Gamu Nhengu rose to fame three years ago when she appeared as a contestant on The X Factor, wowing the judges and viewers alike with her soft yet heartwarming vocals, however, her time was cut short when she and her family had to battle with the Home Office to remain in the UK versus returning to their native Zimbabwe.
Despite her life almost being turned upside down, the 21-year-old has bounced back from the scandal and has just released her debut single 'Shake The Room' with an album to follow.
Gamu released her debut single 'Shake The Room' this month (Packshot)
Gamu recently opened up to EntertainmentWise on her traumatic experience after the X Factor, inspiration for her new album and how she really feels about Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell...
Tell us about your new single 'Shake The Room'…
'Shake The Room' is a big homage to all the artists that have inspired me throughout the album. I just kind of thought why not start with the track that symbolises everything to come. It's just a great track, I wanted to start with something upbeat and positive, you always have to make an impression when you start and I thought 'Shake The Room' would do that. It showcases a lot of what's on the album.
For those who haven't heard the single how would you describe it? It's a retro dance track, it's all about having fun and getting up and shaking your booty but doing it the old school way.
We've taken a lot of inspiration from the 60s, the Motown era, you'll hear that throughout the album with modern elements in it.
Have you had a lot of creative control over your debut album?
I've written all the tracks! There will be really upbeat dance tracks and then slower ballads.
What artists have you taken inspiration from for the sound and songwriting?
Definitely Aretha Franklin, she's just an artist that I really admire and have done for many years. Tina Turner, The Supremes - I've definitely taken a lot of inspiration from those artists from that era.
You rose to fame on The X Factor, do you feel leaving the show may have hindered your musical success or do you see it as a blessing in disguise?
No I don't see it as a hindrance at all, it was something that I tried out it lasted two months while I was 18. I thought it was a very interesting, very helpful and a great experience, but when I left I had so many offers, which is what you go into the show for anyway.
So to come out of it and have all these offers, it was really good and the label that ended up sticking were going to let me develop organically and do my own thing and I don't think that would have happened if I had signed with a bigger label later on in the show. So I definitely believe that everything happens for a reason and I'm really happy with all the decisions that I made so far.
There was a big furore when you was taken out of the show, how did you feel when it happened?
I think like anything when you try it out, you're disappointed, but I got over it pretty quickly because there was so much to focus on musically. I just had so much going on that it just didn't seem like a bad thing. It's something that happened that allowed me to really start off my music career, so I was disappointed as anyone would be, but I got over it.
Were you bitter when other acts got through?
No, not really bitterness is an emotion and it kind of clouds your judgement and you just spend all your time being bitter instead of being productive and being positive. Cheryl [Cole] picked people she felt she could best develop and she took pride in it and I respect her decision.
Do you still watch the show at all, are you a fan?
Yeah, I watched my year as I was close to a lot of people on the show. The next year I tried to catch it here and there but I was so busy working on my album at the time, I was trying to find time to sleep let alone watch TV, but I managed to catch bits when I did.
Do you have any regrets about going on the show in hindsight?
I don't like to say I regret my decision, what's done is done, when I did it at the time I did it with the best intentions. I never could have anticipated what was to come, I didn't fixate on it. I made my decision and it was the right decision for me at that time, so I just move on.
Did you ever consider going onto another talent show like The Voice perhaps?
No, I didn't because I was already signed and that's what you go on the show to get. I was already working on my music so I was happy and I still am really happy with what I'm doing and I don't see the need to look for something else. I'm just happy with where I am at the moment.
Gamu performing at the YOUR Radio Roadshow in Scotland (WENN)
How did you deal with the intense attention surrounding your visa troubles?
Well, I think the one thing that was almost bitter sweet about being on the show was the publicity and the thing that was hardest to get used to was the untruth that was said. A lot of twisting the actual truth and things like that took a while for my family and friends to get used to. That was a lot for people in my circle around me to get used to, to be able to decipher to truth from the exaggeration.
But on the other side, you get to find out how much support people actually have for you and how much people are actually willing to take with a pinch of salt, things that you read. Just how strong-minded the people that support you are, that was really heart warming and humbling. I'm just a grounded person anyway, from my background and my mum, she doesn't take any thing. She's not like, oh you're on the TV now you're a pop star you can get away with murder.
There was reports that Simon Cowell had reached out and offered to help you and your family, was there any truth to the claims?
No, we got people on the show to make sure that everything was fine but this show is a business. I wasn't expecting anything, he's a busy man he has loads of people, the acts that he he has to take care of. I was not expecting anything, and the issue was not as big an issue as it was portrayed. We didn't need someone to hold our hand or anything, so it's not something that I was expecting and it's not something that happened.
So what can fans expect from your debut album? What stories will you be telling?
It will come out early summer, we've been working on it a very long time, people can expect songs about love, heartbreak - you know I am only 21 there's only so much I can talk about. The upbeat aspects of love but then also the sad disappointing aspect of love, lots of ballads and love songs. It's kind of like a roller coaster because that's what life is, you have your ups and downs, but still cool, quirky vibe.
Do you feel confident about performing again?
I did perform last year and I've been doing a few performances here and there in the three years I've been away, but I am really excited and can't wait to get back into full force.
My band are just amazing so definitely excited. What gigs can fans expect to see you at this year?
We're just working out the tour schedule but we've got festivals coming up, Isle of Wight, Latitude, Electric Picnic and Kendall Calling.
How important is credibility to record sales?
I just want to be able to make music my career and anything else that comes after that is a blessing really, but just to be able to make a living out of something that I love is good enough for me.