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Relatively speaking: X Factor singer Andrea Magee and her father Harry

By Kerry McKittrick

Glengormley singer-songwriter Andrea Magee shot to fame last year as a contestant on ITV show The X Factor, getting as far as judge Sharon Osbourne's house in LA before losing her place. She credits her father Harry, a retired teacher, with helping to give her a love for music.

Name:Andrea Magee

Age: 29

Occupation: Singer and songwriter

Relationship to Harry: Daughter

My dad was a teacher for 35 years and has always been into music. My sisters and I went to a very musical primary school and studied the flute, but my dad always wanted to have a family band and taught us to play various instruments. From the age of about seven, me, my dad and my sisters, Kerry and Colleen, would play traditional sessions in pubs. I don't think I even knew what I was doing there half the time!

There were always whistles and guitars around the house and in our holiday home in Donegal. The casual style of learning has left me with an ability to pick up any instrument and have a go at it because we were encouraged so much by my dad.

There was never any pressure to play these instruments from dad. He was just always around to encourage us to learn music, which was something that we loved anyway.

We're a very close family and I'm very close to my dad. As well as the family band, I ended up going to the same school that my dad taught, Downshire School in Carrickfergus. I didn't plan it that way and my parents were surprised at my decision, but I felt a warm reception at that school so I decided to go there. I think I spent the next five years holding my dad back because he always had to wait for me in the mornings when he was giving me a lift to school. I had a wonderful school life though. Then I transferred to Ballyclare High to do my A-levels.

I did a degree in music and then went on to be a teacher but, not long before The X Factor, I took a step back from my teaching career to concentrate on music. Soon afterwards I was asked to audition on the show. Dad always knew I wanted to be a songwriter and performer, and he was very supportive no matter what I decided to do.

Dad was dubious of The X Factor, though. He knows that I can be very sensitive, as many musicians are, and he didn't want me to get hurt by it. He was hopeful because I was getting a great reception on the show, though, and proud that I didn't give up or let it defeat me. Dad has always been a musician who made music fun and played in pubs. He didn't have any experience of the recording industry but he's always been very proud that I've been moving forward in it. I love going home to see my dad and the rest of the family. It's a nice break and I go back to my roots - on New Year's Eve I'll be playing with my dad and sister Kerry in the first ever pub I ever performed in, in Donegal."

Name: Harry Magee

Age: 66

Occupation: Musician and retired teacher

Relationship to Andrea: Father

Andrea's spent the last nine months travelling around America with her new band Beat Root. I should have known she would wander as, when she was a baby, you couldn't leave her anywhere in case she just toddled off.

As a teacher, I would have five or six weeks off each summer and I would spend it in Donegal with the girls, so it seemed only natural that I would teach them how to play things. We formed a family band and would play in hotels and pubs all summer.

We've always been close, though I was warned by her never to be her teacher when she decided to come to my school, where I taught history and geography.

When she was 18, she appeared on the BBC's Fame Academy. She got to the final and then was voted off by the other students. After that, when she went to university, I made a little deal with her that she should finish her degree first before she pursued music as a career. She did well and even spent a couple of years as a music teacher.

I thought Andrea might end up as a PE teacher as she originally went to Glasgow to study sport, but eventually she transferred over to the University of Ulster to study music.

She was always very sporty, though, and captained the British University Netball team. I think her competitive nature still comes out - it's how she made sure she sang her own songs on The X Factor. With Fame Academy we realised that those programmes aren't about the music but about the judges and the ratings.

When she went to The X Factor, we were a little reluctant because we didn't want her to get sucked in by the hype. It didn't go down well with the producers that she wouldn't tell any bad stories about her family or jump through hoops. I'm still not sure if The X Factor was the right move for her but it certainly gave her confidence about her own ability as a songwriter.

Even Robbie Williams was giving her compliments on that!"

Life after reality check ...

Last year, Andrea performed at the home of judge Sharon Osbourne on The X Factor. But the Newtownabbey girl failed to make it through to the live shows after her performance hit the wrong note with Sharon and guest judge Robbie Williams. Andrea missed the last note of Radiohead's High and Dry, prompting Robbie to joke to Sharon: "Two of your dogs passed out on that note."

Andrea is now one half of the group Beat Root, which has just launched its debut album, Waiting on a Miracle, and will perform a fundraising show for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice at CastleCourt, Belfast, this Friday. For details, see www.beatroottheband.com

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