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Boys harness the X Factor effect to launch debut album and a UK tour

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

Union J, with George Shelley second from left, play a show at Plymouth Pavilions next week as part of their biggest UK tour to date

Union J, with George Shelley second from left, play a show at Plymouth Pavilions next week as part of their biggest UK tour to date

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George Shelley still can't quite believe his good fortune. If it hadn't been for a mis-timed visa application, he could have been embarking upon a career as a graphic designer, instead of which he is currently one quarter of boy band Union J, on the brink of their first headline tour of the UK.

"I've just walked into HMV and bought our album," he says. It's the day of the LP release and he's in his home town of Bristol for a book signing.

In the band's biography you'll discover how George was bullied at school, how his musical family inspired him, how his granddad bought him his first guitar and uncle taught him to play.

"I can't get my head around the fact that one year ago I was in the bottom two in X Factor and now here we are with an album out. It's the weirdest thing!" he says.

As it was, George entered The X Factor as a soloist, purely for fun, with his eyes closed and no expectations whatsoever.

"I never thought I'd get as far as boot camp, but when I did I met these guys, Union 3 and we just clicked," he adds.

With incredibly stiff competition, they were both voted off the show and thought that was that. But then when the boot camp relocated to Las Vegas a band member from one of the successful groups couldn't get his visa through in time.

There was a gap to fill and mentor Tulisa recalled Union 3; but she thought they lacked something and so George was invited as the fourth member. The rest is X Factor history.

"For us, every week we managed to stay on the show was a blessing. We came fourth in the final, but weren't in the slightest bit disappointed – did you see the talent in series nine of the competition? It was phenomenal!" says George.

"James Arthur won, but there were so many other incredible acts. In all, five were signed for record deals."

Union J were snapped up by Sony RCA straight after the series ended.

"They wanted to release something straight away. We were presented with the song, Carry You, which we felt was perfect for us," adds George.

Having had an early hit – the song got to number three – they had more time to record the album, but the lads didn't have a lot of artistic input. The songs were already written to show off their vocals, undoubtedly their strong point.

Current single Beautiful Life is particularly poignant for the band – it's an uplifting power ballad about going through tough times and coming out the other side, embracing who we are for all our differences.

"It's an emotional track about realising the things about us that make us different and also make us special," says George.

He is thrilled by the fact that the band have been very involved in the production of the forthcoming tour and the band's artwork.

"We have had loads of input, it's been a real group effort with the creative team," he says.

"I designed the band logo – before this I was at uni in my final year of a graphics design course. Then when we were on the X Factor tour there was lots of waiting, so I'd sit around coming up with ideas. Fortunately Sony liked them.

"We've also had loads of say in designing the set for the tour. In conjunction with the album artwork, which includes magazines and TV screens, we're going to have loads of stacked up TVs on stage…

"Now we're making some decisions about how much choreography to include in the set. We're of the opinion we focus on our vocals.

"Anyway, there's one particular member of the band I just can't see learning the moves. It would be like teaching a tree to dance!"

Union J come to Plymouth Pavilions on Wednesday.

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