An Olly Murs tribute singer and close friend of X Factor star Paul Akister says the Lancaster man is ready for his shot at the big-time.
Stuart Michaels has spoken to Paul on the phone from London in the run-up to the first of the live X Factor shows on ITV1 tonight (October 11).
And Stuart says the 25-year-old isn’t feeling the nerves ahead of the biggest night of his life.
“He said he wasn’t nervous whatsoever, he’s so looking forward to it,” he said.
“He’s been rehearsing on the big stage, he’s met celebrities like (former X Factor winners) Little Mix, he’s really enjoying the experience.”
Paul is living in a house in London with his fellow X Factor finalists and working long hours to perfect tonight’s performance.
He will sing in front of a studio audience, judges Simon Cowell, Melanie Brown, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Louis Walsh, and millions watching on TV.
Viewers will then have the chance to pick up the phone and vote to keep Paul in the competition.
“It’s been long days for him, he’s up early and going to bed late,” said Stuart.
“But he seems like a different Paul. I think he knows he’s got a really good chance this year and he will grow in confidence.”
Paul’s friend performs as a tribute act to pop icon Olly Murs, who was discovered on The X Factor when he finished runner-up in 2009.
Stuart, who DJs at the Queens in Morecambe and The Study Room in Lancaster, first met Paul six years ago on the district’s pub and club circuit.
“We used to rehearse together quite a lot in the Trimpell Club.
“He used to help me with vocals and I helped him with the performance side.
“He’s got the best voice I’ve ever heard around here and it has really improved over the past two years.
“With the current climate where John Newman and Sam Smith are prominent in the charts, I think he has a really good chance of going all the way.
“He’s demonstrating that this area has got talent and that a dream can be achieved.”
Stuart’s only worry for Paul is that he’s “too nice” for the cut-throat music business.
“He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body,” he said.
“Paul and his family, his mum and dad, and sister Charlotte, are quiet and reserved by nature. But once he gets to know people he’s fine.
“Hopefully him being so nice will help him be successful and not be his undoing.”
Stuart says he has so much confidence in Paul progressing through the live shows that he’s already planning a trip to London to support his friend next month.
Watch Paul in the first X Factor live show tonight at 7.30pm on ITV1 and on the results show tomorrow (October 12) at 8.15pm, which also includes live performances from international stars Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams.
*Follow Paul’s fortunes in The X Factor at @the_visitor and @guardiandigital and tweet your support for him using the hashtag #teampaul