Ottavio is due to take the music world by storm with his newly-released single, I Don’t Wanna Be Us. Having gained popularity on The X Factor in a duo in 2016, he is now pursuing his music career as a soloist. Catching up with Ottavio in Southampton, we talked to him about appearing on TV, his career and his new music.
Apart from music, were there any other careers that you considered?
When I was younger, believe it or not, it wasn’t always music, I wanted to be a chef, I was quite a chubby kid, I really loved my food, I loved eating. I started getting a passion for cooking, my mum and dad bought me plastic apples and pears, I used to always pretend to be a chef and cook stuff. I remember my next door neighbour even got me some chef whites to wear, I was quite short at the time and it looked like a massive coat, it was just so funny, I’ve still got pictures! I got my first cook book from my nan, but then I realised, because maths has never been very strong, that timings was a very big thing for that career, so I thought no I can’t be a chef! I always knew I was a performer, because I was always a little bit over the top, so I always knew there was something destined for me performance wise. It wasn’t until I went to primary school and the teacher gave me my first solo in the school assembly, after I did that solo, I never forget parents of other kids came up to my mum and said ‘your son’s got a very good voice, he can sing’. My mum and dad started thinking, maybe we should pursue this. I remember we got a leaflet through the letterbox about Saturday stage school, it was called Italia Conti, and they were hosting associate schools, weekend schools, I remember I begged my mum, obviously there was a fee, there’s always a fee attached with stage school, I was like, ‘mum I want to go so badly I really want to do this’. I did it for a while, I did singing and classic, so I’m classically trained. I did classical training for my voice, so really from there that’s where it all started. So no it wasn’t always music, I wanted to be a chef, but I knew that with the timings I just couldn’t do it. I think also, because I was quite a nervous individual, I think being a chef you need to be quite confident, because you are dealing with quite technical things, so frying pans and flames and things like that, I knew for me that it wasn’t really the best option! After that solo, I just started pursuing it and my mum gave me a cassette and I started singing to the songs of ABBA. I had a little tape recorder and I remember I used to always be in the garden and give little shows to my next-door neighbour. My taste in music shocks some people, I like Dusty Springfield, ABBA, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Neil Sedaka, singers that you wouldn’t think somebody my age would like. That’s why I know in my heart that I am an artist, because I understand music and I appreciate the past, because I believe it’s from the past that we can learn the future.
How would you describe your debut single?
The single is a category of music called EDM which stands for Electronic Dance Music. I wanted to create something that I knew could be, a) marketable and b) appealing to a commercial audience of today. I feel like even though The X Factor gave a platform, I feel like it damaged me a little bit, in terms of it made me too cheesy, and gave me this label of almost like a Butlin’s act. Me, my management, the producers of the single and even the songwriter, we had to work hard to re-build me as a solo artist, and to move away from the Bratavio image that The X Factor created. Unfortunately as much as it was good memories, and again I appreciate the platform, it was very tacky, it was very cheesy and it was very novelty. I do like a party, I do like having fun and I do have a big personality, but musically that isn’t me.
Did you help write the song?
The song was written for me by a guy called Shaun Michael Smith, a great guy. What was good about Shaun is that he understood my voice type, and he understood my storytelling ability. I love singing songs that have meaning, I love that because they help connect with an audience. He sent me a few songs, he sent me some little samples on WhatsApp, I was listening to them and as soon as I heard that one I said, ‘this is the one’. From there we decided we needed a very good beat, we sourced a really good producer called Jojo Farinella, who’s a very well-known producer in Southampton, who’s also worked within the music industry with big artists such as Craig David. I knew I was in good hands, he was the genius behind the sound, I knew it would get people going because in today’s day and age, it is all about club music, it’s all about going out clubbing, partying, that Ibiza and Marbella vibe, so I just think that it was the right decision. I remember people were quite shocked when they first had a listen, because they were expecting cheesy, almost a tacky image, and that’s because of the expectation that The X Factor had created.
Will you be filming a music video for it?
