Andrew Johnston (Singer)

Andrew Johnston
Johnston performing on the Britain's Got Talent Live Tour in 2008
Background information
Birth name Andrew Aaron Lewis Patrick Brannock John Grieve Michael Robert Oscar Schmidt Johnston[1]
Born (1994-09-23) 23 September 1994 (age 19)[2]
Dumfries, Scotland
Genres Classical crossover
Occupations Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2008–present
Labels Syco Music

Andrew Johnston (born 23 September 1994) is a British singer who rose to fame when he appeared as a boy soprano on the second series of the British television talent show Britain's Got Talent in 2008. Although he did not win the series, he received a contract to record on the SyCo Music label owned by the Britain's Got Talent judge Simon Cowell. Johnston's debut album, One Voice, was released in September of the same year, and reached number four on the British album charts. Although Johnston originally performed as a treble, his voice has since matured to baritone, and he is now a member of the National Youth Choir.

Johnston was born in Dumfries, Scotland, and his parents separated when he was an infant. He and his mother moved to Carlisle, where they lived in "poverty".[3] He became head chorister at Carlisle Cathedral, and was bullied at school because of his love of classical music. While some journalists have argued Britain's Got Talent producers took advantage of Johnston's background, others have hailed his story as inspirational. In 2009, he graduated from Trinity School. Johnston continues to live in Carlisle with his mother, and will study full-time at the Royal Northern College of Music from September 2013.


Early life

Johnston was born 23 September 1994 in Dumfries, Scotland, the son of Andrew Johnston and Morag Brannock. Johnston's parents separated when he was eight months old, and from that time he lived with his mother in Carlisle, Cumbria, in the north of England.[4][5] He attended Trinity School until he graduated in June 2009. Johnston has three older siblings from his mother's first marriage, including Daniel, with whom he has a strong relationship.[5][6]

Carlisle Cathedral Choir

Johnston tried out for Carlisle Cathedral Choir at the age of six at the recommendation of Kim Harris, a teacher at his primary school.[5][7] He was auditioned by the choirmaster Jeremy Suter and accepted into the choir at the age of seven.[5] Johnston's mother, who had no previous association with the cathedral, described her feelings of being overwhelmed by emotion at having her boy singing in such a "stunning building among those extraordinary voices."[5] His mother also described his busy regimen of practice four times a week and all day Sundays, saying that it took up all of their spare time. However, she said that the cathedral staff became like a family to her son, and that "it was such a lovely, safe, close feeling for him".[5] Johnston, who attended Trinity School, was subject to abuse and threats from bullies which drove him to contemplate quitting the choir, but he was helped through the ordeal by his choirmaster and the dean and canons of the cathedral.[5] By the time of his participation in Britain's Got Talent, Johnston was head chorister.[7][8]

Johnston's performances with the choir included appearances in Hungary, Poland and Ireland.[9] In September 2008, shortly before the release of his first album, Johnston embarked on a tour of Norway with the choir, performing at Stavanger Cathedral and Ulstein Monastery, among other places. The tour was conceived because the Diocese of Stavanger is connected with the Diocese of Carlisle through Partnership for World Mission.[10] This was Johnston's last tour with the choir.[10] Johnston features as head chorister on one of the choir's albums, The Choral Music of F.W Wadely, released in November 2008.[11]

Britain's Got Talent

Johnston was entered as a competitor in the second series of Britain's Got Talent by his mother.[5] He passed the first public audition, singing "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem in a rendition that brought judge Amanda Holden to tears and the audience to their feet in a standing ovation.[3] Johnston was tipped as one of the favourites to win the show.[4][12] Later, Johnston described his initial audition as daunting, saying that "it was scary singing in front of 2,500 people. I had never sang on stage before – then there was also Simon, Amanda and Piers."[8] He won his semi-final heat on 27 May 2008, receiving the most public votes on the night and thereby qualifying for the final. He sang "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton; judge Holden told him he had "a gift from God in [his] voice."[13] At the final on 30 May, he again sang "Pie Jesu". However, he finished in third place, behind the winner, street dancer George Sampson and runners-up, the dance group Signature.[14] Johnston later said that "I was upset. But when you see the talent that was there, it was an honour just to be in the final."[15] The day after the final, Cowell's publicist Max Clifford said that it was "quite possible" that Cowell would be signing some of the finalists, including Johnston.[16] Johnston and other contestants then embarked on a national arena tour.[15]

