Graduating with honours
IN many ways it was his last shot at the big time. Flight or fight. Boom or bust. Sink or swim.
Fortunately soul singer Lemar survived the choppy waters and weathered the media storm of reality TV during his stint on Fame Academy and has since being riding the crest of a wave.
For eight years he plugged away at his dream, just another budding musician trying to break into the industry.
Then fate dealt him a fortunate hand. Working as a bank clerk in his local NatWest in Tottenham, north London, he was in the staff canteen when he watched an advert for the new show.
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"I was working for eight years at it and I had approached every record company and did everything I could think of," Lemar says as we chat ahead of his headline appearance at Greenbelt Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse this weekend.
"I thought to myself 'one more chance'. I would have gone back and pursued computer programming or pharmacy."
Remarkably, despite finishing third – top marks if you can name the winner – the 35-year-old has gone on to enjoy major success with album sales of more than two million, not to mention multiple Brit and Mobo awards.
"At that point (when he entered Fame Academy) I had done about 150 gigs so when my chance came along I was ready for it. I was prepared but I wasn't prepared for TV.
"You eventually get used to the fame, it's natural to find it a bit strange at first.
"And for good or for bad reasons you do have to be on your guard.
"It's a part of life now and my fans have been great and the press have been really positive with me."
Like any famous singer, he has been given his fair share of the weird and wonderful.
"I was in France once and some fans were waiting outside the hotel and they ended up giving me two chicken bones," he says.
"I took them back to the room and remember thinking that it was some kind of black magic. That was definitely one of the weirdest things."
The singer-songwriter – who was exposed to some of the all-time greats with his parents listening to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke as he grew up – said he's excited about this weekend's performance.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It will be a mix of old and new and I may throw some cheeky covers in.
"I like festivals and the ambience, it's a different experience.
"My fans tend to be very mixed. I have that classical soul element to my voice with songs such as Is There Any Justice? which appeals to an older audience and then songs like Dance With You appeal to a slightly younger crowd."
Lemar is the headline act on the Main Stage at 10pm tomorrow. Day tickets cost from £40. Call 02073 290039.