Lucy Spraggan has stayed out of the limelight for years after she bowed out of the X Factor due to illness in 2011, coming ninth in the competition and second in her category.

Hailing from Sheffield, the Tea and Toast singer's heartfelt songs accompanied with acoustic guitar made her a firm favourite - becoming the only contestant to play her own songs on the show, and have a Top 40 album before it had even aired.

But Lucy, 23, has been hard at work: She recently debuted her latest single, Unsinkable, in the run-up to the release for upcoming album We Are at the end of April - a song which sheds light on the darker times she has endured in the past.

"Unsinkable is just about those moments in life when you feel like you're underwater the entire time, when you have to remind yourself to keep swimming. It's also about helping everybody else around you who is going through bad stuff."

She added: "My latest album is a more mature version of my previous work - I was so happy-go-lucky in my earlier work​, but my attitude has changed a lot. it's more held together now than before - it's basically a diary, documenting my last three or four years.

"I sing about how amazing it is to have my fans - and one of my songs Uninspired is about how I felt when I left the X Factor. It's quite topical for an album, really."

The singer signed to Columbia Records in 2013 - which counts acts like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Kings of Leon amongst its roster - and has had enviable success in comparison to some of her peers from the X Factor. Very impressive for a non-finisher.

Lucy has a loyal fanbase in Scotland too, having sold out her gig at the O2 ABC in November last year.

But when they touched down in Glasgow; out of all the luggage on the flight, hers was the only items they lost when they arrived at the airport.

She managed to see the funny side of the situation - even uploading a video of her "being a bag" on the conveyor belt to Instagram.

But the people of Glasgow pulled together for her so that the show could go on that night - lending her a guitar and equipment in time for her performance.

She said: "I love the Glasgow crowd so much. My family are from there too. They're just in your face in the best way possible. You have to give them your all, and they always give back 100 per cent."

Aside from her musical talent, it's easy to see why Lucy Spraggan has mass appeal - particularly in the younger crowd.

An outspoken Northerner with jet black hair, a penchant for denim and tattoos, she cuts a striking figure in an industry which prizes sexiness and glamour.

Having launched her own music label fittingly named CTRL (Control) Records, she acknowledges how lucky she has been to take charge of her own image and music - but she would love to change the industry for the new generation of performers.

"Some people feel pressure to come across in a certain way these days, especially young people, " she said.

"That's why I love people like Ed Sheeran. He has an amazing presence in the scene just being himself - and that's what it all started off as."

She also cemented her status as a hero of the LGBT community two years ago after a rather public spat with her former fellow contestant and X Factor winner James Arthur, after he had included homophobic lyrics in a rap track he had uploaded to Soundcloud.

She decided to take him to task by posting a screenshot of back-and-forth heated text messages between the pair - triggering a hasty publicity statement from their shared PR company to put an end to the row.

Though she firmly states that it's "in the past", Lucy still strives to end discrimination on the basis of race and sexual orientation - and thinks that the General Election in May will make a vital difference.

But she admitted that she felt quite disenchanted with the UK government at the moment.

"I'm still deciding who to vote, so I'm going to be watching the debate tonight. Right now, it just seems to be picking from the best of a bad bunch, really. I just think we need a normal person to represent us."

Lucy's cheerful self-assuredness as she talks about her work belie the struggles she faced earlier in her music career.

The singer suffered a lot of stress during her time on the X Factor, reaching breaking point when her grandmother died during the show, and she eventually pulled out of the competition.

She also revealed that she had difficulty coming to terms with her newfound fame even after she had left the X Factor - and trying to succeed in her own right while battling criticism from others.

Lucy said: "People don't forget about you, and they see you as someone who just wanted to be famous.There's a massive stigma with it.

"You can't expect everything on a plate after being on a show like that; you don't just score a record deal straight away. You have to manage your own career, and if you fail, you can't blame the X Factor - you should blame yourself."

With three albums under her belt, playing a string of sold-out shows and an upcoming tour in May, Lucy has come a long way from her first gig at a tram festival in Crich, Derbyshire when she was 12. But would she change anything?

"I don''t look back with regret. There's a chance I would have went on a different TV show, or just played more gigs. But I'm happy with the path I'm on just now," she said.

She humbly added: "I still can't believe I've been given this opportunity to tour, I have an army of fans that give their time and money to let me do what I've always dreamed of doing. It's a beautiful thing."​

Lucy Spraggan plays Glasgow on Friday, May 8 at The Garage.