The latest stories, straight to your inbox

The latest stories, straight to your inbox

Be inspired every day with Living North

Subscribe today and get every issue delivered direct to your door
Subscribe Now
Be inspired every day with Living North
Meet the Northern Busking Duo Who Won The Voice 2024 Chris Harrison
March 2024
Reading time 5 Minutes

North East singing duo Jen & Liv (now known as HUNNI) were crowned winners of The Voice UK

We find out more about their journey from busking on Northumberland Street to singing with

On Saturday 30th December Jenna Cole from Whitley Bay and Olivia Irvin from Spennymoor, who were mentored by, won a recording contract with Universal Music as well as a £50,000 cash prize and a holiday to Mauritius as they were crowned winners of The Voice UK. If you recognised them at their blind audition, you’re likely to have spotted them singing on Newcastle’s busy Northumberland Street and in various pubs and bars across the region.

Jenna’s earliest memories are of singing and dancing at home with her brother and she says Dream Girls sparked her love for music. ‘But I’ve always had that real love and passion for it. I think a lot of my family would say I could sing before I could speak,’ she laughs. Liv was also taking part in dancing and singing competitions from a young age. ‘I was a lot more musical when I was younger,’ she reveals. ‘I loved Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Singing in the Rain, Cats and all the other classic musicals out there were on repeat all the time. I’d put on my own performances in the living room – unfortunately I haven’t got it on camera, which I kick myself for! I did actually think the living room was a stage when I was younger.’

Read More: Meet North East Musician RJ Thompson who has Performed with Jools Holland

Jen & Liv (C) ITV Plc

Growing up with very different tastes means Jen & Liv have an eclectic mix of music styles. That’s why they struggle to pin their music down to just one genre. ‘There’s definitely hints of R&B,’ Jenna says, but she reveals their biggest inspiration would be Salt-N-Pepa. ‘We love the flair they used to have and the topics they’d talk about in their music whilst still having so much fun.’ Liv agrees: ‘They inspire us so much with our music. Apart from the big pop idols out there like Beyoncé and Rihanna, Salt-N-Pepa are the main inspiration for us.’ Jenna throws Raye and Doja Cat into the mix. ‘We’ve got so much inspiration it’s crazy,’ she says. ‘We go into the studio and it’s like “we want a bit of this, a bit of this, and a bit of this” – and it ends up being what it is, which is why we just can’t wait for the music to do the speaking for itself.’

The pair met at a Little Mix tribute. ‘I’ve always found since being little that I had really low confidence within myself but when I met Liv that was what sort of pulled me out of that and got me back out there performing,’ Jenna says, and Liv says she gained confidence when she met Jenna too. ‘We’ve been singing ever since, having obviously found the right person to work with,’ Liv adds. It’s clear they have a strong bond with each other. ‘As soon as me and Liv met each other a spark went off,’ Jenna says. ‘It was like a shift in reality because it just changed our perspective on everything. We just decided to take on life together full throttle. We’d never met anyone that was so much on each other’s wave-length and we became best friends instantly, which led to busking in rain, snow and in the boiling hot sun, every single day in a different part of the North East. The work that was going into it was immense but we enjoyed it so much that when the opportunity presented itself to go on The Voice the first time we thought we’d rather stick to what we were doing (busking and weddings). When the opportunity presented itself a second time, we both realised we deserved to give ourselves that chance and that opportunity as artists because we’ve both worked so hard. It felt like everything we’d been doing up until that point had been leading to that – everything was falling into place in a way.’

Read More: Rising Star Tom A. Smith on His Music Career So Far

Filming for The Voice, including the final, is pre-recorded so Jen & Liv were forced to keep their win a secret, and headed back out busking. ‘A lot goes on before you actually get a blind audition,’ Jenna says. ‘There’s a lot of Zoom calls with producers so they can really get to know us. Eventually we got through the last set of auditions in Manchester which was in front of all of the producers of the show – it was a great experience and they were all so warm and welcoming. We were waiting for a while after that but we eventually got a phone call to say we were through to the blind auditions. I can’t remember where we were but we were both together at the time and we were absolutely over the moon. It was crazy. All of a sudden it just happened so quickly.’

