By JOHN McGURK
IT'S a 'Semple' but surprising statement - ex-boyband idol turned Stateside success Keith Semple wouldn't trade places with Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle "for all the tea in China".
Eleven years on from those turbulent times when his fortunes with Pop Stars: The Rivals boyband One True Voice crashed as Nadine and co beat them in the race for the Christmas Number One, the Larne man is in a very happy place. Dismissed as a flop star after One True Voice split up eight months after being formed on the top ITV talent show, Keith has fought long and hard to get his solo singing voice heard.
Here, he manfully struggled to escape from the 'pretty boy' tag and 'pure and innocent' white-clothed boyband clobber image of the early 2000s.
But after one of the American Mid-West's top bands 7th Heaven chanced upon a video of him guest starring with the Young Voices touring choir show, Keith was invited by the group to join them Stateside and carve out a new career as their lead singer.
In the last six years, Keith has developed into a guitar-toting pop rocker with an award-winning reputation.
Along with 7th Heaven, he appeared on the same bill as Bon Jovi, headlined a festival in front of an estimated 30,000 crowd, scored two chart singles and was named Top Male Singer by Chicago Rocker magazine.
The musician and part-time model was even brave and confident enough to dip his toes back into the world of TV reality talent shows - successfully auditioning for American Idol in 2010.
US Residency status problems pulled the plug on his plans to go all the way in the US equivalent of The X Factor. Undeterred, single- minded Semple debuted his new selfnamed band earlier this month - with a manifesto of original songs and a determination to hit the big time in the USA.
Life's been good in the US for the 31-year-old County Antrim man.
In an exclusive chat with Sunday Life, Keith said that in spite of Girls Aloud's multi-million selling successes, he is happy with the hand that life has played for him.
"I call it the ripple effect," he said. "Without One True Voice, The Young Voices would never have asked me to play their national UK arena tour, which means 7th Heaven would never have seen the videos that prompted them to offer me the position here in the States.
"Nadine and I have bumped into one another on occasion, but not here in the States.
"I always thought that Nadine was a wonderful talent and I'm glad that she has been able to capitalise on it.
"But I would not trade my career for hers for all the tea in China.
"I congratulate her on a wonderful decade of success in the British pop world. But I am much happier performing music that I love to an audience that respects my songwriting, performance and singing abilities."
In the USA, Keith feels that he has had the chance to become his own man - a world away from the teen heart throb pin-up days of Pop Stars: The Rivals.
"To the British media, they know me as a former boyband member," he explained, "whereas the people who came to see me live in Britain and now in America know me as the singer of a successful rock band.
"Americans embrace success and regardless of the style of music, they were impressed that I won a competition that had over 60,000 applicants!"
Keith, who revealed that he still "occasionally chats" with his former One True Voice bandmates, said it would be "insane" for him not to recommend the TV talent show route, in spite of its obvious pitfalls.
"Without having entered Pop Stars: The Rivals, I would not be where I am today," he said.
"The reality TV artists who have had much greater success than I, I am sure would agree. I may not have soared to the heights of Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson.
"But I still have this successful and respectable career with a large and loyal fan base", added Keith.
Originally published by JOHN McGURK.
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