Photo courtesy of Ben Haenow
Ben Haenow is a singer-songwriter and the winner of the 11th series of the X Factor UK. He spoke with us about the joys and challenges of working closely with a sibling, perseverance, his plan for dealing with negativity online, and much more.
Think Before You Type: What is your favorite part about having a career in music?
Ben Haenow: It’s an honour to get to do something I love for a living. I’ve always loved writing and singing songs, and so having that as a job is the best thing ever. Getting to travel a lot and see different places while I do it is great.
TBYT: How would you describe your sound?
Ben: My inspirations come from all over, but I’m a big fan of blues music and rock and roll. So I’d say probably a mix of those styles.
TBYT: We’re sisters who work together, so we know how fun (and challenging at times) it can be to work with a sibling. What is it like to work so closely with your brother? What have you learned from the experience?
Ben: Haha! Yeh even after over 30 years of knowing each other we still occasionally have our “Gallagher brothers” moments. But it’s great to have someone around who you trust implicitly. Someone who has your back and someone to help you out if/when things go wrong out on shows/tours and life in general. And someone who really knows me.
And also he’s great with songwriting, we wrote all the tracks on the new album together and as we have been writing together for years and working together we spend A LOT of time with each other… so I guess I’ve learned that work well together… MOST of the time.
TBYT: If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Ben: I’d tell myself, Don’t grow that stupid “goatee” beard thing in your teenage years lol! It was really not cool and actually a bit wonky! Hindsight is a funny thing
TBYT: How do you deal with negativity online?
Ben: To be fair I’m lucky in that I don’t seem to see much of it… I guess I just ignore it If I do see anything, and I don’t take any of it to heart for sure. I mean I don’t expect everyone to like me, or my music, or what I had for dinner on Instagram and stuff as in real life your opinions and the things you like won’t always match with everyone else.
There are a lot of people, particularly online who find it easy to just say nasty stuff for fun, because they can hide behind a screen and not really take any responsibility or because of their own insecurities and jealousy.
TBYT: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since winning the X Factor in 2014?
Ben: I’ve definitely learned to not give up and that persistence and hard work can pay off. The show really helped to give me back my confidence with singing and helped me achieve my dream. Over the years of playing pubs, clubs, and smaller local venues before the show, it was sometimes a struggle and you have to keep a bit of faith. It’s a tough industry to work in and nothing is certain but if you want something enough.. cheesy as it sounds.. go get it and don’t give up.
TBYT: You post a lot of fun covers online. How do you choose which songs you cover?
Ben: Generally I just pick songs I like. Sometimes people suggest stuff online if there’s something they’d like to hear but other than that it’s quite random really.
TBYT: If you had the chance to speak to someone who has been cyberbullied, what would you say to encourage them?
Ben: It’s a tough one. There is obviously a huge pressure and want to be on social media nowadays particularly for the younger generation. And to have everything you do, eat, watch or think online for everyone to see. Unfortunately, if you put things up online, it’s easy for anyone to voice an opinion on good or bad. As easy as it is for someone to Like something it’s just as quick to show dislike. I’d say to remember who your REAL friends are, people who actually KNOW YOU and speak to them. Remember that someone who follows a social media account is not always a “friend” and may just be there to troll or say nasty stuff. There are a lot of people out there who bully, it is usually jealousy or boredom, but these people who don’t actually know you or anything about you just choose to post rude or nasty things online. Speak to someone if it is affecting you.
TBYT: What is your favorite part about touring?
Ben: I love the whole thing. Going to places you’ve never been, getting out and meeting people, playing to people, getting to see the reactions to the new material or at the shows singing the words back at us on stage. The traveling is all pretty full on and can be knackering but it’s all good fun!
TBYT: Do you have anything exciting coming up in 2018?
Ben: More shows and more new music! I got to collab on a song I wrote with a South African artist recently released through SONY which has done great so I hope to be heading out there at some point this year for some shows. My new single “Falling Down” is available April 2nd and my second album “ALIVE” is coming in March so I’m excited for what’s to come in 2018.