Cleo Howman was the first contestant eliminated from the top 12 of The X Factor this year. The Brisbane singer, 25, had a slightly shaky start to the live shows when she missed her cue for Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” on Monday night, the song chosen by her mentor Natalie Bassingthwaighte. As a result she found herself in the bottom two with Jacqui Newland last night. While her X Factor dream may have come to an end, the lovely Cleo is moving forward with her music plans. We spoke to Cleo to talk about what was going through her mind on Monday, what it was like to sing for Jason Derülo, and how she bonded with the other girls.
You seemed quite at peace with the judges’ decision to send you home last night. How do you feel now it’s the day after?
Given my Monday night performance, it wasn’t a shock to me that I was in the bottom two, and I realised then, after I saw Jacqui’s performance, that it was very likely that I was gonna go home. So I came to terms with that decision quite quickly, and this morning I’m trying to have a positive outlook on it all. And, in retrospect, all I really wanted was to at least make it to the final 12 and have that chance to do the live shows. If this is all I’ve got then I’m so grateful for the experience.
With your Monday performance, were you happy with Nat’s song choice for you?
With some of Ronan’s [Keating] comments about the song choice, I probably, in retrospect, would’ve liked to do a different song. But Nat and I decided to do that one and I still stand by it.
Keep reading for more from Cleo . . .
And then last night you sang an Adele song. Were you wary of singing Adele given she’s been such a popular song choice this series?
On Monday night Tyla did an Adele song, and her feedback from Guy [Sebastian] was that she’s a very challenging artist to do, and to do well. Unfortunately I’d already locked that song choice in for the ‘sing for your life’ segment. When it came to actually being in the bottom two, I started freaking out having chosen the Adele song, because that put more pressure on me to perform it well. But in hindsight I’m glad that I managed to sing the whole song without missing a cue.
What was going through your mind when you missed your introduction?
It’s crazy. Your first performance on national television and you’ve got a moment where it seems like the whole nation is watching you, and you’re standing there feeling your heart beat, knowing you’ve missed your cue. There was some colourful dialogue going on in my head, I can tell you. [Laughs] But as soon as I came to I just jumped in where I could and carried on.
What was it like for you to work with Natalie?
Natalie is great. She’s such a fun mentor, she’s really hands-on, and she’s just so dedicated. She really does want to win the competition. I felt like we definitely got the best judge ’cause she spent her time outside of The X Factor with us as well. She was calling me before I even got down to my song choices, really picking my brain on what kind of artist I wanted to be. She really tried to get in my zone and help me out.
And can you describe what it was like to sing in front of Jason Derülo?
[Laughs] Well, thinking back on it now, if nothing comes of my music career at least I can ask him if I can be a girl in his video clip! That was pretty unreal. Not a lot of people get to experience something like that. He’s a cool guy, very down-to-earth.
Which is harder: singing in front of a huge live audience, or two people like Nat and Jason in a more intimate context?
I was actually discussing this question with Jacqui, because Jacqui said that she felt performing at boot camp and in the overseas shows, she said that she struggled being in an intimate environment. I’m much more comfortable singing in an intimate environment, but when you get to a studio audience, it’s a lot harder for me, and when she got to a studio audience she nailed it. We’re opposite artists because she’s used to singing in front of big crowds, and I’m used to singing at cafes and weddings. So there’s a different dynamic between the two of us.
What did you do to bond with the other contestants?
Bonding with the girls was easy because you’re all in the same scenario and going through the same emotions. We had a few nights where we just watched Sex and the City and ate sorbet. We had a lovely time together.
You said that you wanted more guidance in terms of your music career. Did you feel you got that out of the show, despite having a short-lived experience?
Yes, definitely. To the public it’s a short-lived experience but to me, going through all those first audition processes, it’s been a long experience, and I’ve definitely gained some valuable advice. I’m taking it forward; I’m going to try and capitalise on it as much as I can.
Who do you think will win? And who do you want to win?
It’s probably the most-asked question of the day for me. It’s so hard because I know everyone in the house is saying Reece Mastin is gonna be in the final two, or probably the winner. While I love him, ’cause he’s a cutie, I would also love to see Audio Vixen, 3 Wishez . . . and YMS are so talented! It’s a case of finding what style you like the most. I believe that all of them have just as much chance as each other.
Photo courtesy of Channel Seven