Not many artists can be recognized from their first name alone. It’s an iconic status usually reserved for the greats such as Madonna, Beyoncé and the like. However, award-winning singer and songwriter Lemar is fast becoming an iconic star in his own right. The multi-platinum-selling artist is one of the most successful artists to have appeared on a reality TV show after coming third in the BBC series of Fame Academy. Since then, Lemar has had seven top-ten UK singles and has sold over 2 million albums proving that real talent can (and does) emerge from reality TV.
Winner of two Brit and three MOBO awards, Lemar has pioneered the new wave of reality TV talent. When reminded of this fact, he laughs and modestly replies: ‘One or two people have mentioned that, I think because I did the soul thing.’ With the media now saturated with wannabes hungry for fame and neglecting their craft, Lemar considers the trend for talent shows dominating our screens.
‘Nowadays, reality shows like The X Factor aren’t really frowned upon. When I did Fame Academy, people didn’t really want to show the love or respect that we deserved. Now it’s much better – people are quicker to recognise talent and act upon it. Plus, it provides a bit of entertainment too. As long as you put the effort into making good music, after the show, instead of being caught up in all the hype, you can’t go wrong. It’s about bettering yourself.
Take on board constructive criticism. If you’re good enough and you keep putting yourself out there, then your break will undoubtedly come.’
Citing a long line of soul greats inhis list of musical inspirations and pioneers such as Michael Jackson,Bonnie Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Boys II Men, Lemar reveals that it’s not easy to spot the next big thing.
‘I don’t think you can ever really know who’s going to end up on top or who’s going to have longevity. Being a pioneer is about starting something and finishing it. That’s what sets people apart. If you think about the artists around right now, there are very few that have the same pulling power as Michael Jackson. There are a handful such as Lady Gaga, Usher and Mary J. Blige, but it’s not like before when there was an abundance of megastars. We need to make sure there are still artists around who understand their craft and their skill so that we can keep the bar raised as high as it can possibly go and continue to make good music. That’s so important.”
Coming from working class roots in Tottenham, Lemar cites his parents as the main inspiration behind his success. ‘In terms of life inspirations, I would have to look closer to home. My mum is an extremely determined and ambitious lady. She definitely inspired me and that’s where I get my drive from. My dad is the laid-back, placid guy and that’s my character overall. I don’t let things bother me. I’m hard to wind up. I’d rather chill and hang with my friends.’
Lemar resonates cool off-camera too. He doesn’t appear to be quite the rock n’ roller you’d expect for such a successful pop star. ‘People are unaware of how much you have to deal with mentally when you’re in the public eye,’ he says. ‘Everything is at your disposal. Until you have access to excess you don’t know who you are. It can throw you over the edge.’
Fatherhood has been a huge turning point in his life – more than he could have possibly imaged. ‘It’s funny,’ he says, ‘until you have a child you are unknowingly quite selfish because life is just about you. Now you actually have something in your life you genuinely care about more than yourself. The whole process has affected me as a person as well as my drive. I’m far more focused now.’
In November the Coming Home singer joined Mary J Blige on her forthcoming UK tour and is also set to open for Enrique Iglesias on the UK part of his Euphoria tour next year. The singer also hinted that a few TV projects were also in the pipeline. As his workload is set to increase and the buzz around the UK soul star gains momentum once again, Lemar considers the kind of legacy he’d like to leave behind. ‘I’d like to leave a great body of good work that people can listen to and I want to continue to inspire people musically. When you put out music, you subconsciously inspire the next generation, so it’s important to keep the bar as high as possible.’
Words by Toya Berry