Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Thursday, 26 March 2015

Zayn Malik\\\'s Tribute Act Tells The Debrief: \\\'We\\\'re Not Changing, We\\\'ll Still Tour As A 5-Piece\\\'

Zayn Malik's Tribute Act Tells The Debrief: 'We're Not Changing, We'll Still Tour As A 5-Piece'

The Debrief: We couldn't speak to actual Zayn Maika bout his departure from One Direction so we thought we'd ask the guy who gets to be him on stage...

One Direction fans’ dreams are in tatters as it has been announced that Zayn Malik, arguably the second most popular member of the band behind Harry Styles, will part ways with the rest of the boys.

But what about the one person whose entire job depends on Zayn? We're talking Jamie Searls, the Irish 25-year-old who plays the Yorkshire lad in One Direction’s biggest tribute band, Only One Direction. We caught up with him shortly after he tweeted ‘I’m off to the job center :(‘ to find out if he’ll really be quitting, and what it’s really like to be a tribute act for the biggest boy band the world has ever seen:

Hi Jamie, so how long have you been playing Zayn?

For three years – quite a long time. I’ll be honest with you, it’s changed my life. In three years I’ve been able to buy a house out of this. You begin to rely on that money, very much so. 

Did you predict him leaving?

Obvsiously we all had an idea her might be leaving when he was flown back to the uk last week, but I must admit there’s a sadness, because the timing of things you realise that everything ends, doesn’t it? There’s a sense of nostalgia and there is that sadness but we’ll keep going, keep pushing.


So are you still going on your tour?

Absolutely. The good thing with us is it’s not changing, we’re still going ahead as a five piece and we’re still going to tour as planned and we’re also offering our tribute band as a four piece.

You’ll be the One Direction that people are going to want to see. Do you feel people will always want to see your tribute band?

If you look at the life story of Take That, they’re still around now and the demand for their tribute acts is still out there. 

Is the tribute act your sole job?

I’m actually in radio as well doing an afternoon show for Reprezent called The Sarah and Jamie Show and I’m actually launching my own single next week. I guess it’s come at a good time in some ways because it generates some publicity. It’s called Doing Time.

Obviously as a tribute act artist, along with the other boys, I’ve built up a following. I’ve got 10,000 twitter followers and most of the guys in the band have a lot of followers. It’s remarkable for a few guys who’ve started something just for a bit of money. Hopefully the fans will stick with us but I know I’ve got Only One Direction’s backing in that.

READ MORE: Zayn's Quit One Direction, But Don't Worry - We've Found Some Possible Replacements

Do you ever get weird fans? [such is the power of One Direction’s fans that Only One Direction’s website contact form has this warning: ‘CALLERS BE AWARE THIS WILL NOT CONNECT YOU TO THE REAL ONE DIRECTION. WE DO NOT TOUR WITH THEM NOR CAN WE ADVISE ON REAL ONE DIRECTION CONCERT TICKETS.’]

I wouldn’t say weird, I think it’s always flattering when people want to chat to you and they’re interested in your lives. But I’m just a tribute act. But we’ve been really lucky, people have had tattoos of us! I remember in Dubai this guy started crying and was like ‘Please, please, please chat to my daughter’ in a carpark. And we were like ‘You know we’re just a tribute act’ and he was like crying, going ‘I don’t care just please talk to my daughter.’

Some people just want you to talk to them. They want you to sign their arms, and they follow you around and work out where you’re going and try to find out where your dressing room is. Again, it’s all fun and part and parcel of the job.

Was it difficult to keep up with Zayn’s changing looks?

It’s funny because I always had a quiff and now I’m doing my own solo stuff and I wanted to get away from the One Direction look, so I thought I’d wear a hat. But now my hair’s in the same phase Zayn’s was in about two months ago so it actually works out brilliantly. I’ve always had similar looks.

Why do you think Zayn left?

I think it’s very hard for someone like me a working performer to relate to someone who’s had insane fame. It’s not on a level that most people can appreciate. So I can imagine if there are things going on behind the scenes that no-one can relate to. But at the end of a chapter like this, it’s not the end of the world. This guy has got a lot of star quality and he’s got other things in the pipeline to look forward to, I don’t think this is the last you’ve seen of Zayn Malik.

In terms of One Direction, do you think it’s the end of them?

I hope not! But I don’t know. I’m like everyone else, I literally found out an hour ago, I read it online, my Twitter feed went mad all of a sudden, I thought ‘why am I getting all of these notifications’. I’m speculating, I hope not because they’ve changed themselves from guilty pleasure and to something that’s got its own respect.

Are you worried about the fans and their reactions?

Unfortunately people get really involved in this. Back in the day when Take That broke up you’d hear these stories about people being very desperately upset. I was just a kid so I can’t remember it, but I remember seeing footage and I can imagine it’s like that but on a whole other level.

READ MORE: Zayn Malik Quits One Direction

What’s in the future for Zayn?

He needs some time out, I imagine he’s exhausted. He’s 22, and since he was 17 he’s been in the biggest boyband in the world. I imagine he wants to have a laugh, go out with his friends, see the world. And he’s got the money to do it so I reckon he’ll do that for a while. But like every other performer or entertainer the bug will hit him again and he’ll step back into the spotlight again, I’ve got no doubt about it.

You’ve got an Irish accent, do you ever do his accent on stage?

I did for a few months but the guys staged an intervention and they said ‘you can no longer put on a Yorkshire accent that bad’. We made a joke because the blonde guy [playing Niall] is English, so we’ve switched round.

You used to be in Union J, do you see a parallel universe where you stayed in that massive boyband? Or has it been a saving grace that you get the money, you get to perform and you get to do your own music as well? 

Union J do their own thing, I do my own thing, I’m really excited about my own stuff. I don’t know what would have been had I stayed in Union J, but all I know I adore what I do in life and I’m lucky to have been working in this industry for three years and I’m excited about the next few years!

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Jamiereprezent

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: One Direction