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Croydon's Ben Haenow on the X Factor house, Simon Cowell and sharing a bunk bed with Jake Quickenden


FROM driving a van in Croydon and performing in pubs with his brother to moving into the X Factor contestant's house, the Advertiser caught up with Ben Haenow to hear about his "whirl wind" X Factor success.

Ben, who is one of three singers chosen by Simon Cowell to go through to the live shows, was in the garden of the X Factor house when we called.

"It's all been a whirlwind but it's been brilliant," he said. "It's a massive house. There's a shed by the swimming pool as big as my block of flats."

The 29-year-old from Shirley is sharing a room with fellow contestants Jake Quickenden, Andrea Faustini and Paul Akister after moving into the house last week.

And he is even sharing a bunk-bed with Jake: "I'm six foot four and almost 30 in a bunk bed! But they've put me on the bottom bunk so they have taken my age into account," he said.

"It's like a cross between being in prison and being in Glee. It's such an experience to be here with people sharing the same dream and ambition, everyone is singing all the time.

"Everyone is getting on, almost too well. But everyone's aware it's a competition and you can't discount anyone yet."

Ben was chosen by Cowell to join Jay James and Fleur East in the Overs group after impressing the judge at his home in LA with his rendition of A Little Help From My Friends.

"To get the yes I almost took Simon off his chair and into his swimming pool," Ben said. "I'm over the moon, you never think you'll get this far. To get to the judges houses that's the pinnacle, and there's so much talent in my group."

Cowell has previously suggested Ben, currently fourth favourite with the bookies to win the show, is "one to watch" in the contest, and Ben has already had the opportunity to take advantage of the music mogul's wisdom.

"I'm over the moon to have Simon," Ben said. "He's the main guy and he's come back this year. To get the main man and be able to go to him for advice and sit down and talk to him, it's the dream.

"He's very laid back and approachable. He said "just come to me if you need anything" and we've chatted a couple of times.

"I'm still star struck when I talk to him but it gets easier to open up to him."

And Ben has proven a hit with viewers as well as the judges. Before starting X Factor he had 23 Twitter followers; now he has 18,500.

He has had support from as far as America and Brazil, and of course his home town Croydon.

Ben said: "The support has been unbelievable. It's unreal they have seen you on TV and feel compelled to write something about you.

"Croydon have been with me all the way. When someone local does something like this the support from Croydon is unreal and it's nice to get that support from your home town."

But no one compares to Ben's biggest fan, his mum, who has supported his singing since he was a child.

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.

Ben entered the X Factor after Alex developed a condition that affected his hearing and the band had to stop gigging.

"My mum's an emotional wreck, but in a good way," he said. "And my brother too, they're just so over the moon and happy.

"My mum has been telling everyone. She works in Sainsbury's on customer services and people will come and ask her where the baked beans are and as they walk away she'll say "did you know my son's on X Factor!"."

And Ben is hoping all his new fans will be voting for him during the live show on Saturday, at 7.30pm on ITV 1.

"The nerves have gone away for the moment and I'm excited - I just want to get the one out of the way," Ben said.

"It's been an out of body experience, from doing gigs around the South East and now to be noticed for performing two or three songs. To have that overnight success has been crazy." 

Croydon's Ben Haenow on the X Factor house, Simon Cowell and sharing  a bunk bed with Jake Quickenden

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