It's hard to believe it's been more than seven years since a 12-year-old Ronan Parke nervously walked up to the Britain's Got Talent stage and blew the judges away with a powerhouse performance of 'Feeling Good'.
Following an inspiring run to the ITV talent competition's grand final, where he eventually finished as runner-up to Scottish singer Jai McDowall, Ronan went on to sign a record deal with Syco and release a UK Top 40 album by the he'd reached his teens.
After returning to school to complete his studies in (relative) normality, Norfolk-born Ronan, now 20, has announced his to the musical spotlight with anthemic new single 'No Love (Like First Love)' - and the good news is, he's still got a voice to beat the best of them.
As Attitude's Will Stroude finds out however, the transition from child TV star to aspiring young pop singer hasn't always been an easy one, with cyber-bullying rearing its ugly head soon after Ronan's breakout turn on BGT.
One thing's clear though: Ronan is still brimming with the same unyielding optimism that first walked out in front of Simon Cowell and co. in 2011. And the scary thing? He's only just getting started...
Hi Ronan! It’s been just a couple of short days since the release of your new single ‘No Love (Like First Love)’ – how are you feeling about your long-awaited return to the musical spotlight?
I am so excited! It’s literally been four years since my last release, which is just crazy. I suppose what makes this time around so different is I’m now 20 and I finally feel like I’ve found my sound and musical direction, so I’m even more passionate about the music and even more excited for people to hear it!
It’s been a few years since the release of your debut album, released shortly after your appearance on BGT. What have you been up to since then?
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I've grown up a lot for one. I’ve performed in so many venues and countries I could have only ever dreamed of. I’ve been so lucky to work with incredibly talented individuals on different ventures, met so many amazing people and finished schooling life at the same time! So it’s safe to say it’s been busy, but now I’m just focusing on my music and gearing up for touring.
How would you describe your sound as you embark on this new era, and what can you tell us about the new music you’ve been working on?
It’s not just one genre or one type of music. It’s a mixture of styles I love, you have pop, ballads and soul. What I can say is that the album takes you on a journey and something really cool that I have ensured is consistent with each song on the album is that, all of the music is gender neutral so everyone can connect and relate in their own way. That was really important to me.
Fans are lapping up your new music video. How do you feel about being a labelled a heart-throb?
I didn’t even know that was a thing! I’m blushing...
Your new single is called ‘No Love (Like First Love)’. At the tender age of 19, have you experienced first love or heartbreak yet?
I have. I think love is one of those rare things that can completely control your emotions, which can be great but can also suck. This song is all about that first love. There’s only ever going to be one so the lyrics are pretty powerful. But I love that everyone who listens to this song can relate to the words and the meaning, because that’s what music is all about.
Is the song about one person in particular?
This song was written by an incredibly talented guy, Simon Brobyn. I heard this song and instantly felt that connection through my own experience, and I think it is the same for everyone who listens to this song, it takes you to that place and you can relate through personal experiences.
What would you say your ‘type’ is?
I genuinely do not have a type when it comes to looks. I think confidence is such an attractive thing, so that’s definitely one, but mainly to be kind. And someone who can make you laugh is always important, because to be honest, I’m a bit crazy!
Which artists have helped inspire your own musical direction, or do you aspire to be like?
I think it’s so important to remain original and always be yourself, so I aspire to be the best me I can be. However, I’m inspired constantly, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, George Michael, Stevie Wonder, gosh there’s too many to name! My idol is Lady Gaga. She is the one person that I would travel around the world to watch live.
You shot to fame at such a young age – how do you look back at that period in your life now?
I look back and feel so proud and incredibly lucky. I experienced a once in a lifetime thing. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. I remember about a year ago, I was flying over London and I saw the O2 and Wembley Stadium and I literally was sat with tears in my eyes when I remembered that I had performed there. I’ve seen some of my idols perform at those venues, so to have experienced things like that at such a young age is just mind-blowing. I’m so grateful.
Were there any negative consequences to being propelled into the public eye so quickly at such a young age?
There’s always going to be negative consequences when you choose to go on a national television show and open up the gate for people’s opinions, because unfortunately, we still live in a very judgmental society. I don’t dwell on the negatives, because the positives outweigh the bad times 100%.
Has your fame ever made it complicated when it comes to dating and relationships?
Not really. I still have the same friends I did before all of this happened and as for dating, I’m not really into that. I’m only 20 and I’m just having fun!
Do you ever use dating apps?
No, I don’t really like them. As I said, dating is really not something I’m prioritising at this moment in time. I’m kind of in the mindset of, if I meet someone and we hit it off, then cool.
You shot the video for your new single around London’s Soho – is that an area that represents or means something to you personally?
Soho is one of my favorite places in London. It’s so much fun, it’s vibrant and always buzzing! I love that it’s a really free, open and non-judgmental area. We also filmed in Piccadilly Circus which was one of the strangest experiences just filming in the middle of one of the busiest areas in London!
In 2015, you released a song for anti-bullying charity Kidscape. Have you ever been a victim of bullying yourself?
Yes, I have. That was the main reason for me wanting to work with Kidscape. I mainly experienced cyberbullying, but I was so lucky to have such a great group of people around me to help and this song was all about helping people and raising awareness to Kidscape, because they really are such a great charity. I have had to mature quickly due to circumstances, so I have thick skin and it doesn’t bother me anymore, but it really can be so hard, but sharing my experience was so liberating and empowering.
What can fans expect from you over the next few months? Are there more singles to come?
Absolutely! And an album to follow. I cannot wait to release the music and hopefully jump back into touring. I’m so excited to get back on stage, but this time performing my new album!
Ronan Parke's new single 'No Love (Like First Love)' is out now.