New York
It’s easy to think you know someone when they’ve been in your living room every weekend for three months. But there’s far more to Louisa Johnson than met the eye when, at 17, she became The X Factor’s youngest-ever winner — and she’s recorded an album to prove it.

Louisa spent 2016 working with a dream cast of writers and producers on songs that capture her infectious spontaneity (she’s still only 18) while also doing justice to a decade’s worth of work and determination. Coming along for the ride are artists like Clean Bandit and other special guests, as well as tunesmiths like Ali Tamposi (Justin Bieber, Beyoncé), Chelcee Grimes (Olly Murs), Burns (Britney, Calvin Harris), Ed Drewett (One Direction, Little Mix), J Kash (Maroon 5, Meghan Trainor) and Steve Mac (Jess Glynne, Charli XCX, Selena Gomez). The results are as varied as Louisa’s own musical tastes. “I don't just like one style of music,” she reasons, “so I didn't want an album where every song sounded the same. I wanted to mix it up.”

At age 13 Louisa had applied for Britain’s Got Talent — she got four yeses from the judges, but so did too many others that day, and Louisa didn’t make it through to the next stage. Then in 2014 she got a call from one of The X Factor’s talent scouts, asking if she’d thought of applying that year. With no inconsiderable sense of restraint, she didn’t pursue that offer, having decided she wasn’t quite ready and that if she was going to get her one big shot she couldn’t afford to waste it. Then twelve months later she turned up at the X Factor auditions off her own back. “That one year made a huge difference,” she says now. “I felt like I'd grown. I had my own style, I felt confident. I was ready.” On the night her first audition was televised, Louisa saw a post on her Facebook wall from a familiar face — her former maths teacher. “He basically said: ‘I told this girl she couldn't do it. I was wrong, and I apologise. You've made me realise that if you have a dream you should do everything you can to achieve it’.”

Louisa spent the rest of 2016 working on her debut album with a handpicked group of writers and producers. Flash forward to 2017 and Louisa’s only taking steps in the right direction, with the hits ‘Tears’ and ‘So Good’ laying solid foundations for a debut album set for release this year that fizzes with talent, ambition and massive tunes. And with that album pretty much finished, surely it’s time for Louisa to put her feet up for a bit? Don’t count on it. “I've got to where I wanted to be five years ago,” she grins, “but I'm nowhere near where I want to be five years from now. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m going to have the time of my life getting there.”