Dalton Harris brings the X Factor to London City Island

Ahead of his appearance at The Islander Festival closing ceremony on 10 September, we caught up with the Jamaican singer to talk first records, favourite performances and cycling in east London

As The Islander Festival draws to a close we thought we should end things on a high note – literally – with an exclusive performance from X Factor winner Dalton Harris on Friday 10 September. The 27-year-old singer won the prestigious competition in 2018, with his cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love, later released as a chart-topping single.

At 16, Harris was the youngest winner of Jamaica’s Digicel Rising Stars singing competition. Today he’s settled in the UK and has released a string of hit singles, including the soulful Cry and reggae-inspired No More Will I Roam and Watch Over. We caught up with the rising star ahead of his concert on the Island.

Dalton Harris will perform in the closing ceremony of The Islander Festival at London City Island on 10 September

TI: When did you fall in love with music, singing and performing?
DH: I was maybe six or seven. My mum would sing while handwashing the laundry with the radio on really loud. She had so many different cassette tapes and whenever we had enough money to buy batteries for the radio she would blast the music, and given that I was a mama’s boy and always tailed her, I caught on pretty quickly. Then I started writing my own songs. I was competing by the time I was 10 and had already joined a band with the grown-ups next door, but I wasn’t a singer then. I started out playing drums, then by chance started singing. I would have to sneak away to the band rehearsals though, which were kind of like a free community concert, because people would gather once the speakers were set up.

How did it feel to win The X Factor and what opportunities has it given you?
Winning The X Factor was a huge accomplishment for me and was one of those moments when I felt like my life’s hard work had paid off. But of course, this is in hindsight. At the time I was overwhelmed and just so focused on trying to do well and work hard, I think I hardly remember any feelings then. I have very blurry memories of the final, so I would have to watch the video! And I’m not ready for that just yet, but it will be something I’ll be proud to show my children one day…

Dalton Harris won The X Factor in 2018

‘Winning The X Factor was a huge accomplishment for me and was one of those moments when I felt like my life’s hard work had paid off’

Dalton Harris

How would you describe your style, and who has inspired you?
I have so many influences it would be hard to list them all. But I think my styles in music and fashion are similar, in that they always push barriers and have a deeper intent and meaning, even if they appear simple. But I like to experiment and being creative is always the aim. I draw inspiration from life and music and so I keep growing and learning, but I am always inspired by the greater good.

Do you get stage fright?
Stage fright no, but I definitely get nervous, especially since lockdown, since I’ve not been on stage for a long time. I think it might be a bit more heightened than usual but if I don’t get the butterflies then something is seriously wrong. It’s almost a rite of passage, part of appreciating being on stage and my artistry.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Yes. I like to be alone before getting on stage, so I shut off from the world as it is and focus into my voice, if that makes sense. Performing is always best when it’s almost transcendental. And obviously I do a warm up – and a quick message to God.

Which band or artist – current or from the past – would you love to see live?
I would love to see Sade and Janet Jackson. Also Beyoncé and Prince.

What was the first record you bought?
Fantasia’s album Back to Me.

Which new artists are you currently listening to?
Jade Novah is a vibe, and I love Griff.

What’s been the favourite of your own performances to date?
Probably singing Cry live on The X Factor at the end of 2019.

Can you recommend any hidden gems in east London?
Yes, any forest or big park. Away from the noise of the city – just peacefulness at its best. I cycle a lot and it’s literally a coping mechanism.

What are you most looking forward to about performing at London City Island?
Representation and truly feeling I am being myself on stage. Because lord knows it’s been a while with everything happening with Covid and in the industry!

What’s next for Dalton Harris?
On a stage somewhere performing and releasing music. Continuing to grow and heal just on a human level because we all could use a little bit of both if you look deep enough within.

Dalton Harris will close the inaugural Islander Festival on 10 September

The Lockdown Room will re-open on Saturday 4 December