At the moment there are no plans for a music video, although I do know you’re not the first person to ask that, obviously it’s got a good beat and it would be good to get some dances, but at the moment I think it’s still about promoting the single and getting it out there. It’s available to download on all major platforms such as iTunes and Spotify. It’s all about increasing sales and just getting it out there and building me as a solo artist. I think the music video will come with time, and even if it doesn’t, I think that it’s different not to have a music video, where nowadays so many artists do.
Apart from releasing your single, what have you been up to since appearing on The X Factor?
I just completed my master’s degree in creative enterprise. Creative enterprise allows the student to single-handedly create a business that he or she feels there is a gap in the market for. I created a transgender modelling agency to challenge the non-binary movement of the UK fashion industry. I had to create the marketing plan, the business plan, the strategy for it, the advertising campaign and pitch it to a panel of business experts. It had to be approved and I’ve just received that degree, not graduated, but I have received the final grade and I finished with a merit, so I’ve been doing that. I’ve also been attending events with my management and just keeping very busy. I think that’s key, always keep busy, I think the minute that people see that you’re not so busy, that’s when people start thinking, maybe they’ve fizzled out, they’re no longer on that radar. I think it’s good to keep busy and especially on social media, I’ve been very active, I’ve been taking part in debates and commenting on TV shows. As much as I love music, I’d love to do reality TV, shows like The Only Way Is Essex, things that really inspire me. I think it’s important to have an opinion on these shows, it helps to create yourself as a reality star.
Are you watching this series of The X Factor and if so, do you have a favourite?
Yes I do. Some people will say it’s no shock, but I loved Slavko. I just think that he’s a showman, he’s a performer, he may not have the best voice, but at the end of the day, he’s using that show as a platform which is good. I think he would have got a lot of hate if he had made live shows, so I reckon it would have been people saying, ‘he’s taken the space of someone that can sing’, but at the end of the day, it takes real courage and real confidence to go through all of that process. What most people don’t realise is that even before you even meet the judges in the audition, you have to audition by a few rounds of producers, and you have to be almost approved before you go in front of the panel. I know now from doing it, I know the journey that he’s been through in terms of the show, so do you know what, good luck to him. I really hoped he would make the live shows, people are always going to have an opinion, but just let him do what he wants to do.
What advice would you give for people wanting to audition?
Stand out, try to sing a song that is not run of the mill, so I would say avoid Sam Smith, the Whitney Houstons, the Mariah Careys, really go for a song that almost is off the radar, you can put your own spin on it, and almost bring it back into the charts. I would say image is everything with The X Factor, it’s all about dressing like a pop star, when you do the auditions, lots of confidence, like you have to ooze confidence, because the producers need to know that you can potentially handle the live shows on a Saturday night. That’s what they’re looking for, and they’re looking for somebody that can be marketed beyond the show, even after the show’s finished.
Did you keep in contact with any of the contestants?
No, actually yes, the guys from 5 After Midnight, Ryan Lawrie, Emily Middlemas and Saara Aalto, who actually follows me now so thank you, Saara!
What was it like being interviewed by Rylan after appearing on the same series as contestants?
Oh, it was a little bit awkward, I felt almost unworthy to be interviewed by him. I felt like I hadn’t exactly made it, I’d got to where I wanted to be, the live shows, but I hadn’t made it, whereas he had. He’s a TV presenter, he makes a lot of money, but he works very hard so yeah I almost felt like, am I good enough to be interviewed by him, which is funny in a way, because we were on The X Factor together, but I suppose that’s just how I felt. He was a great guy, I remember he wished me lots of luck, and actually he thought that I would make it quite far in the live shows, beyond week one anyway, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. I remember Rylan said, ‘you’ve just got to keep going and eventually something might happen’.
Which reality show would you most like to appear on?
I would love to appear as main cast on The Only Way Is Essex. I’ve watched the show since season one, I’ve even slept round Gemma Collins’s house, I’ve got her number as well. She’s an amazing character on the show, and I just think I would fit in really well, I love glitz, glamour and the drama. If I was given that opportunity I would take it in a heartbeat.
Are you working on new music and a follow-up single?
At the moment, it’s the club tour so we’re promoting this single. The second single is being worked on, but I don’t want to rush it. I think it’s important not to rush, this single’s out at the moment, it is doing well, and we’ll continue pushing it with the promotion and the tour. Eventually yeah of course there will be several other singles following, but no plans as of yet.
