Chorley’s singing soldier Jonjo Kerr was grubbing in the dirt of the Afghan desert, changing a smashed wheel on his wagon – when the radio started playing his song.
The X Factor star’s duet with the Military Wives’ Choir, In My Dreams, hastily recorded the day before he flew out for a tour of duty in the wartorn state, was now the title track on their second album – and had helped push the record to number one.
Jonjo recalls: “The first time I heard it on the radio, it was half 12 at night, it was red hot, I was covered in oil and sand and grease and all sorts of nasty stuff. And my song came on!”
Although his stint on X Factor was brief – he was voted off in the first week – it was still a life-changing experience for the father of two.
He’s tasted chart success, performed for the Queen and helped switch on Christmas lights in Preston, Blackpool and Chorley.
Now signed to Duncan Bannatyne’s record label, he has just released a single, You’re My World, which is out now on iTunes.
He has great memories of the X Factor.
He says: “Robbie Williams knew my name. Honest to God, I was sitting on a wall outside the studio and I was having a cigarette – and he tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘All right Jonjo, can I sit down?’ I went, “...Y-yeah!’
“We sat there for about 25 minutes, just chatting – and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Jonjo was the obvious choice for Military Wives director Gareth Malone and songwriter Paul Mealor, as the tenor they needed for the song, a poignant duet between a soldier and his wife.
Jonjo says: “They said, ‘Where’s that singing soldier that was on X Factor, he’s perfect!’ It’s obvious when you think about it. The concept for the song is a man singing to his wife and his wife singing back about how much they love each other and miss each other and it’s about having the strength to do our job – and that strength coming from people you love.”
He first heard the song the day he recorded it and, with his own departure looming, it affected him deeply.
“I was genuinely feeling emotion when I sang the song. I was thinking, This is stuff I would love to say to my wife - and I haven’t even written this!”
He owes his “finest hour” to the Military Wives. The first time he performed live with the choir, he found himself onstage in front of the Queen herself at the Royal Festival of Remembrance in London’s Albert Hall.
But now he is focusing on his single, written by two
songwriters in exceptional
Jonjo says: “One of their mums was very ill at the time and the other’s wife was due to give birth to their first child.
“So they put all their emotions into singing, one to his wife and one to his mother, telling these ladies how much they mean to them.”
n You’re My World by Jonjo Kerr is out now on iTunes.