When 2011 XFactor finalist Jonjo Kerr performed at the Burnley Christmas lights switch-on in November he left the stage beaming.
He may not have been singing at the Royal Albert Hall or live in front of millions of TV viewers, but for the Chorley-born singer it was one of his most enjoyable gigs to date.
Since then, the former soldier has not been able to get enough of the town or its people. He played a surprise gig at Unity College before Christmas, is looking to film his debut video in the town and will be playing the Kestrel Suite on Saturday, February 8th, with his band the Kerr-takers.
And although a sense of normality has now descended upon his life he’s still loving every minute of it.
“I love it here,” he told the Burnley Express. “When I came off stage at Christmas, I got talking to two pupils from Unity College and they were telling me how they have performances on a Friday lunchtime. I loved the idea and thought it would be a good idea to do a surprise visit. It went really well, the pupils enjoyed it and it was a good day.
“I love coming to Burnley. The Christmas lights switch-on was incredible and I really didn’t expect the reception that I got. That’ s why I want to keep coming back and I know we will do.”
He had been singing in pubs and clubs around Chorley before he was overheard singing in the shower while serving with the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment Army.
“They asked me to do the talent show. So I did that and then the commanding officer asked me to try out for X Factor and represent the battalion. From there it just snowballed. I kept getting through so I kept on having to ask for time off.
“I honestly thought I was a joke act though because Army lads have got a really peculiar sense of humour. And when I was backstage just before my live audition, there was a guy in front of me who I could tell was going to be a joke act and a guy behind me like that, so I just thought ‘great, this is the joke section’. I went for it though and luckily I got through.”
Boot camp started on his 28th birthday and before he knew it was performing live to the nation.
“It gave me great confidence and made me want to do it. It was strange. You literally go from nobody knowing who you are to being on prime time Saturday night television with 12 million people watching. You’re instantly recognisable. When you go out people want your photograph taken with you, your autograph. It’s flattering though, I love it.
“Some of the other contestants got really up themselves with it though and started refusing photos and being quite rude to people. These are the ones that support you if you get a career. Just be who you were before. I do a lot of repeat gigs because people are so nice to me and it’s nice to say thank you to them. This is why I keep coming back to Burnley.”
Even though he never expected to reach the finals he admitted he was devastated when he was kicked off.
“I was crushed when I got kicked off. I knew I’d done badly on my first live show. I really wanted to take it further especially before I went out to Afghanistan. I’d decided beforehand that I was going to Afghan win or lose. I got to do the Military Wives’ track though which was a number one because people liked and had heard that it was easy to work with and with me being a soldier the connection was apparent.”
When it reached the number one spot Jonjo was actually in Afghanistan having had his leaving party in Chorley on the day of recording the track.
“Everything was done on the day and then before I knew it I was in Afghanistan.
“While I was out there, a lot of people would come up to me and say ‘I recognise you, have I done a course with you?’ Then one of the lads would shout ‘he was on X Factor’.
“It must be a massive thing, doing the X Factor, not winning it and then going back to your normal life. It can’t be an easy adjustment but I had an even harder adjustment I think, going from ‘celebrity’ to soldier like that. We weren’t sat back, I was front line and we had a tough tour.”
He left the Army in August and is now concentrating on music.
“When I got back I thought that’s it, music career over. I was lucky because there was a festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and the Military Wives were performing. They asked me if I would like to go on with them. I did it and it made me think this is what I want to do. I do it because I want everybody to have a good time, to really enjoy themselves, that’s why I do it. I have to get cheers, it’s a challenge but I love it.”
Tickets are £6 for the Kestrel Suite show and available by calling 01282 434997. Doors open at 8-30pm.