What a nice young lad, in fact, if we want to pay respects to his South Shields roots. It's funny to think it's a full three years since the pop singer took The X Factor crown from Olly Murs in front of an audience of 19 million. It's funny to think it's only three years since The X Factor could command an audience of 19 million, but that's another story.
McElderry, now 21, is in the eye of the promotional storm plugging his latest album, Here's What I Believe. It's a bold name for a record, implying as it does, a statement of intent. Instead, it's more a suggestion of intent. This new album contains a mix of new and old songs, three of which he has co-written, making it the first time McElderry has had a bash at writing his own material. The first single from Here's What I Believe was written by Joe with help from industry stalwart Marcella Detroit, of Shakespears Sister fame. The song is partly based on a break up with an ex-boyfriend and gently hints McElderry was being cheated on but it's far from being a revenge track.
The album claims to be a progression for the singer, what with the songwriting, but with only three songs penned by McElderry it's really just dipping a toe in the water.
"For the past month and a half I've been out doing interviews and talking about this album; you lose your life for a few weeks but it's worth it," he says.
"This was the first time I'd done song writing. It was always something I had wanted to do to develop as an artist but I never felt brave enough before now.
"I didn't feel confident enough at first to start writing but when I got going I really got going. They can't shut me up now."
Here's What I Believe makes McElderry the first X Factor contestant to have released four albums, the last two – Classic and Classic Christmas – ratcheting up just shy of 400,000 album sales, achieved in the 12 months after being ditched by Simon Cowell's SYCO label.
Almost immediately after securing a £1million contract with SYCO, McElderry found himself faced with a reality show backlash as an online campaign against him ensured he didn't secure the Christmas number one slot. It worked, but didn't prevent him taking the New Year number one. He now has 324,000 Twitter followers of his own, neatly turning the social networking device from foe to friend.
Then, following the release of debut album, Wide Awake, he was dropped by Cowell and looked gauranteed for obscurity. Undeterred, McElderry went on to win a second reality show, Popstar to Operastar, and signed another record deal, this time with the classical arm of music industry giant Universal. He is certainly skilled at making the most of second chances.
McElderry says he wants Here's What I Believe to have a wider appeal and hopes the sentiment of his self-written songs will chime with those who hear them.
"That's my aim," he says. "I want people to hear these songs and think 'yeah, that's exactly what I'm feeling'. They are about me and my experiences but I want other people to understand them too.
"The songs are supposed to be like little love stories about losing someone you care about but how their legacy is still present in you, how they will always affect you."
Three years and four albums on, keeping up momentum must be a worry. "Obviously, I think, 'I've done all this and I'm only 21, how will I keep it going until I'm 30, even, never mind beyond?' I want to have a long career."
One idea is to move into a mentoring role. "I would love to set up some kind of talent academy. It's a really hard industry to break into and once you're in it you need a very thick skin. You have to take a lot of criticism and keep going."
And that's the thing about young Joe McElderry. He's just so polite and positive and perpetually tactful. If anyone's told McElderry that nice guys finish last he's clearly not been listening. "I'm quite a tough person," he says, before immediately qualifying it, "You have to be. You have to understand that people are going to have a strong opinions on you and you will be criticised. There are some people you will never impress.
"But yes, I am known as being nice and I'm proud of that. I hope I don't change."
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