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Croydon X Factor Ben Haenow tells of his 'surreal' experience performing at Wembley

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A CROYDON van driver has ticked the top item off his bucket list after making it through the first round of X-Factor auditions to sing in Wembley Arena.

Ben Haenow wowed judges on last Saturday's show with his rendition of Bill Withers' classic Ain't No Sunshine, with Simon Cowell saying he was surprised Ben hadn't already been given a record deal.

"It's unbelievable," Ben said. "It's really surreal and hasn't sunk in yet, things like this don't really happen to people like me."

All four X-Factor judges voted to send the 29-year-old from Shirley through to the next round of auditions at the SSE Arena, Wembley.

"To sing to people in a massive stadium, that's it for me," he said. "Even if it doesn't go any further that's ticking off the top thing I'd like to do in my life."

Ben has sung in bands since he was 15, busking and going to jam nights in Croydon. In 2006 he became front man for rock and roll band the Lost Audio which he was in with his brother, Alex.

But after years of touring the country Alex developed a condition that affected his hearing and they had to stop gigging.

This was when Ben decided to enter the X-Factor.

"The X-Factor isn't something I had been looking to do because I had been in a band since I was younger," he said.

"That was something I put my heart and soul into for all those years. He [Alex] had to stop and because he was the guitarist in the band it was difficult for me to carry on.

"So the time sort of felt right to go for it."

Ben said it has been hard going alone but that his family have always been very supportive. He watched last week's programme at home with a group of family and friends.

"It's something me and my brother have always wanted to do together and I found that hard sometimes," he said. "But he's really supportive. He's over the moon for me at the moment and there never would be any ill feelings.

"And my mum's been there since day one. We used to practice at home so she's probably sick to death of it.

"My granddad passed away a few years ago and used to come to our gigs too even though he was quite old. He used to put his hands over his ears, I hope because the music was too loud not because it was bad!"

Ben said that he chose his rendition of Ain't No Sunshine because he was able to put his own style into it, which he hopes to do again in the next round.

"It has to be something I can get my own stamp on because you only get a few minutes," he said.

And Ben said that it was nice to get such good feedback from the show's judges after years of singing.

"To hear what they said to me was like a dream," he said. "I couldn't have wished to get any better. It was nice to get those comments from people in the industry."

Croydon X Factor Ben Haenow tells of his 'surreal' experience performing at Wembley


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