Apunipima’s Rochelle Pitt is competing on the X Factor. Born and raised in Cairns, Rochelle learned to sing at her local gospel church. Seriously impressing the judges during her Cairns audition, she has already performed for Dannii, Ronan, Red Foo and Nat in Sydney and has made it through to the next rounds. If she makes the top 12, she will perform live and viewers can vote to keep her in the competition.
Rochelle told her story to Communications Trainee Steven Lane.
My name’s Rochelle Pitt. I’ve been working at Apunipima for about four months now and I’m also a Registered Nurse. I have a big family, four kids. I’d been nursing for about 17 years when I decided to make a change and come and work for an Aboriginal health service.
My clan is Wirri from the Nation of Birrigubba, also the Butchella people from Fraser Island and the Kalkadoon too. My dad Lenny Watson taught me a lot about culture and family, about connection with relations and how to respect your elders. I grew up having respect for my culture and family, always doing something in community and knowing that I am Murri, knowing that I am Aboriginal. My grandmother was born on Mona Mona mission. I try and get up there every year when they have their big celebration up there, connect with all the people up there. I also have a Torres Strait Island background, which I know a little bit about but not much… but I always put that acknowledgement in there too. That’s my Pitt family, my Pitt side.
I’ve always been a singer but started professionally around the age of 23. I was in Brisbane then, I worked as a nurse in Brisbane but I also sang and I released my first CD there called Black to Reality under the name Rochelle Watson. The songs were played nationally on Aboriginal radio, Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Alice… I don’t know if they still play me in Alice though… apparently the CD keeps getting flogged.
My stuff’s really jazzy, lots of blues and soul; I spent a lot of time in church as a child, a full gospel church on Buchan St, that’s one of the things that’s honed my style and made me confident as a singer.
The X Factor came to Cairns last year, I ummed and ahhed because I had little kids. I had encouragement from my friend… he said just do it. The thought of auditioning made me nervous but I said I need to challenge myself and get past this, it will make me stronger.
I went ahead and lined up for gosh, two or three hours, there were hundreds of people there, it was at the Pier in October last year. I sang in front of this one man, I was nervous as. He had a little camera and his laptop and he wasn’t really looking at me and I nearly forgot the words of the song. I thought I didn’t sing well but he must have heard something in my voice and he said I was through to the next round. The second time round I had four producers watching me, one just sits back, throws his pen on the table and says, ‘Ok Cairns, there’s your competition.’ I thought that must be a good sign.
They said they’d let me know next March, I thought it was a good audition but because they don’t let you know what’s going to happen so you’re just in the dark. In March they sent me an email saying ‘If you did get through what would you sing, send us 15 songs.’ So I did that, didn’t think too much of it, a week or so later they rang and did a little interview with me, probably wanted to put a story together about being a single mum, having four kids, working as a nurse, stuff like that. I told them I had an Indigenous background too.
After that they said, ‘We want you to come to Sydney and audition in front of the four judges.’ I said, ‘Who are they again?’ and the lady laughed and said, ‘There’s Dannii Minogue, Ronan Keating, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Red Foo’, and I said, ‘Ooooh ok…’
I like Red Foo and I like Dannii because I grew up watching her on Young Talent Time. I was hoping to get her or Red Foo as my mentor… so I went along and auditioned for the X Factor in Sydney.
I can’t tell you too much because they want us to keep things quiet, you’ll have to watch the show and see.
If I get into the top 12, I’ll perform live and that’s when people can vote for me. Please vote for me, for Cairns, for a Murri from Cairns, for Queensland. I think if I get all of Queensland voting I should be right.
The X Factor airs on Channel 7 – check your local guide for times.