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A Friend in demand

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 April 2014

Archant

Devon was in the spotlight in the run-up to Christmas as Teignmouth boy Luke Friend stormed into the final of one of the biggest talent shows ever. Kate Haskell met him for Devon Life as he returned to the West Country to perform a surprise gig for fans

To come third in a talent show could be considered a career disaster but we’re not talking about any old talent show, we’re talking ITV’s The X Factor and we’re not talking any old finalist, this is local boy Luke Friend who is proving that it isn’t the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.

Since the show finished Luke’s career is taking off just as he had hoped and as he was performing to over a 1,000 screaming fans at the English Riviera centre in Torquay I popped backstage to meet him, feeling like the oldest groupie in town!

Luke, we’ve all got to know you through the X factor but how did you get started? As soon as I learnt the guitar I got out there and started gigging in the area and what started as a hobby soon became a bit more serious and I realised that people liked what I did so I decided to go on the The X Factor and it all shot up after that. It’s all been a bit crazy since.

How easy was it to get gigs considering you were and still are so young? I started gigging at around 13 or 14 years of age and it’s really hard to be taken seriously at that age. I tried backing tracks and then just playing with my guitar but it was so hard to get any serious gigs because of my age. I love living here but as anyone who tries to gig in area will tell you it’s very hard. I’m sure it’s the same anywhere but obviously being 13 years old and trying to play in pubs was difficult so I used to just turn up and start playing and then they would give in and give me a gig!

The fact that successful artists such as Joss Stone, Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Matt Bellamy (Muse) all come from the area too must have been an inspiration for you? It was Joss Stone’s family that really helped me get started by allowing me to play at their Mama Stone’s restaurant in Exeter. That was when I was about 16 and the older generation really started to appreciate me and take notice. Joss came to see me perform once and she is so cool.

What I love about Devon is that everyone knows each other and is really supportive. I’m trying to pay it back by having some of the people that I used to gig with supporting these bigger gigs with me. For inspiration though I head to the cliffs and the sea although it’s hard now people know who I am, I can’t just turn up with my guitar and start playing!

How has your new found fame affected your family? It’s been good in the way that everyone has been so supportive of my family with no hate or jealousy over it. They did stress a lot though when I was on The X Factor and wondering if I could cope with it all.

Where is your favourite place to gig? The Jolly Farmer in Newton Abbot! I love how they are a family there and so great and made me feel part of their family. I would’ve done my X Factor homecoming there but it was tricky because of my age.

What is next for you? Everything is in the pipeline, I’m signing to a management and of course there is the X Factor tour but after that I’d like to move on from the show. I’m writing loads and I’m looking forward to writing with others, perhaps even head to America one day. I am going to probably move to London later in the year but my heart will always be in Devon!

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