As millions settle in for the seventh series of The X Factor, fourth series runner-up Rhydian Roberts talks to Martin Saunders about how his faith inspires his music
Q How do you feel now about your time on The X Factor?
A On the whole I’m positive about it. For me it was a great shop window and enabled me to go on, but I guess there’s always a stigma attached to The X Factor, or perhaps there was back [then]. For me it worked, but they are looking for a certain type of artist. I didn’t really fit the mould. I always knew that. To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to get to the final rounds.
Q But you’re strangely fireproof aren’t you?
A If you’re a good-looking, young, pop singer, your fan base soon grows up and moves on to the next thing in fashion. With me, I’ve got a very loyal fan base. Wide demographic, but predominantly people in [their] thirties, forties, fifties and older and so they tend to stick with you, which is great.
Q In War of the Worlds you’re playing Parson Nathanial, a minister who loses his faith, is that right?
A Yeah, pretty much. It’s like an invasion from space, a Martian attack. Nathanial, my character, says that he predicted this and he thinks this is a result of all man’s sin. I think he’s losing the point of why Jesus came. He’s lost his faith, he’s freaking out and he’s not being very nice to his wife in my scene. It’s not pretty and eventually he dies and has a very painful death!
Q You came to faith at 19 and you were involved in another musical at the time. What happened?
A I was playing Pontius Pilate in a university production of Jesus Christ Superstar and understudying Christ. I was doing my research and I just got to know this guy Jesus, and I thought ‘Wow, if this is the guy, I want to be like him. He’s a dude.’ And he paid the ultimate penalty in such a painful way, and it moved me to tears, and I thought ‘Well, that’s love and I want you in my life.’ And, I swear, it completely changed things. It’s taking that leap that might initially seem difficult, but actually, once you do that, it’s not rocket science. I never thought before I was 19 that I would know Christ, love Jesus. I love Jesus! You love him like a father and that’s what we call him ‘Father in heaven’. He’s been my guide for the last eight years.
Q Is that the reason why you’ve had the success you’ve had do you think? Do you think you’ve had favour from heaven in a sense?
A I would say yes. I don’t want people to think that I’m special in some way, but I think I’m very blessed and the grace that he’s shown me through all my unbelief beforehand to give me a gift of song and then to use it in the way he has. Because I was a Christian when I went into [The X Factor] I would pray constantly, especially when I was at the judge’s houses, especially in those early auditions thinking ‘This is a train crash… the producers are making me out to be an idiot. Is this what you want me to do?’ And time and time again he said ‘Yes, don’t worry, I’m with you.’ Without that guidance, I would have been the proud, pompous singer that I could have been and gone ‘No! not for me,’ but I would have missed out on a great three years.
Rhydian Roberts is a classically trained singer and won a bursary to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire and performed with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before competing in The X Factor in 2007. He was the eventual runner-up in the show, and has since released two studio albums and been nominated for a Classical Brit award. He is currently recording his third album and touring the UK and Europe with a musical production of War of the Worlds.