Their blind audition (in which they performed Doja Cat’s Woman) was unique as presenter Emma Willis was given the opportunity to turn’s chair. Will’s fellow judges Anne-Marie, Tom Jones and Olly Murs all turned their chairs, and he backed Emma’s decision. With Will as a mentor, they sailed through to the final.

Jenna says everyone behind the scenes was supportive, but of course there were moments of doubt. ‘As performers and creators you can be really self-critical and there were times when we’d come off stage and (me particularly because I’m usually more emotional) would be saying “we could’ve done better” and everyone was always so supportive,’ Jenna continues. ‘That’s also the beauty of having each other because when one of us is feeling a bit down, you want to pull each other up.’ She describes working with Will as ‘mesmerising’. ‘He comes out with so much amazing knowledge and it just changes your whole perspective on everything – how we look at music and how we create music,’ she says. ‘He really helped us grow our identity in the industry. From the second he met us, he said “I believe in you guys, I think you can go really far and I’d love to help you,” and we really believed in him. From there it was such a great collaboration.’

‘We became best friends instantly, which led to
busking in rain, snow and in the boiling hot sun,
every single day in a different part of the North East’

‘I think he saw a lot of similarities in us in the relationship he has with Apl in the Black Eyed Peas because they met at such a young age as well,’ Liv adds. ‘He got quite emotional at the final because he really connected with us in that way and I think it was a bit of a déjà vu experience for him. He gave us so much advice and guidance and he’s such a knowledgable man.’

Performing with Will is a moment Jen & Liv will never forget and Jenna says another special performance for her was at callbacks, when they sang ABCDEFU by Gayle. ‘At first we didn’t think that we were going to be able to do that song any justice and we were worried about it,’ Jenna admits. ‘But we went away and we really flipped it on its head and I feel like we really pulled it out the bag with that one. It showed us just how much we can push ourselves. More than anything it gave me a new sense of confidence in us as a duo because we were up against amazing people. To get that validation on that day was really, really special.’

A highlight for Liv was their performance of I’m Every Woman. ‘I feel like that’s when we finally got to showcase everything that we’re about and we got to have a whole production on stage,’ she says. ‘For me that was everything – getting the audience hyped up, connecting with the crowd, having the slow bit at the beginning with Jenna – I feel like it showed everything we’re about.’

Jen and Liv performing with (C) ITV Plc

Read More: Meet Saxophonist John Waugh Who Performs With The 1975

They’re both thankful for the support they’ve received from the North East. ‘You can’t put into words, unless you’re from here, what it’s like,’ Jenna says. ‘It’s just the most supportive place and everyone rallies behind you. We knew whilst we were on the show that we were doing the North East proud but it was so nice after the show to see people so genuinely beaming with pride for us.’ Liv says it’s like being ‘one big family’. ‘We really get behind our own and they were with us the whole way, rooting for us,’ she says. ‘The amount of lovely messages we’ve had from people is so uplifting.’

Busking has allowed Jen & Liv to meet many of their supporters, and they recommend it to any budding singers. ‘People often don’t realise how much talent the North East has and we’re really trying to push that,’ Liv says. ‘There are so many amazing, talented people in all aspects of the creative world and it’s just about spreading the word and putting that out there.’ Whilst they’re currently creating music, Jenna says they’re prioritising using the creatives we have in the region. 'We plan on doing things that are going to involve as many creators across the North East as possible,’ she explains. ‘It’s about making sure we always use what we have at home and not overlooking them.’

‘I think 2024 is going to be our year,’ Liv concludes. ‘We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up that we can’t wait to share with everyone. A lot of hard work is going on behind the scenes. It’s really exciting but we can’t give too much away!’

Catch the 12th series of The Voice in full on ITVX. Keep up to date with Jen & Liv’s music on Instagram @hunniofficial and stream I’m Every Woman now.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Please read our Cookie policy.