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the Razz: THE XTRAS FACTOR; Exclusive Steve: Simon turned me into a sad TV wannabe.

Byline: By John Dingwall

X Factor winner Steve Brookstein claims Simon Cowell tried to mould him like a sad wannabe from TV's Extras.

In the hit show, starring Ricky Gervais, acting hopeful Andy Millburn is forced to wear a cheesy wig and glasses by BBC bosses for the sitcom he has written.

Brookstein, 37, says Cowell would even tell him what to wear when launching his career after he won the first series of the TV talent show.

The singer, who sold 150,000 copies of his debut album Heart and Soul, said yesterday: "It's funny because I watch Extras and I can't help but laugh with what Andy Millburn has gone through because I've gone through similar things. Instead of curly wigs and glasses, Simon Cowell's idea was for me to wear suits and ties and sing Higher and Higher on Ant and Dec.

"I could have easily hit the bottle and been a complete mess. But there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself."

Brookstein severed his ties with Cowell and is now aiming to make a comeback. A second album, 40,000 Things, is released on his own Numunu record label next week, followed by a UK tour including Glasgow's Pavilion on October 30 and Aberdeen Music Hall the next night.

Brookstein claims he doesn't care whether it's a big commercial success as his integrity is intact.

"Like the Extras character I wanted to keep my credibility and I know I might not have the success I could haveby wearing a curly wig and glasses.

"But I would rather sing the songs I want to sing, wear what I want to wear even if I have to play smaller venues.

"I wasn't proud of the first album. It was a little bit karaoke. Simon would change the music to make it totally his own. He gave me no space to be creative. I had to do as I was told. He is ruthless when he doesn't get his own way and has a crocodile smile."

He added: "Heart and Soul is okay but when it comes to making good music Cowell can't lace my boots.

"Anyone with a brain who hears 40,000 Things and Heart and Soul can tell you which is the better album.

Brookstein thinks X Factor's days are numbered, too.

He said: "The standard is poor and full of sob stories. If it comes back next year you'll be allowed to bring on juggling poodles. There comes a point where you run out of people to humiliate. You can't keep poking fun at people the way Sharon, Simon and Louis do. None of them have the talent people like myself have got.

"They are businessmen and good at making money but that's not what life is all about.

"The show had the opportunity of being a great vehicle for finding new talent. But it has become a laughing stock and a pantomime. It's not about the music, which is a shame."

Steve has credited his Scots wife, Eileen Hunter, with giving him the confidence to go it alone.

The couple, who wed this summer, even wrote a song together on their honeymoon, called When In Rome.

He said: "In terms of walking away from the record deal, she was the one who instigated that. She said, 'You're not happy, you're better than this and they haven't got a clue'.

"I trust her because she has a BA Honours in Music degree. When she tells me my songwriting is brilliant, I think she has a point.

"Simon Cowell was of the opinion I was ungrateful. But I didn't want to be just a cash cow. Now if people come to see me on tour they'll see it's not Mickey Mouse. It's quality."

'I laugh watching Andy Millburn on Extras because I've gone through similar things'

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COMIC: Ricky Gervais and Steve
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 3, 2006
Words:649
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