Brummie brickie Sasha Simone became an overnight star on The Voice. The singer tells David Johns about her life of tantrums, tears and triumphs – and why she’s known as the Black Widow
Sasha Simone describes her life as 24 long years of self-doubt followed by seven short months of newfound confidence. “Finally, I know who I am and what I want to do,” she says. “I want a recording contract and I want to go on tour and take my music to people.” Welcome to the world of the Birmingham girl with The Big Voice! Millions watched on TV as Sasha stormed to the final of BBC’s prime-time talent show The Voice. Her performances packed such raw power and feeling that everyone in the studio was regularly reduced to tears, including her mentor Sir Tom Jones and fellow superstar judge Rita Ora. But no one was more emotional than Sasha herself. “I’m just a very emotional person, that’s the way I’ve always been. My tears are for real, even though some people may have thought I was putting them on.”
Sasha admits that when her sister applied for her to audition for The Voice she never dreamed of getting through to the live programmes, let alone the final. “It all came as a big shock. I knew I could sing but I never expected anything like this to happen to someone like me. Each week after the show, I had my bags all packed ready to come home. It’s unreal.” Sasha’s whirlwind success would be difficult for any normal person to take in, but for her it is even more mind-blowing due to the challenges she has faced since being a kid growing up with her parents and three brothers and three sisters in Wolverhampton. Sasha attended New Invention Junior School and Pool Hays Arts and Community School, but at 15, frustrated and angry, she left home and moved into a hostel in Birmingham. “I’ve always been an insecure person and at home I’d lock myself away in my bedroom. It made things difficult all round, and I guess my dad and everyone just got really frustrated with me.” During this time, Sasha admits that she became increasingly reclusive, losing most of her friends and even struggling with depression A move to another local hostel however provided the catalyst to awaken the musician in her. “There was a music shop and college across the road from the hostel. It was called Access Music. It’s not there anymore, they moved to the Custard Factory. Someone said I should give music a try as something to occupy my time. I thought ‘why not’, so I signed up for a course… and I eventually graduated.”
PASSION FOR DIY
It was still a big leap from budding student to TV stardom though, and far from pursuing a career in music, Sasha turned her attention to construction rather than concerts. After moving into a renovation project in Handsworth with her boyfriend she discovered a passion for DIY which led to her becoming an apprentice bricklayer and plasterer. “I’ve always been a hands-on kind of girl,” she explains. “The house was a huge project so I thought I’d really get stuck in and learn how to do the work properly. Before I started learning bricklaying I used to go to the gym, so I gave that up and spent my time doing construction instead. “Despite everything that’s happened with The Voice I’m still the same girl. I’m still the girl who’s had it tough, who roughed it in hostels, who had to live with a crackhead, but who will never change. I’m an honest person and I’m proud to be a Brummie. Birmingham is my home, it’s where my friends are and it’s where I’ve worked.” When she’s not singing – or laying bricks – Sasha belongs to the Birmingham Blitz Dames roller derby team, competing in speed-skating competitions. Bearing the sinister nickname ‘Black Widow’ she trains with her teammates three times a week – a schedule that’s taken a bit of a hit since The Voice. Sasha says she has formed a special and close bond with Sir Tom Jones which helped her deal with the huge change from her old life to her new celebrity status. “Sir Tom is just fantastic. I’m discovering my own musical style. I guess you’d call it soulful. Sir Tom just really gets me mentally as a singer and I love working with him.
“I’m a strong person and I know I can achieve what I set out to do. As well as recording and touring I’d like to write songs too – maybe with Sir Tom, that’d be great! Whatever the future holds, I will never forget who I am and where I came from.” As if to prove the point, Sasha pays tribute to a personal hero who she says inspired her to follow her musical dream. “In my old place where I used to live, there was a lovely elderly lady who was on the floor below. She was suffering from cancer and the last thing she did before she passed away was to make me promise that I would use my life to sing. I will always remember her and now I can stay true to the promise I made her.”
SASHA TAKE 5
- Biggest musical hero? Legendary namesake Nina Simone.
- All-time dream gig? A duet with Michael Buble.
- Biggest fans? Includes EastEnders’ Alfie Moon actor Shane Ritchie.
- Ambition as a child? To grow up to be a plumber.
- Is it true you rescue ‘vulnerable’ spiders and put them in your hair? Yes!