Change is scary says Ipswich Regent bound X Factor star Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March - Credit: Archant

Change is scary, but Leona Lewis has no regrets about leaving Simon Cowell’s Syco record label and taking charge of her own destiny. She talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage.

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March - Credit: Archant

Stepping into the unknown is frightening, but Leona felt she owed it to herself and her army of female fans to take her future in her own hands.

“Change is so scary sometimes and daunting. We all want security (but) you can get into a position where you’re comfortable and you’re smooth sailing along. It’s easy to do. Sometimes you have to shake things up and change and that’s what I needed to do. It was time for me to take that leap of faith, just go out and make things happen on my own and on my own terms.”

She has no regrets splitting from Simon Cowell’s Syco record label, which she joined aftering winning ITV1 show the X Factor in 2006.

Tabloids and websites talk of her relationship with the music mogul becoming complicated as the label grew, signing the likes of One Direction, Little Mix and Olly Murs. There were also rumours she walked after being asked to release another album of covers rather than her own material.

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March - Credit: Archant

“With my previous label, I love them to bits, I’m so fond of them but it was time to move on really, just for my own growth. I needed to change things, to not get comfortable and to not rest on my laurels. I love pushing myself... I want to be creative, I want to create new things, I want to take new paths and I feel like I was bobbing along a little bit,” she says honestly.

“I definitely feel this (new tour and album) is a fresh start. It was (nearly) 10 years ago that I won the show, then signed my deal. Two years ago, when I decided to change labels and teams, I really feel like I was coming into my own and taking a bit of control,” says Leona, whose fifth studio album, I Am, dropped in September.

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“It’s important to show my fans that as well. A lot of them are young girls who have watched me on the show and have grown up now. To see me take things into my hands and become a very independent female is good for them to see that.” Leona skyrocketed to global fame after winning the contest. The Brit School graduate’s smashed sales and charts records. She’s won countless awards, been nominated for BRIT and Grammy awards and performed around the world. Even rock legend Jimmy Page described performing with her as his career high.

Now signed to Island Records, also home to Florence + The Machine, Ariana Grande and Jessie J; found it hard to adjust.

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March

Leona Lewis, coming to the Ipswich Regent in March - Credit: Archant

“I remember when I was filling out my forms I think I was 19, when I went to my auditions I was 20. Overnight, people recognised me on the street so I came from being this unknown girl to having my face plastered up on the Hackney billboard,” she laughs. “It was kinda crazy and a lot to get used to at a very, very young age. I’ve had to learn about myself in the public eye and I feel like I’ve definitely faced a lot of challenges.”

Leona, coming to the Ipswich Regent next February as part of her first UK tour in three years, admits she never really thought about fame and how her life would change. She was just a young singer who dreamed of becoming an international recording artist.

“Fame has actually changed a lot – especially over the last decade. When I was younger, people were famous but you didn’t really know a lot about them. There was a mystique about them. You didn’t know everything about their personal life and it was less invasive.”

It’s definitely a double-edged sword, as she’s found to her cost.

“When I was on the X Factor my videos went viral, viral had just become an internet word then. People across the world could see my audition which allowed me to go travel and make a bigger name for myself in music.

“It was amazing because I was getting this exposure and my dreams were coming true. With that came the trolling, all of that negative aspect as well.

“People got very invasive. It’s so crazy, I remember being chased by six photographers for a picture, just following me home. As a young girl that’s really scary. If you think about that in any other way – six, big, grown a**e men chasing a 21-year-old girl... They’ve been amazing sides but there have been downsides; you have to balance it out a bit.

“When you’re talking about it (fame) to my friends, although they’re amazing and give me advice that’s something that’s not relatable to a lot of people. You have to do a lot of growing up independently and sometimes you make weird choices,” she laughs, “because you have no-one to really follow. It’s been interesting but it’s been great, I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

The message behind new album I Am, recorded a couple of years ago, is empowerment and an upbeat, powerful and defiant assertion of Leona’s individuality; a new-found confidence and strength we haven’t heard before.

“It’s about seizing your independence, making choices in your life that are for you. Hopefully people can hear what I’ve been through and if they’re going through any challenges or difficult periods in some way it will uplift them or give them that strength to make those choices.”

Leona Lewis plays the Ipswich Regent Monday, March 7.