“I really learned my craft all over again…” - hmv.com talks to Ben Haenow
After triumphing in last year’s X-Factor Ben Haenow has spent the last nine months working diligently on his self-titled debut album, which finally hits shelves today and is available to preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page, we called him up to find out all about the making of it…
You’ve spent most of 2015 making this album, but when was the first day you actually began work on it?
“I did the show then went straight into The X-Factor tour so I think it was really early April when we got started.”
Was it pretty relentless from there? How many songs did you write for the album?
“Relentless is dead on, it was every day in the studio and I think we ended up with about 62 songs. It was a long old process, I was lucky enough to go out to LA and write there as well as doing a lot of tracks at home, but it took us a long time to all the songs together.”
How did you go about picking out your collaborators? You’ve worked with guys like Steve Robson and Ryan Tedder, writers who’ve penned some very big hits…
“It was people who had inspired me and people who I knew could help me. Most came through the label, they’ve got so many great connections and then some writers actually reached out and approached us.”
It must take some getting used to, being in the studio with writers like that...
“The first day you go in there it is quite intimidating, these guys have literally got millions of sales beneath them, but if you want to be involved in the creative process you have to get over that quite quickly. Also experienced writers know how to make you comfortable quite quickly.”
How did you decide what sound you wanted to go for?
“Six or seven tracks are in the pop/rock vein, the same type as ‘Something I Need’, then for the others I wanted something different, I got to write with Amy Wadge who co-wrote ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and I thought it’d be stupid to not do a ballad with her. There was a lot of diversity in the 60-odd tracks.”
How did you find slimming it down to what’s on the album? 62 is a lot to pick from…
“It was, but we wanted that, we wanted to make sure we didn’t just have 12 and be stuck with them, I took my time, different people, different studios, I really learned my craft all over again.”
Can you sum up the album lyrically?
“We didn’t set out to write a concept album. It’s an album about relationships, all kinds, family, friends, not just boyfriend/girlfriend. I really wanted to tell stories and get as much of me across as I could.”
Which song on the album are you proudest of?
“There’s a song called ‘Slamming Doors’, which is a big ballad, that was a new one for me, I’d mainly written upbeat rocky stuff so it was a complete new direction for me and I’m actually really proud of it. I love ‘Brother’, which is fittingly about my brother and ‘Every Tear You Cry’, which is about my mum, I’m very proud of those too.”
Which song took the most work to get right?
“We had a song called ‘Make It Back To Me’, I had to do that again and again and again, loads of different keys, that took a lot out of me.”
When did you decide the album was going to be self-titled?
“To me that was a no-brainer, lots of bands and artists do this, it’s a great way to introduce yourself, also I’m really excited to just see my name on the cover of my own album.”
Were there any other titles in contention?
“We thought about picking about one of the titles, maybe even ‘Second Hand Heart’, but nothing felt like it summed up the album as well as being self-titled.”
How have you found the process? Have you enjoyed being part of SyCo and life as a full-time musician?
“It definitely does, it’s like a new job. I’ve had the chance to be involved in everything and more freedom than you’d think, I’ve had nothing but support.”
Finally you’re taking the album out live next year, what can you tell us about the show you’ve got planned?
“I’m so excited, we’re in the early stages of putting a band together and I can’t wait to get out there and see everyone. We’re starting out in more intimate venues and I’m excited to connect with people and play the songs. I’m hoping to get out there and play the summer festivals too, I’ve always been a big festival goer, it’d be great to be part of it. That’s the plan for next year, to get out and play as much as possible.”
Ben Haenow’s self-titled debut album is out now.