JOE McElderry has come a long way since he melted hearts as the cute South Shields boy on X Factor, mentored by Cheryl Cole who declared he was “like my little brother”.

Joe was in his teens when he won the hit TV show in 2009. His debut single, The Climb, was followed by a Top Three album, Wide Awake, and further Top 10 albums. Now 26, he’s on a national tour showcasing new album, Saturday Night At The Movies.

“Wen I first started I spent three years recording and promoting albums. I released four albums pretty much back to back. I needed a breather, so I toured for two years,” says the popular singer. “Then Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat came along and introduced me to a different style of performance. I’d done bits of musical theatre before, but nothing like Joseph.”

Joe won rave reviews for the show, which came to the Alhambra earlier this year. Saturday Night At The Movies continues the musicals theme, bringing together songs from movies and shows. How did he choose them? “A talented team of people work with me, everybody suggested their favourite songs and we put together a brilliant list,” says Joe. “I recorded it on my days off from Joseph. It was intense but I like to focus and just get it done.”

His favourite tracks include Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, Saturday Night At The Movies and Love Is All Around. “That’s one of the very first songs I ever performed. It was a staple in my repertoire when I started performing as a 15-year-old," recalls Joe, who is joined on stage by guests Ben James Ellis, Keith Jack and Lloyd Daniels, who have all been in Joseph too. "I’ve never had other performers on my solo tours, so I’m really excited about the fresh new vibe that will bring. We’ll each be doing our own solo songs as well as performing a few numbers together. It will bring a brilliant mix of styles and voices to the show.

"My shows are for all ages. I like to chat to the audience and make them feel they’re part of the show, as though I could be performing for them in their living-room. When you do that, everyone enjoys it 10 times more and we all have a blast."

Adds Joe: "With Joseph you can hide behind a character, you have 25 people on stage with you. With my shows, normally there’s just me. I know I’ve got to hold that audience’s attention for two hours every night.

"I love the moment just before I start one of my concerts. You think, 'This could either be incredible or it could all go terribly wrong. Either way, I’ve got to deal with it'. I used to be petrified of that feeling - now I welcome it. Before you know it you've got to the end of the show and you've had a great time.

"The minute I think 'I don’t care what happens tonight' would be the minute I need to retire."

Joe admits he was nervous about taking on the lead role in Joseph. "Massively famous successful people had played it before. I’d been on one of the biggest reality TV shows in the UK, and that comes with a stigma," he says. "People think 'He only got that job because he was on TV'. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t deserve to be there, so I worked hard. I'm not a trained actor, I had to learn on the job in a short space of time. I’ve been very fortunate that people have enjoyed my performance, I don’t take that for granted."

Does X Factor now seem like a distant memory? "I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done since if it wasn’t for that show," says Joe. "And I got to duet with George Michael, I’ll always cherish that.”

* Joe McElderry is at the Alhambra on Tuesday, July 25. Call (01274) 432000.