One Year of X Factor: Part 6 – Workout Time! Bootcamp Begins…

I’ve flown all the way to Sydney, checked in to the Star Casino. With plenty of fear & no expectations. Now I find myself standing on a rooftop terrace, surrounded by 99 of the most talented performers in the country, in front of RedFoo, Ronan Keating, Dannii Minogue & Nat Bassingthwaighte! It’s ridiculous! It’s not real.. Oh yes it is! Because now I’ve just been told I’ve got to perform a song with 2 other contestants, who I’ve never met, in front of the cameras, for the first challenge, in 24 hours!!

Instant pressure, instant nerves, no thoughts of settling in! Welcome to X Factor Bootcamp!

Who’s in my group?
Will we get along?
How do I sing in a group?
Harmonies? Arrangements?
How is this going to work…

Funnily, but luckily enough, it works well! I’m grouped with Trevor, a big, bold music teacher from Perth & Amos, a quiet but super experienced country man from country NSW. And we get along instantly! Everything I was initially worried about, instantly fixed. Trev’s a harmony genius, Amos, hears arrangements before they happen & we’ve got our song picked almost as soon as it comes out of the box! U2’s classic, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Everything goes so well that we’re practised, and confident by 9:30pm that night & ready for bed! Only about 3.5 hours after the challenge started!

This bootcamp stuff’s easy! Right…?

Wrong, of course. The morning shows me how things could have been. I hear stories of arguments on song choices, tantrums, people were heard singing in rooms as late as 2am in the morning! The wake up call was 6am!! Crazy!! The day progressed and it becomes more apparent as to what the true challenge of bootcamp is. After all it is the ultimate test of singing skill, stamina & execution under pressure. Passing that test is all about management so I made for I focussed on managing a number of things:

  1. My Voice – Drink water, don’t over practise
  2. My Emotions – Stay calm, everything’s a test so there’s no room for frustration
  3. My Energy – Sleep well, eat well, use energy when needed
  4. My Personality – Be polite, be me! Everytime I leave the room, be the best version of me. At the very least, it’s nicer for everyone else to be around!

This helps a lot, because I felt like I’d recognised early, that bootcamp would be demanding not only on my singing, but everything else too. Mornings would start early, nights would run late, schedules would be unknown, planning impossible. So you have to be ready all the time.

This day has run long.. The other sections have left our area, not to be seen, no doubt to perform & it’s now 10pm. We’re finally called.

We enter what feels like a fully heated pre-performance holding area where we see the groups cycling on & off stage. But it’s a sight that instantly brings up something that I’d almost forgotten about.. My nerves! Oh that’s right, I’m here to sing! As the groups disappear & re-enter the holding area you can easily tell how they went by the looks on their faces. but it’s the disappointed ones that stick with me the most. It makes me think of everything that could go wrong… Forgotten lyrics.. bung notes.. train wrecks.

And then it happens… I forget the key I’m singing in! I’m freaking out, I’ve been locked in all day and now because of the pressure, it’s gone! I run to the toilets, download the original onto my phone so I could listen to it, and then.

“Ryan, Trevor,¬†Amos” … “You’re Up!”

And my heart starts racing…

We hadn’t been shown the performance room at all in the lead up, no soundchecks nothing. And they couldn’t have made the room more intimidating. You could hear every creak in the stage with every step. Beyond the spotlights and in the darkness you could hear the scratching & shuffles of what must have been 20+ crew. And unavoidably, front and centre, are the judges, emotionless, hold our competition lives in their hands. I couldn’t feel more vulnerable.

After a small chat, out come those fateful words… “Let’s hear it!” (deep breath)

(5 minutes later)

We did it! Trev blew them away at the start. I managed not to stuff up my bit. Amos pulled something out of the bag & we all nailed out harmonies! When it counted, we actually did it!! That was some pressure cooker in there & now we’ve come out doing something that we can be so proud of.. So if we’re sent home, at the very least, we can hang our hats on that. There would be nothing worse than being sent home on a mistake. It’s a nice moment, it’s relief, it’s delight, it’s alittle bit of pride but we know it’s temporary. Verdicts are coming..

(another hour passes)

The other contestants have filed in and out. Most elated, some unsure, some devastated. I’m again standing back on the stage for over 10 minutes. And the pressure has only intensified. They’ve called half of us forward, I’m one, and the rest remain behind. Every second feels like an hour… “The people standing in front row…”

Please say what I want to hear!
It can’t end now!
“Are coming back tomorrow” … “Are coming back tomorrow”
Ahhhh please, please, please!!!

The pause lasts an eternity…

“…Are coming back tomorrow, congratulations you’re through to the next stage.”

WOOOOO!!! What an incredible feeling! I’ve seen that elimination situation on TV so many times & suddenly I was in it.. And I was one of the people who survived! Crazy! Some seriously talented and genuinely wonderful people went home today. But somehow I’m still here. Wow.

And now, after getting up at 6am, it’s almost 1am! That’s one long day & yep, I’ve gotta be up at 6am again tomorrow! Time for some sleep…

Continue to Part 7…