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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Back to reality for ex-boyband star
By Greg McKevitt
BBC News Online

Eight months after the demise of One True Voice, one of its fresh-faced hopefuls is getting back to the reality of live gigs.

Keith Semple made it into the boyband formed from the ITV1 pop talent show Popstars: The Rivals, but they spilt after disappointing sales.

One True Voice
One True Voice could not compete with rivals Girls Aloud
Formed alongside Girls Aloud in November 2002, a month later they lost out in the showdown for Christmas number one with their song Sacred Trust.

Its follow up, Shakespeare's (Way With) Words, barely scraped into the top ten, and worse still, they were later voted Britain's worst group in a poll, a day after their tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Semple is now back in his hometown of Larne, County Antrim, playing drums and guitar in his uncle's covers band Murage around local pubs and clubs while preparing to launch his career as a solo artist.

BBC News Online caught up with him as they played a free lunchtime show in Belfast in front of a crowd of about 30 people.

It was part of a BBC Music Live event, featuring more than 50 acts throughout the week in a series of daytime concerts at the Fountain Centre shopping precinct.

Organised in conjunction with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, amateur acts ranging from traditional folk to heavy metal have been playing for free.

Semple insists playing guitar and drums and singing live is his first love.

"People say to me that One True Voice didn't do so well, but I say to them that I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't gone for it and made a name for myself.

Keith Semple
Since I was 16, I've made a living from music and I don't intend to do anything else
Keith Semple
"It only takes people to see me playing once to get rid of their preconceptions, though it's understandable given the boyband stereotype," he said.

"I always judge acts by whether they can do it live - if you can't do it live, you can't do it at all, as far as I'm concerned."

He says he will "never do a gig without a guitar on my shoulder ever again".

"I've always written my own stuff - that's kind of why I'm not in One True Voice any more, as contractually, we weren't allowed to release it.

"I'm working with Bonnie Tyler's manager now, who is giving me the musical freedom that I need.

"I didn't get this in One True Voice, and it's nice to get the chance to play an instrument or two for a change and show people I can play."

Semple says he only ended up in Pop Stars: The Rivals after his granny sent in an entry form for him.

"I just kept getting through, and the next thing, I was in the band - I didn't think I looked right as I had a shaved head at the time.

"I spent my whole life being against boybands, and then all of a sudden I was in one.

"It was an awesome experience, and I'm always going to be thankful that I did it.

"To be honest, it was only the songs that we didn't like - there's only so much effort you can put into something if you don't like the product you are supporting."

He says things got worse when they heard what turned out to be the second single to be released from the album, Shakespeare's (Way With) Words.

Murage, the covers band of Keith Semple's uncle
Semple (on drums) sang and played a variety of instruments
"For a start, the title is ridiculous! The song written by Rick Astley was good enough, but it didn't suit us in any way. If I'm up there singing about Shakespeare, I'm not going to be in the best of form.

"The worst lyric was 'I would write a sonnet, and put your name upon it'.

"The name One True Voice wasn't our idea either - OTV might have been alright as it's a bit catchy like other boyband names."

Semple will record his debut album later this year, but an album of demos is available on his website, which he describes as "heavy funk rock, like a modern version of 1980s band Extreme."

He says he recently performed on a heavy rock radio station with "all these guys threatening to kill me, but then they heard this song I had written".

"It was a progressive rock song, with different time signatures, a bit more like a classical piece.

"By the end, we were getting texts saying 'good on you mate'."

He remains adamant that he is in music for the long haul.

"Since I was 16, I've made a living from music and I don't intend to do anything else," he said.

"Whether I have to get really good on an instrument and play sessions, I will make a living from it.

"I'm hoping that when people hear my stuff, they will like it."

The BBC Music Live festival is running throughout Northern Ireland until 3 May, with more than 100 concerts across all genres of music, most of them with free admission.

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