She spent her early years in the seaside town of Marske, with her Dad, Paul, Mam, Sharon and Brother Daniel before moving to Guisborough, North Yorkshire when she was aged 9. Alton recalls being surrounded by music from an early age, with her dad buying a piano (what she describes as the 'worst, cronkiest old thing ever but with lots of sentimental value') before she was born for him to learn on, although she recalls often watching her dad play and trying to copy him :
Eventually they gave into her pleas, only for her to realise she did actually want to learn, aged 11, the age from which she began taking grades with the London College of Music. Abi is currently taking her Grade 7 Piano.
Abi first took an interest in songwriting aged 14, remembering one of her first gigs as a catalyst for picking up the pen: 'I went to see this band and they were obviously really affected by the level of fame they'd achieved, but In a negative way. Amy Winehouse was in the press an awful lot at the time and I just remember thinking what a shame it was that success could make people act in such a way, so I went home and wrote a song about it'. Not your average 14 year old ? Abi laughs:
True to her word, the next few years consisted of relentless gigging in and around the North east, building up a fan base, around studying A levels at college. Abi also worked part time at a supermarket, using the money to buy instruments, her own PA system, and eventually to record her first studio album 'Simple Truths', which was released in November 2012. The album was removed from online vendors a few months later due to contractual reasons, but not before it was incredibly well received by the local music scene. Upon finishing college in May 2012, Abi took a place studying English at Newcastle University:
Little did Abi know that 2013 would provide her with the break she had been waiting so long for. As James Arthur won the X factor in December 2012, a fellow Teessider who'd gigged in the same places as Abi, Abi says she felt inspired by his success, despite admitting previously being skeptical of what the show could do for her:
She says. So, in June 2013, with 'roadie' dad in tow, Abi auditioned at Manchester's Old Trafford, in front of renowned music managers Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh and platinum selling artists Gary Barlow and Nicole Scherzinger. Osbourne and Barlow were the most taken aback by Abi's rendition of a The Dixie Chicks 'Travelin' Soldier', Barlow stating that she had a 'really unique voice' and that she was 'Just what the show needed.' With Osbourne adding that she was 'her own unique little thing' and Scherzinger saying that Abi was 'an artist already'. Sailing through to the Arena round of the competition, Abi performed her self penned song 'Jigsaw' moving Nicole to tears and receiving a standing ovation from a 5,000 strong audience.
The judges comments Abi described as 'crazy' included that from Gary: 'There was a really magical moment there, I could see it in your eyes- when the audience started to stand it was like your dream had come alive right in front of you; I'm so glad I was here for that moment- what an incredible audition that was.' He also added that she had a 'powerful gift for storytelling and a career for life' although this was not included in the final edit aired on TV in September 2013. She also became known for her distinct style with her trademark flowers and glasses : 'That was never intentional!' She laughs
At the bootcamp stages, Abi blew away both the judges and the audience once again when she performed her own interpretation of Whitney Houston's classic 'I wanna dance with somebody' accompanying herself on piano and receiving another standing ovation from an arena crowd, earning her a place at the Judges Houses stage of the competition to be held at her future Mentors home in Antigua.
Here she performed more unique interpretations on popular hits, singing 'Only You' by Alison Moyet and 'Anything could Happen' by Ellie Goulding for both Nicole and Mary J Blige, who described her as having 'the goosebump factor' and 'moving'.
Abi describes her Judges houses experience as no mean feat:
It seemed the hard work paid off as Abi was picked as one of Nicole's final 3 to proceed along to the Live shows:
she giggles. In the live shows Abi became well known for her musicianship and seasoned unique takes on classics, such as Bon Jovi's 'Living on a prayer' in 80s week and Gloria Gaynor's 'I will survive' in Disco Week. However Abi says Big Band week was her favourite, when she performed Frank Sinatra's showstopper 'That's Life' accompanied by a 30 piece live orchestra.
She says :
Ironically, in true 'That's Life' fashion, it was also Abi's last week in the competition, finishing 8th after a tense sing off with friend and fellow category member Hannah Barrett. Gary Barlow commented on the spin off show Xtra factor that it was 'Not Abi's time' and 'The wrong bottom two' with Host Dermot O Leary referring to her as 'so unique, so different.'Mentor Nicole added she was 'gutted' to see Abi leave and that she brought 'so much credibility and truth to the show.'
Abi says of leaving the show:
In reference to a particularly difficult sing off, Abi also added:
Her performances on the show have racked up over 2 million YouTube views, her arena audition alone holding well over 1 million views, as well as almost 100k following on twitter and thousands more Facebook likes.
Upon leaving the show, Abi embarked on a personal appearance tour of the UK and Ireland performing to crowds of thousands, including a date at London's infamous G-A-Y, where she performed on a bill alongside Ellie Goulding. Abi says other amazing memories where also created on this tour, such as when she performed in Cork, Ireland at Mahon point shopping centre:
Abi also gained a place on the X factor tour, which begins in February 2014 and sees her perform alongside her fellow contestants on 31 arena dates around the UK and Ireland. Naturally she is excited but there is one show she is particularly looking forward to:
Christmas and early 2014 has been a time to stop and take a breath, whilst also focusing on doing what she has always loved and done... Songwriting.
She is also developing her YouTube channel and online presence with a new concept #abisweeklycover where she continues her reputation of putting her own spin on things:
The covers have racked up thousands of views already. Abi says of her fans:
'they're really lovely, I have a very personal relationship with them and I genuinely feel they want me to succeed. They're feisty too, a bit like me!'
And of her critics:
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