Page last updated at 07:24 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 08:24 UK

From binman to Belgrade's stage

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Andy Abraham
Andy Abraham will perform Even If at the Eurovision Song Contest

It is not every day a former dustbin man changes his career to be a professional singer, but Andy Abraham has successfully managed to do that.

Since the 43-year-old melted the nation's hearts performing hits like When I Fall In Love on X Factor in 2005, he has turned his life around.

Despite coming second to Shayne Ward in the ITV talent show, Abraham has proved his talent, releasing two hit albums.

And after being chosen to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest two months ago, he is about to perform to the biggest audience of his career so far.

But the father-of-two remains relaxed and confident about the contest.

"I feel really good at the moment. I'm raring to go, ready to get out there," he says.

"I'm not the type of person who rehearses relentlessly. I think if you go overboard it can somehow seep out.

"I like to do just a set amount and go away from it, and feel fresh when I'm performing the next time."

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Andy gets Eurovision advice from old hands Scooch and Cheryl Baker from 1981 winners Bucks Fizz

He insists despite being in great demand and having Sharon Osbourne as a text buddy, fame has not changed him.

"My feet are firmly on the ground. I'm very in tune with reality, lets put it that way. Even though I fly on cloud nine I've got long legs," he laughs.

Rags to riches

The singer admits that before he entered The X Factor, he never would have expected to be where he is now.

"You can dream about it, but it's very difficult to really feel that you're going to be on stage singing to millions of people.

"I think slowly, slowly each dream is being eroded and reality has taken over. I'm kind of hoping that maybe one day I'll get to sing at Wembley Stadium," he says.

My feet are firmly on the ground. I'm very in tune with reality
Andy Abraham

Looking every inch the pop star wearing dark sunglasses, he is recognised several times by passing fans during the interview.

Afterwards he is approached by someone for an autograph, which he signs without a moment's hesitation.

The star admits it is something that happens a lot and even his son Jacob has been asked for an autograph.

Grateful for every opportunity that has come his way, the star is keen to shake off the memory of his former day job.

"I did the whole bin thing for eight months before The X Factor," he says.

"It's a tag that has kind of followed me, so I'm hoping to break that tag. Slowly it will erode away and the performer will come out of that."

'Level-headed'

When asked if he thinks his story is a classic rags to riches tale, he laughs: "I don't know about the riches yet. I'm working on that I really am. I'm a lot better off than I was, but I'm not rich by all means, nowhere near that.

"That will come with successful albums and a longer career - it takes a long time to achieve that."

It is not just him who has been affected by his success, as Abraham admits that in the beginning his children had a hard time from their peers.

"I think children sometimes can be cruel but at the same time they can enjoy the fun of a friend having a famous parent. It kind of swings both ways," he says.

Andy Abraham meeting fans
Abraham is used to being recognised by fans

But both Abraham and his wife, Denise, also his manager, are working hard to keep their children grounded.

In fact, keen to protect them from the blaring eye of the media, Abraham has made the decision to keep the children at home for school, only taking Denise out to Serbia.

"They're staying level-headed. They do realise they have to work very hard to get what they want," he says.

"I've had to do it for the first half of my life and now the second half I seem to be reaping the rewards of a lot of luck and a bit of talent and help from the British public."

With a third album on the way and the exposure Abraham expects to come hand in hand with Eurovision, he is refreshingly honest that it could all end tomorrow.

"I know within myself that everything can end quite easily. But as long as I'm happy, whether I'm successful or not, if I'm happy and I don't have any problems and my family are healthy and fine, I'm OK."

The final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place on Saturday and begins on BBC One at 2000 BST. Andy Abraham performs second in the running order.


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