From singing in his mum’s living room in Liverpool to fronting his school gospel choir, to making it through to the final of X Factor, Marcus Collins has come a long way. And the journey has continued since he was runner-up to Little Mix in the popular ITV talent show in 2011, with a Top 10 album and single, a new album due out soon, and now his first ever solo tour of the UK, which kicks off in September.
Marcus himself can’t quite believe it.
“I used to sing and my mum would tell me to shut up,“ he laughs. “But I understand why – a couple of weeks back I found a recording of me singing Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together when I was a kid and, oh my gosh! It needed auto-tune on it. It was awful, honestly, really, really bad.“
But Marcus persisted with his passion and joined the primary school choir, as soon as he was old enough – after trying to audition at the age of seven and being told he was too young and his voice wasn’t ready – then he took up the violin and piano as well.
When he moved to secondary school, his music teachers spotted his potential and he became the lead singer of the school gospel choir, touring the UK and recording a charity album with them, and taking his music GCSE a couple of years early.
He took a job in a hairdressing salon, aged 13, so he would be able to afford his music lessons and all the equipment he’d need, and soon realised he enjoyed hairdressing almost as much as he did making and performing music.
Five of his clients were with him on his first X Factor audition and he attended the Hairdresser of the Year awards while he was competing on the show.
“I’ve been hairdressing ever since,“ says Marcus, who always sports a very well-turned-out barnet himself, “it’s one of my passions. The main thing about it is making somebody else feel good. If I can make somebody feel better, then I’ll feel great myself.
“It’s similar with my music – if people enjoy the music, then I’ve enjoyed myself and I’ve done my job.
“That’s the whole reason why I started, because I love music and I just want people to enjoy themselves.
Since leaving the show, Marcus has continued to be mentored by his then judge Gary Barlow, who left the hit show last year, and released his self-titled debut album in 2012. His second album is due for release soon and Marcus is very excited by it.
“There’s going to be new material and you’re going to hear it at the shows,“ says the 26-year-old, who will be doing a one-off pre-tour show at Watersmeet in Rickmansworth.
“I’m trying to cater for everyone, I want to do music that makes people feel good – get up, dance, enjoy yourself. I’ve been working on so many different things, so as well as the old Motown covers there is up-to-date stuff.
“I can’t wait to get out on tour. On the first night, my nerves, I’m going to be shaking so much! But I’m confident I’m going to be rehearsed, I’m not going to sleep till it’s perfect.
“Never in my life did I ever think it would end up like this,“ continues Marcus, who lives with his boyfriend Robin Windsor of Strictly Come Dancing fame in Liverpool.
“I always wished and hoped it would, but I always thought things like this don’t happen to small guys like me.“
Marcus Collins is at Watersmeet, High Street, Rickmansworth, on Wednesday, August 20, at 7.30pm. Details: 01923 711063, watersmeet.co.uk