Celebrity interview: X-Factor’s Ben Haenow’s coming home

By - Tuesday 19th April, 2016

Ben Haenow takes to the Fairfield stage on Tuesday 19th April. Lauren Furey chatted to him about music, family, Fairfield and dreams coming true

Photo by SJM Concerts, used with permission.

Hey Ben! Firstly, let’s go back to your X-Factor audition, back in 2014. What was it like getting those four yeses from the judges?

It was absolutely incredible. It was almost like an out of body experience to be standing there in front of the judges. All of those familiar faces off the telly: it was surreal to be in the same room as them, to be honest. I still can’t even put it into words.

What was it like getting to the judges’ houses stage?

It was my first trip to America and I thought that it would be a bit of an opportunity to take it all in, but once you’re there the pressure is on. We were working in LA and it was non-stop, the whole trip went so quickly. But it was great to be able to perform in Simon Cowell’s house for him and Sinitta.

How has your life changed since winning X-Factor?

The experiences that I’ve had have been amazing. I got to travel to LA to work on the album and I had the chance to collaborate with so many interesting and talented people. It’s been a fantastic journey and there have been so many incredible moments that I’ll never forget.

You’re very close to your family. What have they made of your success?

They’ve been so supportive. My mum is absolutely over the moon. She still has to pinch herself: it’s like she still can’t quite believe it. They’re all so proud and it means everything for them to see me up on stage and doing what I love.

Your album gave you the chance to work with a range of producers and musicians and you even collaborated with Kelly Clarkson. What was it like working alongside them to bring your album together?

I learnt so much from Kelly. We come from a similar background, in that we both come from reality TV talent shows. She’s so down to earth and inspirational. Everyone I worked with was really grounded and it really helped me to focus and bring the music together. You need people like that when the pressure is on and you’re far from home.

At the start of the year, it was announced that you had parted ways with Simon Cowell’s record label, Syco. Where do you go from there?

I have a lot coming up this year with the tour, as well as a few festivals, but I never saw working with Simon’s label as a promise of a career. If anything it’s been the springboard and the platform that I needed to continue and develop and make my own music. This whole experience has been so positive and I’m really excited about the future.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you felt you had to “compromise” your style on your debut album. Where does your passion in music lie?

I love blues and old school rock music but, to be honest, it’s a hard sell right now. I was fresh off the back of X-Factor and I needed to make a conscious effort to deliver something commercial. It’s not like anybody twisted my arm or anything but there was a need to deliver to the fans.

So are you focussing on new material at the moment?

Yeah, I’m always writing. Not even necessarily for a second album right now but just for the love of writing. I’m always creating new material but everything I’m putting together at the moment is still in its very early stages.

On Wednesday 19th April you return to Croydon to play the Fairfield Halls. How does it feel to come back and play your hometown?

I really cannot wait. It’s difficult to put it into words how much this means to me. I’ve been going to Fairfield since I was a kid, for a bit of panto, and so it means a lot to be able to actually perform there. There’s been a lot of big names play the Fairfield Halls over the years and I remember playing in local pubs and clubs, so it really will be an emotional experience taking to that stage. I’ll have a lot of friends and family there for support and of course the fans. My brother will be up there with me. It’s great having him with me, giving the occasional Chinese burn. He keeps me grounded.

What can your fans expect from that show and the tour in general?

Well the tour kicked off on Friday 15th April and I’m just really excited to perform the album for everyone and to throw in a few surprises. It’s great to be on stage with a live band as well. It’s so good to perform those songs live and have it sound how I want it to, stylistically.

What do you make of Croydon’s current music scene?

I remember being fifteen or sixteen years old and having a lot more options. Croydon has lost a lot of places over the years, places like The Cartoon and Black Sheep Bar and that does have an impact on the town. The night life is kind of dying out. There are still a few great pubs in Croydon that support live music and they give people a chance to showcase their talents and really express themselves.

What about the upcoming closure and redevelopment of the Fairfield Halls?

It’s a tough call really. I mean, it could do with a revamp and it would be great to have it restored to its former glory but can Croydon really do without Fairfield for two years? I don’t know. It would be great if they could find a way to do all the work in stages so that Croydon still has a proper venue.

And finally, do you have a message for your Croydon fans?

I just want to say thank you to Croydon for the support. The turn-out when I played outside the Whitgift Centre was amazing and I’m just so grateful to everyone. It means the world to me to have my hometown backing me.

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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