X Factor: 15 minutes with Jake Quickenden and Paul Akister

Swapping numbers with Mel B, shirtless antics and why last year’s rejection actually turned out well

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Jake Quickenden and Paul Akister were both turned away from the X Factor last year, but now they’re back and are about to walk out onto the studio stage as two of the final sixteen in this year’s competition.

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Between seeing the set for the first time, rehearsals and wardrobe, I caught up with the pair backstage to find out what life as an X Factor finalist, and part of Team Mel B, is really like…

How are you feeling ahead of the live shows?

Jake: “I can’t wait. I’m so excited and nervous. It’s like a bit of a dream. To come for the show once and get turned away and then all of a sudden be at the live shows… I’m going to wake up soon in my bed and it’s all been a massive dream.”

Paul: “I’m getting nervous. I just think, rehearse every night. I’ve been doing it just before I go to bed and it sticks in my brain. But seeing the stage today sort of made it real.”

Are you taking it easy between all of the rehearsals?

Jake: “I’ve been put on vocal rest twice because I’d been practicing too much. I just can’t do it. I write notes in my phone to Paul. ‘Paul can you tell somebody this’.”

It was reported that the plane over to Mel B’s Mexico Judges’ Houses was quite wild…

Jake: “Me and Paul, not going to lie, we had a few wines. We were celebrating, you know? We’d just had the best news of our lives. On the day that we got told, it was the anniversary of my brother’s death, so it was the best thing to happen on that day. So I necked like five [plane size] bottles of red wine. We literally laughed for about twenty minutes straight and then I fell asleep for six hours.

“[The stewardess] did maybe say ‘don’t drink as much’, but they didn’t tell us off. We didn’t cause any trouble.”

Jake, a lot of the other acts say you spend a fair amount of time in front of the mirror…

“Oh my god, why am I getting so much grief about looking in a mirror? I just get up in the morning, get ready like anybody else, and then [Paul laughs]…. Mate, don’t do that…”

“It is me [the vainest in the house] but not in a bad way!”

Paul: “No, no, no.”

Jake: “I’m not like a big head. When I train, I usually do it shirtless. I’m so comfortable at the house. When I’m at my house I’ve usually only got joggers on or boxers… so it’s weird for me to have clothes on.”

What’s it like working with straight-talking judge Mel B?

Jake: “She’s incredible. I love the fact that she’s like that. I much prefer someone like that who tells it how it is than pussyfoot around their words. I couldn’t have asked for a better judge. She’s down to earth, she says it how it is and she’s so supportive.

“She’s back [from working in the US]. She’s come over here with her family. The day we got through we exchanged numbers. She Skypes me and says ‘I want you looking at your songs now, keeping fit, any problems this my number ring me’. That’s really nice to know when you’ve been thrown into something and you’re quite scared.“

How is Mel different to Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger, the judges you both worked with before?

Jake: “She said yes to us!”

Paul: “Louis is a really nice guy. I think what the public sees is totally different. He texts me and stuff and gave me the advice to come back. I think he’s an amazing bloke. They are totally different.”

Jake: “Nicole called me every day… we’ve got a real strong relationship over Skype… no I haven’t spoken to her since. She was lovely when I met her and she made the right choice. I’m glad I got rejected because it made me better. It’s worked out for the better and I get to share it with Paul who’s a good mate of mine now and Andrea who’s a ledge.”

Does coming back put the pressure on?

Jake: “No probably not because we’ve already been rejected once, so if we get rejected again at least we’ve made it a step further!”

Have you had any funny propositions on social media?

Paul: “I literally can’t remember them, they all roll into one.”

Jake: “People ask some funny stuff. I have rude ones, yeah. I’m not going to say the rude ones because they are quite rude. I respond to the ones that are really positive and say that I’m doing well.”

Will you dance during your live show performances?

Jake: “I could maybe bust a few.”

Paul: “I’m never going to dance in my life. I’m not dancing, honest to god. I’m not going to move my feet.”

Do you have any lucky items for when you perform?

Jake: I’ve got a cross that belonged to my dad and when my dad passed away it was given to my little brother and then when he passed away I got it. I carry it everywhere. If I don’t wear it I carry it with me.”

Paul: “I don’t have any. I don’t like drinking water just before I go on stage because it dries my throat out. I like a bit of Coca-Cola.”

Jake: “Wait, explain the water thing. You’re scared of drinking water because you think you’ll drown..?”

Paul: “It is true… but that’s not the reason, no.”

Jake: “That was amazing mate…”

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The boys now continue to prepare for the first live show performance which starts Saturday 7:30pm on ITV.