Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 08:40 UK

Pop Pixie has a whole Lotta love

By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News


Pixie Lott's debut single, Mama Do

If there's one lesson that Simon Cowell has taught us, it's that ambition counts for nothing.

Everybody wants to be a pop star - but you need talent, persistence and luck to make it. And Pixie Lott has all three, in spades.

Like Duffy and Adele, the 18-year-old has a potent, mature soul voice to melt your heart like chocolate in a heat wave.

Her music, however, has more in common with the earworm pop of her heroes, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Pixie Lott
As a child, Pixie starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the West End

Tall, pretty and blonde, Lott turns a few heads when she breezes into a bustling London cafe to discuss her debut album.

Smoothing down a short, zebra-striped dress, she orders porridge and prunes ("no milk, I'm off dairy") and explains how she elbowed her way into the music industry.

"Four years ago, I went for an audition in The Stage newspaper that was looking for the 'next pop diva'," she says.

"My mum was like, 'I don't think you should go, it's probably a con,' but I forced her to take me."

"I pretended to be 16 - I was only 14 at the time - and from that I got my first manager."

One year and a handful of songwriting sessions later, US music impresario LA Reid flew over to London and asked to hear her sing.

"I just said to my school that I had a dentist's appointment," Lott giggles, "and I came back from the meeting and nobody suspected a thing. So I lied about my age and then I lied about that!"

Italia Conti is more about musical theatre and it's not really the pop side of things, and that's why I had to go out by myself
Pixie Lott

If you've formed the impression that this is a supremely confident young woman, you're not wrong.

And you won't be surprised to learn that she turned down LA Reid, ditched her manager and signed up with the team who look after The Black Eyed Peas and The Fugees.

Pixie's real name is Victoria. Her mum gave her the nickname because she was a "tiny, cute baby" who looked like a fairy.

'Jazz hands'

Attending a church school in Chislehurst, Kent, she sang "loads of hymns" and, after discovering Whitney and Mariah in her parents' record collection, started to put on little shows at family parties.

"People would go up to my mum and say, 'you should do something with her' and that's how we realised I had a good singing voice."

Lott enrolled at the Italia Conti stage school aged 11, but felt out-of-step with the "jazz hands" atmosphere.

"Italia Conti is definitely more about musical theatre and it's not really the pop side of things, and that's why I had to go out by myself," she explains.

Pixie Lott
The singer co-wrote the majority of her debut album

Although she had always written songs at her piano, Lott never played them to anyone before landing a recording contract.

For the last three years, she has been collaborating with some of the biggest hitmakers in the industry, including Red One (Lady GaGa's Just Dance), Phil Thornalley (Natalie Imbruglia's Torn) and Toby Gad (Beyonce's If I Were A Boy).

But while she's been squirreled away in the recording studio, pop has made a big comeback. With competition from Little Boots, La Roux and Duffy, is there room for another big-voiced radio-friendly starlet?

Hit potential

"What's good is that my music is different from everyone else's," says Lott.

"It's got the soul element, like Duffy, but it's not very retro. It's a contemporary, pop, fresh sound. That's what makes it different."

Her record label is certainly aware that Lott has to make an effort to stand out amongst the current torrent of ladypop.

The PR campaign for her album, Turn It Up, has a school tour for the kids, Bebo video diaries for the teens and lavish Radio 2 sessions for their parents.

Behind it all lies a record crammed full of potential hits, from catchy debut single Mama Do, to the show-stopping torch song Cry Me Out.

"I always prefer to write songs about emotional situations and heartbreak," Lott says, "because I like getting into the character".

"When we were writing Cry Me Out, I said, 'I feel like singing about something sad but, obviously, still being strong'.

"So the guy has to cry to get over me, instead of the other way around."

Lott's tender and raw vocal performance suggests a heart that's been broken more than once.

Global plans

In person, however, she is full of youthful exuberance, talking about new bands, shoe shops, and Vincent - "a little boy I fell in love with" at a recent school showcase.

Pixie Lott
The starlet cites Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder amongst her influences

Even the gruelling 19-hour video shoot for Mama Do was "so much fun" - despite the fact Lott needed make-up to cover the bruises caused by the thigh-slapping dance routine.

Is she ever going to focus all of that energy into a Britney-style meltdown?

"I don't think I'd get caught up in the crazy side of the music industry because it's just not in my nature," she smiles.

"I've been in situations where I've been offered [drugs] before, and if I was going to do it, I would have done it by now."

It helps, she notes, that her family is not part of the industry.

Her friends are doing their best to protect her, too. One bought her a bracelet with pictures of all the Catholic Saints and had it blessed in Rome.

Nonetheless, Lott's next few months will be a whirlwind. She's on tour with The Saturdays and The Script, followed by trips to Australia, Asia and America where she's signed to the influential Interscope label.

Typically, she's handling it all with brazen chutzpah.

"I'm really excited about it. I want to get everywhere."

Pixie Lott's single Mama Do is released on 8 June. Her debut album is due for release in September.

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