Ahead of her performance at Preston Park this August Fleur East talks exclusively to Brighton Pride about her love of our seaside city, Uptown Funk, Spice Girls, Michael Jackson and uniting together for Pride.
What are you looking forward to when you come to Brighton? I’ve never done a festival in Brighton so I’m really looking forward to performing. I just love Brighton – it’s one of my favourite places outside London coz it’s so beautiful. The houses are amazing, the people are really nice, you’ve got the pier and you’ve got good vibes so I can’t wait.
What can we expect from your Brighton Pride performance – any surprises? You can expect a party, lots of high energy, lots of dancing. You know what, I can’t wait! I love to be on stage, it’s the best thing ever for me to do!!! So just be prepared to party hard. Any surprises? Well, that’d be giving things away so you’ll just have to wait and see….
Which artists have influenced you growing up? Growing up Michael Jackson was a huge influence on me. From a really young age my parents played his music in the house and even now he still inspires me and influences my music. I just love Michael Jackson!!! I also love Alicya Keys, I think she’s incredible.
You made it to the X Factor Finals previously with Addictiv ladies before you returned in 2014 and blew us all away. How important is it for you to get back up and try again when life knocks you down? My whole journey through music has literally been full of knock backs and if I wasn’t persistent and determined and didn’t pick myself back up then I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. And if I hadn’t auditioned for The X Factor again, even after my first experience, then I wouldn’t have had the incredible experience that I’ve had. So it’s definitely important to pick yourself up and try again.
As a former member of one yourself, which girl bands past or present would you like to be a member of for the day? I loved Destiny’s Child growing up – if I could be a member of that band then I definitely would be! And obviously the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls were so cool and I was a little bit obsessed with them when I was growing up so I’d love to be a member of them. They looked like they had crazy fun, so I’d love to have been a part of that.
What did touring with fellow Brighton Pride artist DJ Fresh teach you about life in the music industry? I think touring with DJ Fresh taught me a lot about the industry, it taught me a lot about being on the stage performing and I kind of honed my craft doing that. But it also taught me how ruthless the industry is, and just little things about the process of how you record a single, then you go out and promote it and then you tour – just the process of how this all works. It was just amazing being a part of it, and now it’s just really interesting now being on the other side and doing it for myself. It’s a lot of fun.
Semi Final time on The X Factor is such an emotional moment. What did it feel like to be on the receiving end of all you family’s onscreen support and what did it mean to you? You know it was funny, because at the competition people would describe me as a machine and they’d say that I was so tough, I didn’t cry and I wasn’t emotional and I think it was just because I was trying to be so focussed! Because I really am quite emotional and any time they showed me a video of my family, anything where they sent me little messages and stuff I just used to break down and that was my weakness throughout the whole competition! Definitely in the semi and the final seeing videos of my family made me well up and I cried every single time.
Uptown Funk was the moment the X Factor got too hot, hot damn! Did you have any idea of the reaction your performance of Uptown Funk would get and how did the subsequent iTunes No.1 spot make you feel? Ha!ha! I had no idea the kind of reaction Uptown Funk was going to get. It was so last minute, Simon told me the Friday before the Saturday night live show to change my song and he wanted me to do Uptown Funk and at the time I thought he was crazy. But I trusted him and I decided to take the risk and I learnt all the choreography that day and pulled it together and it turned out to be really amazing! No one expected that my version would go to number one on iTunes, it just blew me away. I just love the support that I got from everybody and I didn’t expect to be making waves in the actual charts – the current chart – while I was on a talent show!!! So that was pretty amazing.
What was Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars reaction? Did they speak to you about it and if so what did they say? I’ve seen Mark Ronson since, I’ve met him twice actually, and he’s been just so lovely. He said he loved my performance, he thinks it was great and he owes me a drink so….I’m still waiting for that drink. Maybe one day I’ll get it.
