Jai Waetford was the youngest contestant on this year’s X-Factor. At just fourteen, he drew immediate comparisons to a young Justin Bieber. It wasn’t long before Mr. Bieber himself heard about Jai, and during his Australian tour he organised a backstage meet and greet.
After coming third in the competition, Jai’s first single, “Your Eyes”, was released at the beginning of the month, as was his debut self-titled EP.
I spoke to Jai earlier this month about meeting Justin, the X-Factor experience, and what’s coming next.
Frangipani Princess: What have you been up to today?
Jai: We got to spend the night at home last night for the first time in a few weeks, a few months, so it’ s good to be able to just come home and relax
What was it like meeting Justin Bieber?
It was really good, it was awesome. We were just at his concert and Scooter Braun came out and found me and mum, and took us backstage. I had no idea who he was, and he said “hey, I’m Scooter” and me and mum just tripped out. And then he introduced us to Justin, and then we chilled backstage. He showed me some new music, we met his dancers, his producers and stuff, which was really cool. It was good fun.
Did he have any advice to give you?
He said stay humble, which is cool. He is the most humblest guy, and I have never, ever met anyone as passionate about music as him.
You’re only fourteen, so how has everyone from school reacted to your new fame?
I don’t know. I haven’t been in contact with any of them, which sucks.
What about your friends, how have they been?
I haven’t spoken to them.
Wow, has that been hard?
It’s been so hard, it sucks. Cos you go from talking to them every day, and seeing their faces every day, to nothing. I’ve been heaps busy.
Are you planning on focusing on your music full time, or will you be heading back to school?
Nah, I do tutoring. So I do my music, and work my tutoring around it. I might go back to my actual school, I don’t know.
What made you decide to audition for the X-Factor?
My friends at school did. They were the ones who inspired me to do it. And my family, my mum and everyone around me.
Once you were in, what was the most challenging part of the X-Factor experience?
Probably Boot-Camp. So many people went home and it was just hard, long hours.
What kind of hours were you working at Boot Camp?
We did late nights, early mornings. But I have to have a ten minute break every half hour, and an hour break every four hours.
You just got off the X-Factor tour, so what was that like?
It was amazing, it was so good to be able to catch up with the top five again, and interact with them, and just have fun on the road and perform for Australia.
Are you good friends with the top five now?
Of course. We’ve been best friends since the start of the live shows, we roomed with each other. We were staying in the same house as each other.
Was it hard being the youngest?
Nah, it was good.
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t know. Just poppy. I just like pop, acoustic stuff.
Who are you musical inspirations?
Heaps of people, there are so many. I don’t know.
Anyone that stands out in your head as “oh yeah, they inspire me”?
Not really. Everyone as an artist has to go through what I’m going through, they have to work, the work is the same. It’s hard for everyone, so if they’ve made it, they’re going to be an inspiration to someone.
How long have you been performing for? Before the X-Factor, was music always a part of your life?
How old were you when you learnt to play the guitar?
You went to Campbelltown Performing Arts High School, so did being at a school full of people passionate about performing help?
Of course. They were the ones who opened me up to these opportunities and just broadened my repertoire, and stuff. It was cool.
Out of past X-Factor contestants, both here and internationally, has anyone been an inspiration to you?
Do you know Carly Rose Sonenclare? She hasn’t made it really big, but yeah, her.
You also write you own songs, so can we expect to hear some of those soon?
Yeah, of course. We just finished a whole day of writing yesterday.
Is that fun, being able to spend all of your time writing and working with really talented other writers?
Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s good fun.
So your first single, “Your Eyes”, has just been released. What’s next from you?
My EP is going to be released on Friday (note: EP is now available, and contains songs from Jai’s X-Factor experience)
What was your favourite song you performed on the show?
Probably “Only Exception” in the Grand Final
What’s been the coolest thing that’s come out of the X-Factor?
I think my favourite so far has been we went to the Melbourne Children’s Hospital, which was so good. We got to meet kids recovering from cancer and stuff like that, and to hear their stories and how happy they are with life, was amazing. There was this little boy, his name was Tyler, he had brain cancer and he’d been told that he was all clear of cancer, and he lost one eye from that. And then a few months later he got told he had cancer again and he lost the other eye, but some of the things he was saying, like he was 100% sure that he is going to be the next James Bond. Like, in his mind, he is already James Bond, and he’s going to buy an Aston Martin. And just his mindset towards life was amazing, it was just so inspiring to see little kids who had nothing be so happy with life.
Do you have advice for other young aspiring singers?
Take every opportunity you have. So many people out there are scared, they’re held back because of their confidence, but really they’ve got an amazing voice. So don’t waste an opportunity, just go for it. And don’t be scared of being judged, cos there’s always going to be haters.
Were you nervous before you auditioned for the X-Factor?
Not really, I haven’t really been nervous at all. I’ve never been a nervous person. I think in my mind, if I’m going to do it, I’m just going to do it. What’s the point of being nervous?
Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Just making my music, releasing my own music, and just being the best at what I do. Just being the best I possibly can be.
You’ve gained quite a fanbase, have you had any crazy fan experiences?
A few of them. Some of the fans I know by name because they come to everything. It’s really sweet, it’s really cool to recognise them when you see them straight away. There’s these twins who come to everything, they’re really cool. I call them Twin One and Twin Two.
Jai’s single and EP are available now through Sony Music. You can also follow Jai on twitter at @JaiWaetford.
frangipani princess xoxo