Exclusive Interview: Union J
True X Factor success stories are a rarity given the enormity of individuals that contend. They are also not without their drama. The story of Union J is one that was filled with turbulence from the very offset. Four boys, Jaymi Hensley, George Shelley, Josh Cuthbert and JJ Hamblett, have weathered the storm of reality TV denunciation and overturned a questionable future where so many have failed.
What started out as a trio was reconstructed during their televised X Factor journey. Despite finishing the competition in fourth place, the group had impressed a loyal following who were not yet ready for this group to disband, as so many X Factor produced groups had in former iterations of the popular ITV series.
Throughout the whole X Factor process they had faced arguably unfair criticisms and comparisons to One Direction who were, and continue to dominate the charts. Louis Walsh publicly defended the boys on a number of occasions and appeared to always vouch for their success, even at a time when the market for a new boyband seemed saturated.
“There’s always room for a new boyband if they are good enough and they work hard.” Louis Walsh
The following X Factor tour kicked off in Manchester, and served to reignite the possibility of Union J making it in the real world as a fully functioning band. I wanted to see if the group still had a special connection with the city. I spoke with them backstage at the Phones 4U Arena, Manchester,
“Manchester was where we opened the X Factor tour. It was the first date we did and it was the biggest show we had ever done. The crowds in Manchester are always amazing and what is great is the support here is so big for us. We had to add extra dates on our tour. Everyone seems to love it up north!” Jaymi Hensley
The excitement in the room could be felt. Although they were holding it together and portraying the role of cool, calm and collected, pop stars, I could sense their eagerness to get on stage and sing for their fans.
“We’re just buzzing! When we get on the tour bus for the first time it’s so exciting and so much fun. We have our little bunks and it’s like a little kid’s bedroom…it gets messy as hell!” George Shelley
Four young lads on the road, living their dream is a wonderful premise in theory, however I was confident that there was mischief to be had on the road with Union J. I asked them how well behaved they were on tour, and was presented with a glimmer of their cheeky personas.
“Erm, yeah! [Laughs] I’m sure we get into a bit of mischief…but yeah, touring is amazing! We’re so delighted to have headlined our own tour. It’s an unbelievable feeling. Things are going absolutely incredible at the moment.” JJ Hamblett
With the help of their fans the group have gone on to be nominated for several awards and won Best British Breakthrough at BBC Radio One’s Teen Awards in 2013. They starred in the comedy sequel Kick-Ass 2 and also have a range of Union J dolls currently on sale. Their latest album You Got It All birthed top ten single Tonight and opened doors for them to guest edit The Playlist column in The Daily Star. I wanted to know if there was anything they would like to say to their fans, who have continued to stand by them.
“Thank you for all of your support. If it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t have had our first album out, our first tour…and we wouldn’t be performing. You guys literally are everything, and we love you so much!” Josh Cuthbert