During his initial audition, Johnston claimed that he was bullied and victimised from the age of six because of his singing. When asked how he dealt with the issue, he stated "I carry on singing."[4] There were claims in the Daily Mail that the show's producers had deliberately overstated his bullying as a "sob story",[17] suggesting that sympathy rather than his singing got him many of the votes.[18] However, The Times described his success story as "the stuff of fairytales", despite having been raised in "poverty".[3] Johnston said he did not talk about being bullied because he was told to by producers, but "because I believed it would help people who were going through what I had gone through be stronger".[19] Johnston has subsequently visited schools and elsewhere, to help other victims of bullying. He said "I want to use my experience of bullies to help other kids."[20]

One Voice

On 12 June 2008 it was announced that Johnston had signed a record deal with Syco Music, a division of Sony BMG, and that his first album would be produced after the Britain's Got Talent Live Tour.[21] After signing with Syco, Johnston made public appearances, including performing at Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday celebrations on 14 September,[22] and at Carlisle United's Brunton Park.[8]

The deal was reportedly for £1 million,[15] and Johnston himself heard about the deal while on the Britain's Got Talent Live Tour.[6] His debut album, One Voice, was released on 29 September 2008.[23] It includes a cover of "Walking in the Air", performed with Faryl Smith.[24] The album was recorded over a six-week period in London, and the track listing was chosen by Cowell.[25] Johnston described the recording process as "brilliant", and that it was "really good – just to be in a recording studio and meet the different people."[26] The album debuted in the British charts at number five,[27] and finished the week at number four.[28] The album was later certified gold, having sold 100,000 copies, and Johnston was presented a gold disc by daytime television presenter Penny Smith.[29] Critics responded positively to the album,[30] with Kate Leaver, writing for the JoongAng Daily, saying Johnston "has truer talent than hordes of his musical elders" and that "the vulnerability of this One Voice makes for a haunting musical experience".[31] After the album's release, Johnston became involved in the Sing Up campaign, appearing in schools around the country to encourage other young people to join choirs.[26] In December 2008, Johnston made a guest appearance at Whitehaven's Christmas fair,[32] and performed at a carol service in Bradford.[33] Johnston was also invited to turn on the Carlisle Christmas lights and perform at the celebrations. Mike Mitchelson, of Carlisle City Council, described Johnston as "one of our local heroes".[34]

Hiatus and National Youth Choir

In September 2009, Johnston announced that he would be taking a year off from singing as his voice had broken, changing him to a tenor.[35] He had previously performed as a treble.[36] He said "the tutors at [the Royal Northern College of Music] said they'll be able to train my voice up again. It's the same as it ever was, just deeper."[35] Johnston's voice then changed from a tenor to a high baritone. After remaining out of the spotlight for two years, he joined the National Youth Choir, saying "I'm just another lad in there – no one focuses on Britain’s Got Talent and I'm happy about that".[37] In 2011, he was awarded a Royal School of Church Music Gold medal.[38]

Personal life

Johnston now lives in Stanwix, Carlisle,[34] with his mother Morag Brannock,[5] who worked for the Office for National Statistics before giving up her job to support her son's career.[26] Prior to his Britain's Got Talent appearances, he attended Trinity School, and later received tuition from a personal tutor.[26] Johnston takes singing lessons at the Royal Northern College of Music, and intends to study there full-time beginning in September 2013.[35][39] Johnston said that he "had a lot of support from local people when ... taking part in Britain's Got Talent",[34] and was given a civic award for outstanding achievement by Carlisle City Council in March 2009.[40] Johnston's interests jujitsu, in which he is a black belt.[38] Carlisle newspaper News & Star reported in September 2012 that Johnston had become the youngest person in the world to be granted a license to teach the sport.[41]


Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
2008 One Voice
  • Released: 29 September 2008
  • Label: Syco (#88697351872)
  • Format: CD
4[42] 6[43]


External links

  • AllMusic
  • YouTube Requires Adobe Flash Player
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