The X Factor never promises you an amazing career says Ipswich Regent bound Ben Haenow

X Factor winner Ben Haenow. He plays the Ipswich Regent on April 20.

X Factor winner Ben Haenow. He plays the Ipswich Regent on April 20. - Credit: Archant

Ben Haenow is very open and level-headed about life after winning The X Factor.

Crowned champ of the singing show in 2014, the former Croydon van driver topped the Christmas charts with the platinum selling Something I Need. Second Hand Heart, featuring American Idol’s first winner Kelly Clarkson, didn’t fare so well. Like so many winners, he’s since parted ways with Simon Cowell’s Syco record label.

“At the end of the day it’s a business, it does come down to numbers. Maybe the album (his self-titled debut) didn’t sell as much as they wanted... We discussed it and it seemed like the right thing to do. I think they didn’t feel they could do anything more than they’d done, so yeah we parted ways but they’ve been great,” says Haenow, playing the Ipswich Regent tomorrow night.

He’s still in touch with the label, taking advantage of any advice they can give him moving forward. It’s difficult, he adds, coming off the back of the ITV1 juggernaut. There’s a scepticism that follows the winner around and it’s a hard thing to shake off.

“I think that perception is taken by the media, the ‘curse of The X Factor’, but the music should speak for itself wherever or whatever someone’s come from if it’s good enough its going to stick around,” he says. “The album we put out sold really well.”

Haenow describes the show as an incredible experience, adding if you’re don’t enjoy being on it, there’s something wrong with you.

“It’s given me such an amazing platform and it never promises an amazing career, it gives you that opportunity... Sometimes in the past there seems to be a lot of anger towards the show when things don’t work out. People tend to turn around and go ‘well it was the show, I didn’t want to do this and I didn’t want to do that’. I think it kind of questions your integrity and makes you look a bit silly. So I can’t say there’s been any regrets from the show at all.”

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Like most contestants, he found every part of his life up for grabs in the media; including his parents’ separation when he young, talk of him suffering depression as a teenager and turning to drink.

“Sometimes things are embellished quite a lot, like drinking a bottle of vodka a day, stuff like that; but as a kid I enjoyed a little bit of a drink at an earlier age than everyone else. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly worse childhood than anyone else; there are millions of people who have done the same thing. I think sometimes on The X Factor people speak about sob stories. I don’t think it is, a lot of people can relate to situations people on the show have been in.”

He didn’t let it affect his time on the show. While he was living the dream, he never thought he’d made it after winning.

“You always have to err on the side of caution. Being one of the older contestants I think I understood myself a bit more, having lived life a bit more than some of the others so that put me in good stead for it and the pressures. It was more just enjoyment man. The stuff that comes out about you in the papers... I always guessed that was something that goes with the territory. So I never really took it all to heart.”

The X Factor is making more headlines than its contestants right now, with presenters and judges coming and going. There’s also the added competition of The Voice UK switching from BBC1 to ITV1 next year. Haenow says claims it’s run its course are misguided.

“The reason people keep watching, the reason these programmes should keep going is because it helps find undiscovered talent; the people who have been sitting in the background playing their guitar in pubs and clubs. The X Factor puts you in that place where you’re in millions of people’s living room every weekend.”

Keeping the momentum going after you win is a challenge. The struggle, he says, starts from the first album, where you disappear from the public eye and into a studio for six to eight months to write and record.

“It’s tough, but I think with social media platforms it’s easier to self promote and keep people in touch with what you’re doing directly so I think that’s great. I love talking to people about what I’m doing. The support from fans keeps you going, they’ve been incredible since the show and now the album’s out.”

Haenow’s in the early stages of preparing his follow-up album; talking with a lot of people, meeting producers, finding people to work. He’s been writing with his older brother Alex so has some tunes they’re throwing out there.

“It’s nothing solid at the moment, obviously we’re about to go on tour with this last album; there’s still life in that one yet, a lot of time to go round and play to those people who want to hear it.”

Playing live is what he lives for.

“I’m absolutely buzzing for it man.... It’s one thing to write the album but once you’ve got that you want to get out there. That was what I used to do, being in a band for years. It’s bigger crowds for sure,” he laughs. “Like every amateur band we’ve played in places for seven to eight people who were probably there by mistake but yeah, to go from that to getting to play places like the Regent and the O2 Academy it’s changed my world.

It probably sounds a bit weird but live performance is where really, I think, it happens. Having Alex with us is going to be great as well. It’ll be just like old times but on a bigger scale.”

He teases pulling out a couple of cheeky surprises and some of the other things he’s been working on. Mainly he’s looking forward to getting out there and playing the album.

“You’ll hearing more how it was supposed to sound, it’ll be a bit more organic, upbeat and rocky. I have so much love for the fans man, I can’t say how much they done for me and I’m excited to see ‘em all and get out on stage.”

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