An “urban pop” band of best friends who liken themselves to Rihanna are just two shows away from securing a life-changing performance at The O2.

MITSOTU – which stands for Music is the Soul of the Universe – have made it through to the regional finals of the UK’s largest national music competition for original acts, Live and Unsigned.

With around 40,000 musicians entering across the country, the trio of singers will join 60 acts in the Hayes regional live shows battling to make it through to the area finals.

Holly Cooper, 22, from Petts Wood makes up a third of the band.

She said: “There were about 2,000 people on the day we auditioned just in our region.

“It was amazing because we’ve been doing it in front of our friends and families but this was different and we were quite nervous.

“We’re all best friends and we met at college when we were 16.

“We love to do pop and more commercial things – it’s been great.

“We want to get signed and release amazing music and inspire children.”

This year the annual competition is giving the best acts opportunities to play at some of the country’s biggest festivals including Beach Break Live and Strawberry Fields.

New to 2012, Live and Unsigned is also being filmed for a Sky TV fly-on-the-wall documentary.

News Shopper: Urban pop band MITSOTU reach the brink of success

If MITSOTU triumph in the area finals, they will be performing at London’s biggest indoor festival in July, Live Fest at The O2, before celebrity judges including former Slade front man Noddy Holder and Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale.

Holly added: “This competition is great because it’s for original artists and we sing all our own stuff – it’s not like the X Factor where you have to sing other people’s songs.

“We are like urban pop – like Rihanna but a band.”

James Collins, 22, and Jimmy Essex, also 22, make up the rest of the group.

Since they got together around a year ago, MITSOTU have been travelling around local schools to play for youngsters and inspire them to chase their dreams.

Recently, the trio visited Cooper’s Technology College in Chislehurst and Bishop Justus C of E School in Bromley.

“We perform three songs and give an inspirational speech.” Holly said.

“The response has been amazing – as a kid you want to be star and we tell them you actually can do it if you set your mind to it.

“We tell them they have to work hard to get somewhere and when we leave they are really inspired.

“It’s really rewarding doing what we love and helping others at the same time.”

Acts are competing for the main prizes which include £10,000 to be spent on development, a £10,000 publicity investment, gigs at festivals in Canada, Italy and Latvia, a UK tour of up to 100 shows and a UK festival tour including guaranteed slots at Norfolk Spectacular, Boardmasters, London Summer Jam and Lancaster Music Festival.

MITSOTU will next perform in their regional finals on Sunday March 11 at the Beck Theatre in Grange Road, Hayes.

Tickets are £8.

For bookings visit and for more on MITSOTU visit