Living the dream
Susan Boyle will spend Christmas at her mother's council house in Blackburn, West Lothian, in Scotland.
Giggling, the multimillionaire says she owns a "posh house" but "that's occupied by my niece".
"The biggest change for me is that I own my own house. I have my own independence."
The soundtrack around the Christmas tree at Boyle's house will surely be her fourth album, Home for Christmas.
Her dad, Patrick Boyle, was a somewhat brash miner. Christmas time was when he softened. "My dad so loved Christmas. It felt like he was there with me when I was making it, it was very emotional."
The album also includes a duet with the very dead Elvis on O Come All Ye Faithful. "Simon [Cowell] got in touch with Graceland and we got special permission." All proceeds from the single go to Save the Children. Its accompanying video features primary school children from the local school around the corner from Boyle's home.
She also has a role in festive film A Christmas Candle, based on the novel by Max Lucado. "I never acted before," she giggles. "It's difficult to get into character. It helps when I put the costume on."
An original song on the soundtrack, Miracle Hymn, is her favourite.
"It captures the true Christmas story, the magic. It captures the mood." A film about Boyle's life is in pre- production, with whispers of Meryl Streep taking the lead role.
When Boyle sang on Britain's Got Talent in 2009 the element of surprise was with her. A modest middle-aged woman with determination and a glorious voice.
She once dreamed a dream and now she is living it.
Her schedule is a busy one. "I've got another tour in spring then there's another album in the pipeline, I've got to get my head down and pick a date. It's a jazz album, top secret. Ssssh."
Apropos of nothing, she tells me about performing with Donny Osmond at the O2 Arena, in Glasgow. "He was so kind and helpful. I've been a fan of his since I was 13."
She has a list of musical heroes she'd like to work with.
"I'd like to do something romantic with Rod Stewart for an album and a bit of jazz swing with Michael Buble.
"I love recording. I wish I could stay in the bubble. Nobody can touch me there."
Around her mother's council home she does vocal workouts and tells herself "don't shout so much, don't shout".
In China she performed in front of millions of people as part of China's Got Talent. She gets nervous before performances but her new "posh" hairdo combined with her Scottish "working class oomph" quickly help her get over it. But she recalls that once she became so nervous that she "forgot the words and had to ad lib".
This statement is followed by an infectious giggle.
If talent show contestants ask her for advice she has a few sage Scottish words for them: "Go for it, give it some welly."
Many fans make the pilgrimage to her home and are surprised to be welcomed at the door by Boyle herself. Warm and kind, she has no pretensions.
"I don't mind visitors at all. I invite them in for a cup of tea."
Cowell, the god of reality television, is described as "very shrewd but very lovely".
A devout Catholic, her faith gives her strength. It's one reason she made a Christmas album. "The magic of the Christmas story led into choosing the songs. It's a bit sentimental. I also thought of people who might be missing loved ones at Christmas."
Her mum, Bridget, died shortly before Boyle rose to fame and fortune. It's partly why her niece is living in the posh house. Living in her mum's house brings her closer.
There was a boyfriend in her 20s but right now she is single. "There's nobody in my life. I'm still waiting for him to show up."
Recently she was told she has above average intelligence and was diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome. She thinks people will now better understand her quirks. Late next year she will embark on a world tour.
"I'd love to visit New Zealand. Touring is tiring but it's exciting communicating with an audience."
The girl labelled "simple Susie" as a child became a woman who found a dream in front of the world.
There's a sense of anxiety that this dream must be held tightly lest it disappear.
"I dream of being able to carry on. That's all I dream of now."
Susan Boyle's album Home for Christmas is out now
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you think state schools should conduct religious instruction for primary-aged children?