HE is the Southampton-born pop star who pushed One Direction into second place winning The X Factor in December 2010 and for a while glittering career seemed certain.

But Matt Cardle fell from grace after becoming addicted to a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, “eating” a daily mix of prescription pills Valium and Tramadol and snorting illegal drugs.

He turned to drugs as he struggled to cope with the pressures of fame, and he demanded to be prescribed Tramadol — the powerful painkiller Ant McPartlin branded “hillbilly crack” after becoming addicted — following a minor injury on his finger in a tour bus.

But now, with all his problems behind him, Matt, 35, is making a welcome return to Sony Music with the release of new album ‘Time To Be Alive’ on Friday. There is a brilliant new single too -‘Desire’, an electronic, hook laden delight which serves as the perfect introduction to Matt’s new sound.

The striking record sees Matt collaborate with Jim Eliot (Kylie, Will Young, Ellie Goulding) Christopher Elms (Bjork, Anohni, Alanis Morrisette) Dan McDougall (Liam Gallagher), Dimitri Tikovoi (MNEK, Goldfrapp) and James Hayto & James Jackman (George Michael).

Matt has reinvented his sound on ‘Time To Be Alive’, fusing electronica, gospel, rock and soul. The lyrics are all personal observations on addiction, redemption, atonement and eventual contentment. It’s a collection that will surprise, and one Matt is incredibly proud of.

All but one of the album’s 14 songs were co-written by him. They reveal a portrait of an artist struggling with personal battles, but ultimately winning the war. Producer Jim Eliot was chosen by Matt to help him translate these intimate songs into an electronic, soulful album, which was primarily recorded at Jim’s Hay-on-Wye studio, and at Sarm Studios in London. ‘Time To Be Alive’ was mixed in Stockholm by Christopher Elms, best known for his work with Bjork.

‘Time To Be Alive’, Matt’s 4th studio album, is his first LP release since ‘Porcelain’ in 2013 and showcases Matt’s new found maturity as a singer, songwriter and musician.

The Daily Echo spoke to Matt about the album, his battles with drug addiction and his joy at being given a second chance.

Matt looks and sounds better than ever and I comment that it must be exciting to have the suitably titled 'Time to be Alive' album coming out after all this time when so much has happened.

"It really is! More than anything it's the time that has gone by and how much has happened in that time. I've been on a hell of a journey in seven years - and particularly in the last three. I've been down and then I've been right down. To be back where I am now is a dream come true.

"It's sweeter this time because it's a record deal I've managed to get with no help. With X Factor the record deal is the prize because you just happen to win - it's just an obligation. So this time around it's something really special."

'It must feel special because it is your personal work - you've co-written all but one of the songs,' I said.

"It's always been how I've written the albums. Because it's my personal album I wanted it to come from me. We managed to get a fantastic producer on board- Jim Eliot whose worked with Will Young, Kylie and Ellie Goulding, and having co-written it with him I think it's the best album I've done, but there's lots of reasons for that. It's my fourth studio album so I'm more experienced . Also I don't want to just churn out heart-break love songs. Even though it was the darkest time having to sort myself out with my addiction to prescription drugs, it took me to a place to write about things that had depth and meaning. "

And how did he feel about all the coverage of his addictions in the press?

"I wanted to have my say about that when I was going into rehab so there would be no speculation about why I was going there. Having been, people were asking me about it and there's no shame in any of it. I get to serve as a warning that these things are out there and are easily available. It is absolutely everywhere ; you can get it on the internet and just get someone turn up on your door. There's that name 'prescription drug' which gives you a false sense of security and it will grab hold of you quicker than any crack or heroin. I was fortunate to get sorted before the worst case scenario happened."

Matt totally empathises with Ant McPartlin who is currently in rehab for similar problems with prescription drugs.

"I appreciate 100 per cent what he's going through. It's exactly the same process and the same substance. I just hope when he comes out things will have a softer ambience. When people come out they need to be in a stable environment and they need time . It's easy to rush back. When it happened to me I came out and had a single with Mel C but my agent sent me Mauritius for a few weeks to relax. Rehab is time away but you can't just come back to it all - I hope Ant takes the time he needs.

"It's life - not necessarily a career, that can do these things to us. Life is the thing that can kick you in the backside. Life is amazing right now! That's not to say in ten years I might feel the need again but I'm really good now."

Had writing such a personal album been difficult?

"It was tricker than the others. You need to be on the same page as the person you are writing with. Nine out of ten of us have been through a breakup but not everyone has had an addiction problem. So if you are trying to find a co-writer they must be super open-minded and up for all sorts of content."

And will people be surprised by this album?

"I think they will - absolutely. It's totally different to what I've done before . It's still big emotional songs but some I know will surprise you."

As for future plans Matt says he is looking forward to touring soon and as for the music he adds:"It took a long time to write this so I'm in no rush to write another!"