The Voice winner Andrea Begley covers herself in glory as 'gorgeous' debut album gets her musical message across perfectly
Four months on from emerging victorious in The Voice 2013, today marks another exciting landmark in the rapid rise of Northern Ireland singer Andrea Begley.
The 27-year-old's debut album The Message hit shelves this morning.
A mix of original workings and "re-interpreted" cover songs, the record was, according to its creator, the result of a "quite shocking but enjoyable" experience in the recording studio.
"It was just quite bizarre to hear my voice back on record at first," laughed Andrea, who hails from Pomeroy in Co Tyrone, and who was last night given the coveted musical slot on BBC1's Strictly results show.
"Of course, everyone is used to hearing me singing live on The Voice, so this was something completely different. There's a nice mixture of songs on the album, though."
The cover versions included on the record were carefully chosen, said Andrea, because she wanted them to represent her own personality and music taste.
"I wanted to put my own spin on them, though," she added.
Indeed, dance duo Disclosure's hit Latch takes on a "jazz vibe" on The Message, Jake Bugg's Lightning Bolt gets a "country twist", and Joy Division's classic Love Will Tear Us Apart is made "mellower".
Andrea's mentor on The Voice, Danny O'Donoghue from pop band The Script, produced the album's title track and rekindling the chemistry they had on the reality programme was easy.
"Danny always said he was keen to work with me after the show, no matter what happened," said Andrea. "It was great to have his expertise on board and really nice to continue that working relationship we had before in this new environment. Being in a studio was a world apart from The Voice, with all the cameras flashing."
Andrea admitted that winning The Voice in June was "a bit of a shock," but said she'd "hit the ground running" since then.
"I was thrown in the deep end a little bit in terms of being a full-time recording artist but it's such a luxury to be able to do music every day for a job, as opposed to trying to squeeze it around another day job. I pinch myself every day at the position I'm in."
Andrea was referring to her old job in the Civil Service, a role she said she "enjoyed in a different way", but didn't miss at all. She is still "very much in touch with the Northern Ireland music scene" and never pines for homewhen in London, her current place of residence.
She's certainly looking forward to her gig at the Ulster Hall in Belfast on November 3.
"It's great to go home and play for all the people that have offered me great support over there," she enthused. "I'm planning on doing some Irish songs especially for that show."
She also held out the prospect of an on stage reunion with her famous aunt Philomena, the country music legend.
"She may be joining me on stage too," said Andrea.
In the meantime, she is enjoying life in London, however rush hour on the Underground can be problematic for someone with 10% vision like Andrea.
"I've had good and bad experiences in regards to my condition," she explained. "Most people are helpful, but obviously a Tube station can be tricky if you can't see where you're going. There's no room for waiting around, you have to keep moving with the crowds."
Elaborating further on her visual impairment, Andrea stated: "The more comfortable I am with it, the more comfortable other people are with it. The thing is, people don't know how to react, and sometimes they don't think. You get people that speak to you louder and some have even asked me if I do sign language!
"I asked at the cinema the other day whether they did films with audio descriptions and they said, 'no, but we do subtitles'! That stuff doesn't bother me, though. I try to take it as lightly as possible."
Andrea's blindness hasn't held her back at all thus far and shows no signs of doing so.
The singer also has a book out on Thursday. Entitled I Didn't See That Coming, it documents her time on The Voice, including "anecdotes about what went on behind the scenes and also stuff about me and my background – my personality really comes through it".
Unlike certain other ex-reality TV show stars, Andrea clearly has no issues with discussing the programme that made her a star.
"Some people are negative about those kinds of shows and some see it as an opportunity; I was the latter.
"I don't have any regrets. I was finding things difficult initially and The Voice gave me that leg-up. I know I was lucky. Having said that, of course reality TV shows aren't the only way to make it in music."
And Andrea clearly isn't one to rest on her laurels – she's already planning for the future.
"For my own sake it might be best to take some time out and consider what I'm going to do next in relation to another album," she added.
"But I've got loads more songs ready!"