Forget her X Factor past, new pop voice Ella Henderson will spike the mainstream with a much-needed dose of darkness this summer

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Navy woven jacket by Marc Jacobs from a selection at Harvey Nichols

In 2012, singer Ella Henderson made an early shock exit from X Factor, despite support from the likes of Cher and Adele. Signing to Sony nevertheless, Henderson quietly locked herself away in the studio for a year to work on her debut album, Chapter One, so called, she says, “because this is a diary of me. It’s the start of something.”

The first you’ll hear of it – on its June 8 release date, in fact – is “Ghost,” co-written with one-man hit factory, Ryan Tedder (Beyonce, J-Lo, Demi Lovato). His stamp is unmistakeable; immense, rolling gospel-tinged pop that Henderson describes as “uplifting, but dark.” The collaboration was pure serendipity: with her album nearly wrapped, the label sent over Henderson’s cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” to which Tedder succinctly replied, “Fuck, get me in the studio with her right now.”

“I wanted to make this big record and have it played worldwide, and he knows a special formula to write songs like that,” she says. “We started it in London, but just after Christmas I flew to Denver to his home, and we finished it there. I turned 18 in the booth, so we had a beer.”

Ella Henderson X Factor

Pink wool jacket with faux fur collar by Red Valentino  

The accompanying video was filmed in New Orleans, which she calls “incredible.” She goes on, “There’s that dark, spooky side to New Orleans, and we filmed in the swamps at night with the crocodiles.” While there, Henderson went for a voodoo reading. “It was scary,” she says, gleefully. “The first thing she said was, ‘I need to tell you some dates. In April things are going to kick off, and in June is when your dreams will potentially become reality.’ In April, everything goes to radio, and June is when my single goes to iTunes. It was so weird and she had no idea who I was. But it was all career- lead – no love popped up.”

With an imminent move back into the spotlight, she’s prepared for whatever may come. “My family is so behind me, especially my father; he’s mentally prepared me for everything. His advice was to ‘stay focused, because your focus is your reality,’ and I’ve taken that on board so much in the past year,” she admits.

Unlike her X Factor alumni ‘padre, the show’s 2012 winner James Arthur, Henderson has had time and space to cultivate a sound. “It’s been an advantage. I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what I want and how I want to be portrayed. You can never knock James for how talented he is and I think sometimes he’s misunderstood, but I’ll always remember him as James I knew off the show. He was a big brother to me.”

Ella Henderson X Factor

Black cotton and lace cardigan by M Missoni from a selection at Selfridges 

Henderson has come a long way since her public debut and it’s reflected in her singing voice, her manner, and her ambitiousness. “I don’t wanna copy anyone, I didn’t want to do a retro record. I wanted to do something new, and fresh,” she says decisively. “In the beginning I was open to anything, but you figure out what your sound is, and when you go into sessions there’s certain things you have to be open, and honest on. When it comes to my music, when it’s your job, you can be cutthroat about things.”

Words: Taylor Glasby

Photographer: Simon Emmett

Fashion Editor: Danielle Emerson

Hair: Anna Cofone at Atelier Josh Wood using Oribe

Make up: Kelly Cornwell at Premier using Armani

Manicurist: Ama Quashie at CLM using Nars

Make up Assistance: Jane Bird

Fashion Assistance: Georgina Thomas


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