Sax has to be one of the most addictive pop songs ever written. How did it come about and what was the buzz like in the studio when you put it to bed? Yeah, a lot of people described Sax as being like an earworm and as soon as they heard it they couldn’t get it out of their head as it was almost like an instant song. I wanted it to have a high impact from the opening second. I was in the studio and I wrote it with Camille Passoe and Jay Hart and a duo called Electric produced it and we got in there and decided that we needed to do something that really showed my personality, had a lot of energy – something I could really dance and perform to. We recorded it on the first day and it felt good but it wasn’t until we heard it back finished and produced….oooh! I was in the room with loads of people and we all smiled at each other because we couldn’t believe what we had! We knew it was something special, but, I mean, even the reaction has just been so unexpected – it’s been so much better than we could’ve imagined.
When you want to dance like no ones looking which song does it have to be? I think when I wanna dance like no-one is watching it’d have to be a Michael Jackson song like Rock With You, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Remember The Time….any Michael Jackson song and I’ll get up and dance like a crazy person even when people ARE watching because it’s such an impulse that runs through me when I hear his music.
What does someone have to do to blow your mind? That’s a good question – probably cook me a fabulous meal coz I love my food. Or do an amazing dance move, coz I love people who can dance and have rhythm. If you just have a little bit of rhythm that’s enough. And make me laugh – blows my mind if someone does that as I really do love to laugh.
How important was it to be part of the writing process for your album Love, Sax and Flashbacks? It was really important for me to be a part of the writing process on my album because I’ve been song-writing for years but I’ve never been able to say I have a debut album! This is the first time so it was really important for me to be involved and I loved every second of it, I really enjoyed it! I loved being in the studio and I love going into a session not knowing what you’re going to come out with and by the end you have something which is like wow. That’s amazing!
Seeing as Mel and Cheryl were on the X Factor judging panel it seems only slightly unfair to ask where you a Spice Girls wannabe or Girls Aloud sound of the underground fan? Yeah –I really did love those Spice Girls when I was growing up. I was always Scary Spice when we played in the playground! And I loved Girls Aloud – I remember watching the show Popstars The Rivals and I remember actually seeing the group come together and hearing Sound Of The Underground the first time and I thought they were really really coooool!
Wonder Woman is looking for a sidekick and your name is in the hat. What would you call yourself, what would your outfit look like and, most importantly, what would your superpower be? I think my outfit would have to contain some sort of metallic gold and would probably be some kind of a catsuit. I remember watching Batman and seeing Catwoman and just thinking how cool her outfit was. So I’d have a gold and black all in one catsuit I think! And I’d call myself Goldie Lox haha. And my super power would be something to do with my hair. I’d be able to control time with my hair!!! So my hair would light up and be all gold then it would control time.
What was the first ever Pride event you attended? I think one of the first Pride events I attended was LA Pride and it was a lot of fun. I remember being part of something that just felt so open and free….people were walking down the street in their underwear, there were people in crazy costumes and face paint and glitter and it was really exciting. It was nice to see people celebrating and just being themselves – I love that. Being yourself with nobody judging you!
Who is your all time LGBT hero? For me it has to be RuPaul because initially I was obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race. Then I discovered how instrumental he’d been in raising peoples awareness about the LGBT movement through public culture and the media. He’s made people far more accepting of the LGBT community and I just love everything about him. I love his free spirit, he’s educated and intelligent and I think he’s a great voice for the community. Love him!
Brighton Pride’s theme this year is Uniting Nations – why do you feel it is important to celebrate the global Pride movement today? I’m all about people just uniting and being ‘one’. I mean, growing up my mum’s from Ghana, West Africa and my dad’s white English and they always taught me to celebrate both cultures and I always accept people for who they are. Don’t judge anybody by the colour of their skin, where they’re from, their sexual orientation, whatever. I just see people for who they are and I think it’s really important to bring people together and it’s nice. I think the world would be a really boring place if everyone was the same.
Favourite Pride anthem and why? *We have the feeling Sax maybe this years Brighton Pride anthem! Sax this years Brighton Pride anthem??? That would be amazing – I would love it to be. It’s a real anthem, it’s uplifting and feel-good, cheeky and playful so why not? I’d be honoured, I like the idea so let’s stick with it.
Brighton Pride Festival, Sat 6th August 2016, tickets are available here
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