"I see Matt [Cardle] quite a bit… we did share the same local pub but that's closed down now. Matt's a legend. Everyone else is smashing it up, like One Direction who I used to talk to, they are taking over the whole world now," says Aiden Grimshaw.
As part of X Factor class of 2010, Grimshaw has watched as his fellow contestants One Direction have conquered the charts, the States and caused the sort of fan-crazed pandemonium last seen... the last time a band was compared with the Beatles.
Meanwhile, the runner-up of the 2010 alumni, Rebecca Ferguson, has been hailed for her credible and classy album, which has now gone platinum.
Grimshaw has also seen his drinking pal - "he likes to get drunk, I like to get drunk" - and the series winner, Matt Cardle, dropped by his record label - so stepping back into the spotlight must be pretty scary?
"I don't really think it's happened yet, I think the scariest thing was waiting," says Grimshaw calmly, as we sit outside an arty cafe near London's Southbank.
Coming ninth in the contest might not have been such a bad thing for the 20-year-old from Blackpool - it's afforded him the luxury of finding his own feet before being rocketed to fame, and the fact he can travel around without bodyguards is something One Direction could well envy.
"I was only a teen when I was on the X Factor, it was pretty crazy. I think I needed that time to go and do some things worth writing about and get my own theories together," explains Aiden Grimshaw, the once awkward talent show contestant who many thought they'd seen the last of.
And it seems that is exactly what he's done, with the first single from his forthcoming album Misty Eye written around a breakup he's gone through in the past two years, which is unexpectedly good - and more to the point, doesn't sound like an 'X Factor single'.
Grimshaw's quality vocals shine through the dubstep tune and it's both cool enough for indie fans and mainstream enough for the clubs to play.
"One minute I was working in Pizza Hut and the next minute I was famous, but as soon as it makes you a household face you're forgotten soon after. I lost the hair and then I was just a normal guy again for a while, it was nice," he muses.
The "hair" that he's talking about is the trademark quiff he had throughout the show - it even has its own Facebook page.
Was relaxing the quiff like letting go from the show?
"We made a decision. me and the hair, I'd put it through a lot of work and I think it felt a little bit taken for granted. So we threw in the towel," he explains with a quirky charm.
It wasn't just the quiff that had people talking on the show, his rendition of Tears For Fears' Mad World had such a haunting intensity that it saw him become the bookies' favourite to win at one point.
However, Grimshaw admits the songs he was given to sing weren't always right for him: "I wanted to go out and sing stuff that wasn't relevant to a half past seven Saturday night audience of mums and kids."
Talking about his debut album, which he wrote in just four weeks, he says: "I met Jared the producer in November and I'd broken up with someone and it was something I was thinking about a lot at the time… it's not a heartbreak album though, it's more what you think about when that's happening, not so much the breaking up with someone. I think that's more interesting."
Grimshaw describes the album as "driving music" and says, "I wrote it in such a weird mood it's not about something specific."
He continues:"I've had months to live with it and kind of forget that it was me. When I was a kid I'd stand in front of the mirror and mime and that's kind of what I've been doing with this CD. People have been so nice about it."
Now that it's his time to break into the charts, have his former X Factor pals offered any support?
"Matt likes it, he's been really cool about it. Everyone else is doing their own thing, they don't want the hassle of my sh*t."
I have a feeling Grimshaw is being modest, just like when he jokes he "has a face for radio", or perhaps he is just more talented then he realises?
Aiden Grimshaw's debut single Is This Love is released 3 June, while his album Misty Eye will follow on 13 August.
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