With the faces of abnormally sexy angels, and the voices of... well, abnormally sexy angels, Union J on the cusp of being pretty frickin’ massive.
This week we had a chat / interrogation with the X Factor boyband’s manager Blair Dreelan, who gave us a heap of inside info on them. For instance, did you know that the way George Shelley ended up in the band is actually really spooky? Or which band member is a massive ladies’ man? No, but you can find it all out here.
So how did you get to become Union J’s manager?
It’s quite a long-winded story. Basically I met the boys over a period of time. I actually met Josh Cuthbert when he was 14 and he was auditioning as a solo artist on The X Factor. I literally just spotted him when I was walking through the crowd and I thought he had a really good look about him, he looked like a pop star. I stopped him and he was with his mum and I asked if I could hear him sing, he sang and I thought he had a great voice. I began to sort of work with him on various little projects like just sort of recording stuff because I’ve got a recording studio in Swindon.
Josh kind of became almost a bit like my little brother you know, as he got older he started to come out with me at the weekends and stuff.
And then JJ Hamblett I actually met in a hotel reception, we had a mutual friend and we just started talking. I said to him about singing and stuff and got his details. I really liked the way JJ looked, I thought he had um - do you remember that TV show in the 90s like Saved By The Bell and stuff like that? He reminded me of - not his actual look, but the way he is - of Johnny Depp when he was in a TV series called 21 Jump Street and that was the series that actually launched Johnny Depp and made him like a teenage heart throb. In my head he had a 90s teenage heart throb look.
Jaymi Hensley and Josh went to Sylvia Young Theatre School just for weekend classes on a Saturday so knew each other from there, and then obviously George was a solo act on The X Factor, so I met George through the show.
How did you feel about George joining the band - who’s decision was it, was it purely The X Factor or did they have to consult you beforehand?
When George got kicked off the show I got in talks to manage him because I just thought he was great and looked like a pop star, I thought he could be developed into a pop star. Then two weeks later The X Factor called me and were like, ‘how do you feel about putting a fourth member into the band?’ I said ‘it really depends on who it is’, and they went ‘we’ve got this kid called George and he got kicked off the show,’ and I said ‘well I’ve got this kid now called George who got kicked out the show’. They were like ‘180,000 people entered this show it can’t be the same George.’
So I emailed them a picture while I was on the phone to them and they were like ‘wow it’s amazing it’s almost like fate, exactly the same kid.’ Even when I’m telling you this story now I’m getting goose bumps because it was just such a strange thing to happen. And from then it was really, really quick, an overnight thing.
The other weird thing was – this was really, really strange – when they got back from the first stage of Boot Camp Jaymi was on his iPad and he was like, ‘there was this kid that was at the Boot Camp that was amazing, he just looked amazing’. And what he’d done was crop four pictures of the boys together with George in the band before George was actually in the band. So it was like a chain of really spooky events.
Then we had these four days, the boys were really excited when I told them because it was obviously the same kid they’d seen in the picture that they met at boot camp and built a little bit of a friendship. They didn’t know each other but they kind of talked. And then I, obviously knowing Josh really well, knew that his personality and George’s personality were very similar; I knew that the boys got on with Josh would get on really well with him and the other boys would as well. So I pulled him in four days before we went to Judges’ Houses and had this day which was a getting to know each other day.
Did you do ‘getting to know you’ exercises?
We didn’t do getting to know you exercises, no. We just hung out and jammed a little bit with George on the guitar and everyone singing and then we spent the next three days rehearsing for judges houses.
Did the boys take it personally that they needed to have a fourth member in to be up to the grade?
No not really because when the boys first initially came to me we were talking about it being a five piece, but it was something I tried to steer away from because I didn’t want them to go in and automatically, because they’re younger looking guys, be perceived as a One Direction type band because there was already One Direction. So we wanted to be a five, but ended up being a three and when we became a four it was a massive happy medium.
What were your first impressions of the boys compared to what they are now?
They’re exactly the same, they haven’t changed at all. The only change is that they’re tired. They’ve gone from working every day jobs from offices to Costa Coffee and school; to going into 9am to 11pm flat-out regimes its madness with cameras flashing and lights and glamour. To still be the same people that they are not I think they’ve done incredibly well because it’s so easy to get caught up in it.
I had one company offer them a bunch of glamorous jewellery worth a lot of money and they kind of was like ‘oh ok, thank you’, and were happy to receive it; but when I gave them four onesies they were jumping for joy. That shows me that their feet are still very much on the ground.
So tell us about Josh and Ella.
What would you like me to tell you?
Well Ella has said that it’s not her and George who are an item, but it’s actually Josh she’s got a thing for. So what’s going on there?
There isn’t anything going on, if Ella does have a thing for Josh then it’s news for me. She’s a very lovely girl and at the end of the day as far as I know he’s not interested in her romantically, he considers her like a best friend.
How does George feel about Ella?
George always had the same scenario; George has always been one of her best friends.
So have any of the boys had any crushes on her?
No, no one in the band has ever been romantically involved with Ella.
Who’s the most popular with the girls?
I would say that it’s a toss-up between George and Josh.
Have any of them snogged any fans yet?
Who do you think will be the first to snog a fan?
I’d probably say JJ.
I think JJ is a bit of a dark horse. He’s a bit of a ladies’ man, he’s one of these guys that... he loves the ladies!
Who in the band is the grumpiest?
I would say… I don’t think any of them are grumpy I think that in the morning they’re all a bit grumpy first thing in the morning. But who isn’t?
But who is the grumpiest?
Um… I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know.
OK then, who’s the chirpiest first thing in the morning?
Who’s the chirpiest?! I’d say JJ.
Who’s the smelliest?
In a good way or bad way?!
I would say that Josh is the best smelling, as he likes to wear a lot of aftershave.
And who smells the worst?
No one! What are these questions?! What are you, a dog? Do you go around sniffing people?
Who would be the most likely to join a death metal band?
Why is that?
Because he’s got rockstar hair and a rockstar guitar.
Who has the biggest feet?
Off the top of my head I think Josh.
Who is the biggest flirt?
Who is the bossiest?
Jaymi, he’s the leader.
Who’s the most scatty in the band?
Who’s the biggest Twitter addict?
George..A across between George and Josh.
What do you think they’ll be doing this time next year?
Hopefully selling out arenas and stadiums.
IMAGES: PA AND BLAIR DREELAN