Dubai Jazz Festival 2017: Nathan Sykes on The Wanted break up and his new solo album

The British singer talks about his time with the hit boy band, their split, and the solo career that is bringing him back to the UAE to support Enrique Iglesias. 

Nathan Sykes will perform at Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz festival. Courtesy Emirates Airline
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There is gratitude but also perhaps a hint of relief when British singer Nathan Sykes talks about his time with boy band The Wanted and their split in 2014.

Having joined the band at the age of 16, he feels he was not taken seriously, being the youngest member of the band.

“It was frustrating back then but that helped my drive to succeed,” says Sykes, who is now 23.

With the release of his solo debut album Unfinished Business last year, the singer finally had a chance shine in his own light.

He makes a return to Dubai Jazz Festival on Friday, February 24, where he will support Enrique Iglesias.

He was last here in 2014 when The Wanted performed at the festival but Sykes says his singer-songwriter set will be markedly different to his former band’s energetic boy-band tunes.

The Wanted broke up shortly after the Dubai performance. What happened?

We felt it was the right time. All of us had different priorities. Mine was very much music, so that’s why you see I’m still doing it. The others were older so they wanted to settle down. I decided to go into the studio by myself and see what would happen and it has turned out great.

The result was the album Unfinished Business. What kind of goal were you going for with your solo debut?

From the start I knew it would sound nothing like The Wanted. The Wanted was a ­collective process and I wanted this to have my individuality. I looked at who I was and what I liked to listen to. I like to listen to a lot of jazz and blues, soul, but also pop music and R& B. I took ­inspiration from all those genres to create my own sound. It was when I wrote More Than You’ll Ever Know, which I will perform in Dubai, a bluesy soulful song, that was when I ­realised who I am. That then inspired the rest of the album.

In 2013, you suffered from vocal haemorrhage. How tough was that, in terms of recovery?

The problem was my reluctance to cancel anything. I’m one of the hardes-working people you will come across. So when I had the flu back then, I continued working every single night and ended up damaging my vocal chords. But I believe everything happens for a reason. That was a warning and it helped me take extra care of my voice and refocus on the technique and control and with that, my voice has gotten better.

The Wanted began before One Direction. Then they came along to grab all the attention. Did that annoy your band?

To be fair, there was absolutely no competition between us. They got so big so fast, and so any comparison was only media fuelled. I’ve got a lot of respect for One Direction. What they have achieved is phenomenal – and on a personal level, they are wonderful too.

There will be plenty of people seeing you for the first time on Friday. What kind show should they expect?

I will be doing songs from my debut album Unfinished Business – Famous, Over and Over Again, Give It Up, Kiss Me Quick – and there will also be a few surprise covers. I’m going to strip back the performance, do an acoustic gig and spend a lot of time at the piano. I am on before Enrique Iglesias, so in that slot it is quite fitting to do an acoustic set and really make people focus on my voice and the lyrics.

Nathan Sykes will perform at the Dubai Jazz Festival on Friday, February 24. The one-hour set is due to begin at 8.30pm. Tickets start from Dh395. Visit visit for more details.