IT isn’t often Blackpool gets compared to one of America’s major cities.
But Nell Bryden reckons the resort is just like Atlantic City (on the New Jersey coast, for those who messed about during geography) and given she’s a world famous music star who has played both places, who are we to argue?
Nell, 35, who tonight steps on stage at a sell-out Opera House (support act to Gary Barlow), came to the Golden Mile in 2010, to perform at the Illuminations Switch-on.
“I ended up loving every minute of my time there,” said the New Yorker, speaking in a car as it zoomed up the M6 en route to the north west ahead of the big gig.
“Robbie Williams was switching on the lights that year and I was in hysterics because he got the count wrong and the person next to him was desperately trying to correct him.
“I fell in love with Blackpool because it reminded me of a bunch of different places, especially Atlantic City. Blackpool had the same carnival feeling, like a big party by the sea with all the twinkling lights.
“I’m looking forward to going back.”
In truth, the crowd aren’t there to see her tonight.
They’ve come for Gary Barlow, playing his first solo shows for 13 years and who - after organising the Queen’s Jubilee - can now add Nation’s Darling to his CV, alongside Take That star, X-Factor judge all-round general good egg.
But while Barlow will hog the limelight, Nell will surely blow the mind of anyone who sees her for she is an artist on the path to big things.
Her tireless work ethic has seen her travel 300,000 miles to play 1,400 shows over the past seven years, but it is in the last 18 months that her career has truly taken off.
Her album Shake The Tree earned rave reviews and has been heavily backed by Radio 2.
Indeed that’s how her tour with Barlow came about. He was in his car when Nell’s song Sirens - from the album - came on the radio.
“Apparently he was so moved by the tune, he had to pull the car over until it finished,” said the American.
Barlow then encouraged his millions of followers on Twitter to buy Nell’s record.
“I didn’t know about it at the time, then one of my friends said ‘congratulations on Gary Barlow liking your song’. I was stunned to be honest,” she said.
“Then we thought why not be cheeky and send him the album. Next thing I knew we got an email from Gary’s assistant asking if I would do this tour with him.
“It honestly happened just like that and it is so refreshing because what happens in the music industry these days is that most support acts have to pay a lot of money to get on one of these tours with a big name.
“So for it to happen the way it did was fantastic.”
Nell will take to the stage first tonight and play half an hour of her own material, before returning later in the set to duet with Barlow.
She’s been impressed with the headliner, and not just on the stage.
“Gary is such a lovely fella, so gracious,” she added. “Being an American I didn’t know too much about him before the tour but I’ve since studied him a bit and I think the fact his career has been quite up and down has made him the steady, level-headed guy he is.
“We had a quiz night early on in the tour and his mum and wife were there. The atmosphere was lovely, just like a family gathering.
“I wish I could dish some dirt on him and tell you some horrible stories, but there are none - he’s just a very nice person, as well as a great singer and songwriter.”
As for Nell - whose parents are a painter and an opera singer - she is hoping the tour with Barlow, and before that Jools Holland, will get her music heard by a different audience and help the sales of her album.
But in the immediate future, there is Blackpool to play.
“It is going to be great and the Opera House will be lovely because these small theatres are gorgeous,” she said.
“Gary could have played stadiums but it’s not about the cash for him - he deliberately picked smaller more intimate venues.
“That’s great because I think they lend an air of glamour and make for a better gig.”
If that’s the case, the lucky 3,000 people who have ticket for tonight’s gig are in for a treat.
Doors open at 7pm, Nell is on at 7.30pm, with the main man Barlow to follow.