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"We never adopted them, nothing like that, but they basically became part of the family; brothers from another mother," he says.He liked school well enough, but was never going to bother with university because all he ever wanted to do was, in his words, "make music, hang around skate parks, smoke pot and get wrecked".Matt Cardle, it quickly became evident to older viewers, was not average X Factor fare: he was neither precociously young (at 27), nor preternaturally irritating; he didn't look particularly malleable nor anybody's – least of all Simon Cowell's – idea of an obvious successor to Leona Lewis.When he first walked nervously out on to that reality-show stage last autumn, dressed in knackered k jeans and paint-flecked boots, his chin unshaven, his hair hiding beneath a scruffy cap, he described himself to the judges as "a bum", and seemed all too acutely aware of what he was laying on the line here."Oh, I felt like I was risking everything," he says today, hands clasped together as though recalling his anxiety.Convinced he would stand more chance as a solo act than as part of a band, he promptly ditched them."I did, but the rest of the band had proper jobs, careers, and lives," he reasons.A few days later, he was shopping in the January sales, alone, when he was mobbed by a swelling crowd demanding photographs and autographs. Called Letters, it is a plush, widescreen effort that places him firmly in Take That territory (Gary Barlow has penned his new single "Run For Your Life"), and is full of strident, heart-on-sleeve power ballads that rather beg accompanying videos to be shot in grainy black-and-white, and slow motion.
It would be seen as a kind of death in the industry. In a way, I feel a bit cheeky, but it did get me where I wanted to be."By Christmas 2010, Cardle was all over television and radio, and splashed across the red-tops. My mum threw a duvet over me, and left me to it."He recovered in time for New Year's Eve, and decided to spend it with friends in Newcastle.
One of those backing Dannii is former winner Matt Cardle who claimed that Simon has made a "huge mistake".
Matt told The Sun newspaper: "I adore Simon but I think he's made a huge mistake not bringing Dannii back."Dannii was the only judge who really cared about her acts in the year I won."Whether or not Simon's choices for this latest X Factor panel revamp prove a hit remains to be seen with the series not kicking off until the autumn on ITV.
But in the flesh he is refreshingly down-to-earth and likeable, a proper sweary bloke, and although he smells like the counter at the Body Shop, all aloe vera and cocoa butter extract, he is palpably less airbrushed up close than he appears in photographs.
Now 28, and clearly fond of late nights, he looks crumpled, and yawns continually while glugging on a fruit drink that, suggests its label, is high in multivitamins. Came home spannered."He is relieved, he says, that the album is finally out, and that people can at last start judging him on his music rather than the show.
He held down a succession of jobs throughout his twenties, as labourer, roofer, postman and milkman, but hated them all.