LARKING about in Glasgow’s gorgeous vintage fashion store Frida & Coco, Michelle McManus is a festive vision in her newly-vibrant red locks, holly-adorned top and sparkly sequins.

“I am feeling festive,” she beams. “To be fair, you could ask me in July if I’m feeling festive and the answer would still be yes.

“Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year.”

Glasgow Times: Michelle McManusMichelle McManus (Image: Gordon Terris/Newssquest)

This year is all the more special, especially for fans of the Baillieston singer - who shot to fame after winning Pop Idol in 2003 - as she has finally released new music and, joy of joys, it is a Christmas single.

Christmas Glow – the perfect mix of cheerful tune, thoughtful lyrics and Michelle’s soaring vocals - has already had rave reviews online, and it seems destined to be a proper festive classic.

“I was chatting with my musical director Tommy Chambers in the summer, about the fact it’s 20 years since I won Pop Idol, and we toyed with the idea of writing a new song to celebrate,” she explains.

“The more we talked, the more it started to feel like the right time for some new music - so one sunny day in July I put pen to paper and came up with the lyrics to Christmas Glow.”

Michelle adds: “Tommy worked on the melody with me and Sandy Jones worked his magic in the studio. I’m so incredibly proud of this track.”

Looking back at her Pop Idol win is a bittersweet process, Michelle admits. Then 23, she was thrust into the spotlight after winning the ITV talent show following a raft of sensational performances.

Glasgow Times: Michelle on Pop Idol in 2003Michelle on Pop Idol in 2003 (Image: ITV)

Her debut single, All This Time, went straight in at number one and stayed there for three weeks (she was the first Scottish female to debut at the top of the UK Singles Chart). Her debut album The Meaning of Love was released in February 2004, making it to number one in the Scottish Albums Chart and number three in the UK.

However, commentary from some elements of the media, who picked apart Michelle’s image, reached ridiculous levels. The experience was “traumatising” at times, she admits.

“There were really difficult, and when I look back now, some quite traumatising moments throughout the years that followed, but for the most part, it was an incredible time in my life,” she explains, slowly. “The show changed the course of my life in such a positive way.”

If she had any advice to give to her younger self, she says, it would be to “keep a diary”.

Michelle adds: “I really regret not doing that because after 20 years, there's so much I’ve sadly forgotten about that magical times I had during the show,.”

She pauses. “I’d also tell my younger self not to listen to all the media noise, but to instead focus on all the positivity coming from the public,” she reflects.

“The love and support from the public, especially here in Scotland, still utterly blows my mind. It’s something I’ll always be eternally grateful for.”

 Amid the whirlwind of TV appearances to promote her new single, and juggling her day job as a BBC Radio Scotland presenter with being mum to two boys, Harry and Nicholas, Michelle is also taking to the stage here in Glasgow for one of her favourite events.

She will host the grand final of the 2023 Glasgow Community Champion Awards, organised by the Glasgow Times and supported by Glasgow City Council, Trades House Glasgow, Wheatley Glasgow and Merck.

All of our heat winners, who triumphed earlier in the year in the public vote, will come together at Glasgow City Chambers on Tuesday (December 5), for a glittering evening of celebration.

“The awards are so incredibly special to me, because I love hearing about all the truly amazing people in our city working so hard for their communities and looking for absolutely nothing in return,” she says. “The awards give us the opportunity to shine a big sparkly light on all of their good deeds and say a huge thank you to those wonderful people and organisations.”

Michelle has presented the grand final on several occasions, and each one has a special place in her heart.

“I always remember leaving the Chambers feeling so lucky to have been in the same room as all of those phenomenal people,” she says, in awe. “I talk about the finalists for days, telling anyone and everyone about all of the amazing things they have done. Glasgow is lucky to have so many people who care so deeply about their fellow citizens.”

After Christmas, Michelle is looking forward to another busy year.

“This year has been a fantastic year for me professionally and personally, so more of that please in 2024 thank you very much,” she says, with a laugh.

“I’m just looking forward to watching my beautiful wee boys grow up too.”

She adds, hastily: “Although not too quickly. I want the wee baby/toddler stage to last just a little longer…..”