Jai’s try again brought BGT glory

Keyboard wizard: Paul Gbegbaje
Keyboard wizard: Paul Gbegbaje
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IF there were any miffed magicians or incandescent impressionists as a consequence of singing Scot Jai McDowall walking off with telly’s biggest talent show prize then he hasn’t met them.

Then Jai’s victory came at the second time of asking, having got to the boot camp stage of X Factor last year.

Final opponent: 12-year-old Ronan Parke

Final opponent: 12-year-old Ronan Parke

“No, I didn’t get any of that,” Jai says of the potential stick. “Everybody was so supportive.

“I wasn’t the favourite from the start but I’m quite happy with that, to be honest, because it shows they didn’t expect me to win and I managed to get the top prize.

“It was overwhelming excitement, an emotional rollercoaster... it’s a bit strange. I don’t think I’ve figured out the feelings.”

Of course, the dust has settled a little since we spoke to Jai with rehearsals just kicking in ahead of the tour that began in Edinburgh.

A singer with the X factor: Jai McDowall in the Britain's Got Talent final

A singer with the X factor: Jai McDowall in the Britain's Got Talent final

It arrives at the Motorpoint Arena tonight with Jai joined by the likes of comedy dancer Steven Hall, boy band New Bounce, mimic Les Gibson, contemporary dancer James Hobley, pianist Paul Gbegbaje and, of course, bookies favourite Ronan Parke, who Jai was up against in the final.

So how does the modest 24-year-old from tiny Tarbolton, Ayrshire, feel about beating a 12-year-old boy in front of millions of TV viewers.

“Ronan has been absolutely fantastic and he’s been a wee gentleman,” Jai laughs. “He’s so talented, he’ll get something out of it regardless. He’s not fazed at all. It’s amazing he’s been able to overcome it all and still perform the way he did. At 12 most kids don’t have the strength to deal with all that. He’s a very mature 12-year-old, that’s for sure. He’ll go far.

“Anyway, we’re all such good friends. There’s been so much in the press about the rivalry, but it’s crazy to think that. I had breakfast with Ronan and his mum this morning at the hotel.”

Having switched Cowell codes, from X Factor to BGT, Jai seems to have earned some respect as well as carrying over some support for his latest dream chase.

“I got through to boot camp singing country stuff,” he recalls of his X Factor experience. “It wasn’t what they were looking for, which is understandable. You can be a good singer, but if you’re just not what they want you to be...

“Maybe that was why at the time I wasn’t right for the X Factor. But going through that experience gave me that wee hunger to go again, either X Factor this year or to try BGT.

“I decided to go down the route of musical theatre instead. And I’m very happy I did. X Factor, with the exception of Rhydian, is more pop/rock singing, it’s not really for the musical theatre angle.

“I chose to change to BGT because I thought it would stand out more and I love singing that as much as anything else. It doesn’t matter what I’m singing as long as I get to do it.

“Some people want it so bad but you can be focused and enjoy it at the same time. You’ve got to. If you don’t, what’s the point in trying for it.”

Either way, Jai seems to have swiftly learned to ignore the tabloid ink devoted to his BGT crusade as many wrote him off.

“I didn’t keep track of that. I was ‘I don’t want to know because I just want to focus on my performance, do what I’ve got to do and enjoy it’. If I’d tried to look up the odds, paid attention to the papers, you wouldn’t enjoy it the same way.

“It would be stressful and it’s not supposed to be – it’s supposed to be fun.”

It’s great to sing on tour – without the risk of buzzers

WHATEVER happens beyond the tour, life has definitely changed for Jai McDowall.

The amiable Scot showed his generous side by pledging to spend some of his £100,000 prize money on rewarding the support of his family – as well as finishing decorating his home.

“I’ll treat the whole family to a holiday because they’ve been so amazingly supportive, my entire life.

“They’ve always been great with the whole music thing. To be able now to have the means to pay them back and say ‘Do you wanna go away and do something?’ is a great feeling to have.”

When we spoke Jai was looking forward to hooking up with them on the Scottish leg of the tour, along with the people he works with in his job as a support worker working with young adults with disabilities.

Jai admits to mixed feelings. “My job means a lot to me and the company I work for have been absolutely fantastic. My bosses have been great and said there’s always a job there if I need to come back.

“Ultimately they’ve said ‘We want you to do well and get a career and continue to do what we love seeing you do’.”

Certainly Jai has kept his feet on the ground and will ponder his direction once the tour concludes at Bournemouth on Sunday.

“After that I will meet with the management team and discuss where I should go from there. I’m pretty happy to do just about anything that comes my way at the moment.

“I’m just in it for the excitement and fun and if I can get an album deal and get to record, that will be fantastic, or a part in a show on the West End, that would be amazing. Whatever happens, happens.”

Tonight, meanwhile, you can expect a rendition of the songs Jai sang in the contest – including the Josh Groban hit To Where You Are that secured him 15 million votes in the final - and is likely to have other stuff up his sleeve.

“I’m still nervous and excited, but at the same time you know people have come to see the acts, maybe not specifically myself, but they’ve come to see someone, so they’ll all be happy to see us.

“It’ll be great to be part of that and no buzzers... hurray.”

And there’s still the no small matter of singing for The Queen at the Royal Variety Performance in December.

“Where I come from is a very small place,” he says. “No-one I know has had the opportunity to go in front of the Queen. Just to have that and take that back to my family and the folk back home fills you with a bit of pride.”