more success. There's one particular achievement he's angling for in the near future and it's something his loyal legion of fans would no doubt love to see too.
"I think it'd be fun to do something with Justin Timberlake," he smirks. "A lot of people compare us and if we did something together I think it'd give them a shock. I'm up for it if Justin is, that's all I'm saying."
Shayne Ward's new single Breathless is out on Monday and the new album, also called Breathless, is released on November 26. Shayne switches on the Christmas lights in Belfast alongside Zoe Salmon on Tuesday November 20 with entertainment kicking off at 6.30pm outside City Hall.