While talent show juggernaut The X Factor was previously more successful at creating female R&B superstars Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke, the 2010 season of the series produced its first male winner to compete with the soft rock style of American Idols' Kris Allen and David Cook in the shape of falsetto-voiced Matt Cardle. Born in Southampton, Hampshire in 1983, Cardle attended the same sixth form college as X Factor host Dermot O'Leary and 2009 runner-up Olly Murs before taking on a host of jobs including bricklaying, painting, and decorating, while at the same time performing in various indie rock bands. In 2010, his group Seven Summers independently released their self-titled debut album, and in the same year he auditioned for the seventh season of Simon Cowell's hit show. Impressing judges with his rendition of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good," he made it through to the live stages, where he was mentored by Dannii Minogue. His performances of tracks originally sung by female artists, including Kelly Rowland, Britney Spears, and Roberta Flack, helped him to reach the final, where he beat soul singer Rebecca Ferguson and boy band One Direction with 44 percent of the vote.
His debut single, a cover version of Biffy Clyro's "Many of Honour," renamed "When We Collide," was a complete contrast to the Miley Cyrus track given to previous winner Joe McElderry, a clear indication he would receive more serious credible artist treatment than his male predecessors. The single took the Christmas number one spot, where it stayed for three weeks, and was nominated for Best British Single at the BRIT Awards. In 2011, Cardle released his debut full-length album, Letters. In 2012 Cardle parted ways with Simon Cowell's hit factory Syco Music and label Columbia Records. This was a bold move, but allowed the rugged crooner far more creative control on his sophomore album, The Fire, which came later that year. Cardle returned in 2013 with his third effort, Porcelain. The record received favorable reviews, particularly citing the singer/songwriter's burgeoning creativity since his departure from Cowell and Syco Music. In 2015, he made his first foray into the acting world, taking on the role of Huey Calhoun in the stage musical Memphis, from July to October of that year. He returned to music in 2016, embarking on a nationwide summer U.K. tour. Intimate and Live, a live release of one of his shows, was released later that fall. ~ Jon O'Brien