Have you always been into fashion?
No, believe it or not, when I was living with my parents, it a very Conservative town, so it’s almost like very run of the mill, you’re expected to dress in one way. I remember I could no way wear some of the clothes I wear here back in my hometown. There’s still prejudices that exist, which is a shame in 2017, but no, I would say when I started uni, I started creating my identity. I started getting that confidence to be who I wanted to be, and be who I knew I was. It’s a hard thing for a male to wear a crop top and walk down the streets so confidently, I had to face quite a bit of prejudicist, even here in Southampton, but not as bad as I would have got back home. I took that on the chin and I learnt to create a thick skin, I think again this industry is very important to create a thick skin, because people are going to talk, unfortunately we can’t stop those people talking, but I think if you’re confident and you know who you are, nobody can touch you. It’s all about having inner peace within yourself and if you have that then you can be invincible.
Can you play any musical instruments?
I used to play the violin, it’s in the loft now because I got bored of it, and didn’t like the sound, but I’ve got to say it’s a lovely instrument. I also love the harp, I love the sound of a harp, I love the strings family of the orchestra, it’s a very pretty instrument, oh and I love the saxophone, very romantic.
Would you like to appear in pantomime?
Absolutely I’d love to appear in pantomime. I just think I’d make a really good Buttons, if any producers are reading! I think pantomime would be really good for me, because again I am that character, I am that personality, and I think I could get the little kids really laughing, I would be a good sport. I’ve done so much within reality TV, quite controversial things, like for example, on E4 Body Fixers I was the first male to get a pejazzle done, very controversial, so I think that I would be ready for pantomime, because obviously pantomime can be quite controversial, people booing and things like that. I wouldn’t even do it for the money, although it is a business, and that does help, but I would do it just for the love of performing. I think that’s very important for me to get across, there’s always been a passion for performing, and that will never go.
What’s it like being recognised?
I came off The X Factor, literally it was undercooked chicken this, undercooked chicken that, or the chicken boy. I still get noticed today and it’s amazing, that’s why I have to say I do owe a lot to The X Factor, because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have this incredible platform, and have this amazing management, Lucky Seven PR. To have these amazing opportunities, sometimes it’s almost like you need to step on one ladder to get on another ladder, so sometimes, you need to go through and almost like grit your teeth, and just not play the game, but almost just take instruction. In your head you know where you’re going, I knew what The X Factor were doing, they wanted ‘that act’, which was fair enough, almost like that Jedward act, and in my head I always knew, ‘you know what, I know where I’m going’.
Would you like to do a tour with your own music?
Yes, so there is a tour at the moment I’m promoting my single I Don’t Wanna Be Us. The tour started in Oldham in a club called Fives, it’s a club tour and that was on the 4th of November. Other clubs will be following from that. I think that’s a very important method of promotion, as well to just get people hearing it. The important thing as well is, that with The X Factor, a lot of people were like, ‘mmm can’t sing’, but that was partly because of the songs they gave, they weren’t singing songs, they were more party, there was not much in terms of a melody. I’m happy now that I’m doing things my way, and I think the artist I want to be, I’m taking artistic control now.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and 2018?
I have an audition with Britain’s Got Talent 25th of November in London. I’ve got this club tour which started on the 4th of November and I’m just working hard. I’m earning money, I work for Tesco, I don’t see myself beneath working in a job for Tesco, and I think that’s very important. I could have easily gone on benefits, but I prefer to work hard and earn money, because then, when I buy things like a phone, it feels better knowing that I’ve worked hard. I know that for some people, there’s no option, and it is a good thing for them, and they actually need it, but then there a quite a few people that abuse the system, so for me personally, I’m happy that I’m working. I’m working, I’m being very active on social media, Instagram, and I’m just trying to get my name out there. The problem is I think, everybody knows who Ottavio is now, and that sometimes can be a scary thing, because even in Tesco they’re like, ‘you’re Ottavio’ and I’m like, ‘oh my God, how do you know me’, but then I remember I did The X Factor!
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