Ten years ago Ray Quinn was a cute little boy in Brookside, breaking viewers' hearts when his character, Anthony Murray, was relentlessly bullied by a hateful girl.

Then Ray grew up and appeared on X Factor, crooning the kind of songs that got the Rat Pack through their bourbon-fuelled Vegas nights.

Ray made the X Factor final and lost out to Leona Lewis. But, with his self-titled debut album out next week and a UK tour planned, he's riding high.

Ray's album features some of his favourite swing tracks, including Fly Me To The Moon, That's Life and My Way. He recorded it in Los Angeles, much of it at the legendary Capitol Studios where Sinatra created some of his most memorable music.

With his sharp suits and trademark quiff, Ray's image also captures the Rat Pack spirit.

"I was born in the wrong era," he laughs. "I'm probably the only 18-year-old in Liverpool who knows so much about that kind of music. Instead of blasting out dance music in my car, I'll have a swing tune turned up loud!"

For as long as he can remember, Ray wanted to be an entertainer. As a child he ransacked his older brothers' record collections but, for him, something was missing in their mix of classic rock and house music. It only fell into place when his dad introduced him to his old swing and jazz albums.

"Something got me straight away," Ray recalls.

While swing music soundtracked his early years, Ray only started singing it years later. In the meantime he trained as a dancer.

"I was always performing round the house so my mum took me to a dance class when I was three," he says. "I screamed the place down, I hated it because I was the only lad in a class of little girls! But I went back when I was six and thought, I don't care what people think, this is all right.' "Being able to dance is the best thing. I love going to clubs when all the other blokes sit at the bar and I'm the only one dancing."

After attending occasional Saturday drama classes he landed the role of Anthony in Channel 4's Brookside. He joined the cast at the age of eight and was involved in some of the soap's dramatic storylines, not least when his character ended up killing a school bully who had made his life a misery. He won a string of awards for the role.

Two years after leaving Brookside, at the age of 14, Ray started performing his favourite Rat Pack songs for his family.

"I loved singing them and I knew then that it was what I wanted to do," he says. "I started playing gigs around Liverpool and got such a buzz out of seeing crowds and hearing them cheering. That was it for me."

Motivated by his love of swing, and inspired by the range of music he loved as a dancer, Ray took every chance he could to perform live. When the X Factor auditions came along, he saw it as a chance to aim higher.

"I didn't think in a million years when I went for that first audition that I'd find myself here a few months later," he grins. "I was just doing the songs I'd always done. At the live shows everyone was nervous backstage but I couldn't wait to get out there. I told myself to enjoy it because I knew it could be over at any time and I didn't want to waste it being nervous. I loved it."

Mums, grans and little girls fell in love with Ray's cheeky grin and smooth voice. He went home to a hero's welcome in Liverpool and sobbed while belting out You'll Never Walk Alone at a gig in the city.

"I'm an emotional person, I wear my heart on my sleeve," he says. "That's a very personal song for me and it means a lot to my family so I wasn't afraid to show what I was feeling - although I might have looked a bit of an idiot!"

After the series ended Ray's mentor Simon Cowell invited him to record his debut album in LA. "I had to pinch myself," says Ray. "To make any album would've been an amazing opportunity, but to record the songs I grew up listening to is unbelievable. I feel so lucky.

"I've listened to this music my whole life, I know how it should sound and I hope people are pleased with it. I have a lot to thank everyone for and I don't want anyone to regret supporting me."

Ray's album, Ray Quinn, is released on Monday on Syco Music. He will perform at St George's Hall on October 10. For tickets ring (01274) 432000.