A Conversation with Singer-Songwriter Jai McDowall

Singer-songwriter Jai McDowall makes his Jake’s Take debut. (Photo courtesy of Jai McDowall)

It is a pleasure to welcome singer-songwriter Jai McDowall to Jake’s Take.

Jai became an international household name when he auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent: Series Five. The British public loved Jai’s omnipotent vocal performances and voted him to win the series. Following his victory, Jai McDowall performed at the Royal Variety Performance, where he shared the stage with Tony Bennett, CeeLo Green, and Leona Lewis.  He also participated in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

Also, Jai has traveled across the United Kingdom performing sold out shows. He is also portrayed Prince Charming in various pantomimes across the country. Currently, he is touring with Jonathan Ansell with their show: Les Musicals, which features music from Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, The Greatest Showman, and We Will Rock You.

In this edition of A Conversation, Jai McDowall talked about his participation on Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions, his upcoming studio album, and his 2020 United Kingdom tour with Susan Boyle.  

Jacob Elyachar: It has been almost a decade since you auditioned for (and won) Britain’s Got Talent. How have you grown as a performer since your first audition?

Jai McDowall: I have definitely grown in confidence. When I started performing after the show, I was quite nervous at times. I did not really move around. There was always a sort of detachment between myself and the audience because, as I said, I was not sure of what to do, how to interact with an audience. It took me a good a few years. We were in Scotland and I was scheduled to do a Q&A session. I was so nervous during that Q&A. But it broke that barrier between myself and the audience. So, I think after that, I started to get to know the fans, and do meet and greets, and things like that. It was always really nice to connect with people. It helped me come out of my shell because I am shy, at times, around new people and different situations. It gives me a way to adapt to that.  I have also grown in confidence in terms of singing. I know my voice better than I used to because I use it more often. There are times where I perform for five days straight and two days off and by the fifth day, I am like: “Oh my god!”  However, these experiences helped me use my instrument better. I also learned and grown a lot in the past eight years and I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had.

Jacob Elyachar: You had the opportunity to perform at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Could you describe your reaction when you heard that you would be performing at this historic event?

Jai McDowall: It was an absolute honor. I love the Royal Family, and I love all that sort of thing. It makes you proud to be British sometimes. It’s such an honor to be able to be part of something like that. You are performing for royalty. That’s such a massive thing because where I’m from, I grew up in a small village in Scotland, and these are the things I could only dream about doing when I was a kid. The fact that I was getting to do it was phenomenal.  I remember performing at George Square in Glasgow, and I thought this is amazing. The Queen’s going to be there. It’s in Glasgow. It was such a random day, but it was a good memory, for sure.

Jacob Elyachar: What have been some of the significant challenges that you faced throughout your career? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Jai McDowall: To be honest with you, there have been quite a few challenges. When I went on the show, I had to overcome a lot of poor decisions I have made before. When I grew up, there was a solid sense of identity where I am from. You do not expect to have all the opportunities that I have had. I had to pinch myself, and then I also remind myself that it was okay to have this experience. I know I sometimes felt like it was all going to end, at times, as well. So, I was like, I need to enjoy this. I need to make sure that, although I am working hard, I need to enjoy what I’m doing because it could go at any point.

Recently, I just took a chance to go back on to Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions series. I got to meet Simon and the rest of the judges. There were a lot of misinterpreted points happening. Like I’m replacing things with myself, with relation to Simon. There was a bit of bad blood between us, almost. Not really. Not from my end. He heard things and thought things had happened when it didn’t. Luckily, I’ve been able to rectify that. For the eight years, it was quite hard because I always had to overcome the fact that I thought, maybe, he didn’t like me. That was not the case. As he said back in September, he did not understand who I was as an artist, how he could critique me, what he could do with me. So, it was a bit of confusion on both ends. There’s a lot of challenges from that area because I had to fight to get past all that stigma that was attached to what happened.

I think just keeping going and making sure that I was positive with what I was doing and still enjoying. That was one of the main things for me. There’s a lot of things over the years. It’s been a long eight years. There have been a few things over the years, a lot of challenges to overcome. The way I look at it now is, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t push through those obstacles and keep going and keep trying to be a better version of myself, and all that good jazz. I think that it’s almost like earning your stripes.

Jai McDowall returned to Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions in September and performed a rousing cover of Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again.” (Video property of Syco Entertainment & Thames)

Jacob Elyachar: I am glad that you brought up Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions. I loved your performance of “I’ll Never Love Again.” It was one of my all-time favorite performances from the season.

Jai McDowall: Oh, thank you! 

Jacob Elyachar: Also, I wanted to tell you exclusively that your performance made my Top 30 Reality TV performances of the decade. 

Jai McDowall: Thank you, Jacob! That is so great to hear. I went back to Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions, and it was great to be a part of that series. The show is such a massive part of my life. Britain’s Got Talent gave me my dream job and the career that I have now. The fact that I was able to go back and sing such a beautiful song, as well, was lovely. I love the movie; A Star Is Born. When I went to talk about the show, and the music, and things like that, it was one of the songs I brought because I had previously performed it before. I love the song. It’s fantastic. The fact that I was able to go and sing it in Wembley Arena, and to Simon and the judges, was just lovely. It was excellent, and I am glad that you like it, as well, because that makes me feel happy. Thank you.

Jacob Elyachar: I was truly moved after Simon’s apology to you. Over the years, I have recapped and covered a lot of talent shows and seen a lot of feuds between contestants and judges. For example, Haley Reinhart still has ill-will against former Idol judges Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, while DeAndre Nico, Melanie Martinez, and Tony Lucca have expressed their frustrations after being treated poorly by former coaches Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera respectively during their time on the US version of The Voice. While there is still bad blood between them, I think that the Got Talent fan base was thrilled to see that you and Simon publicly hash out your differences.

Jai McDowall: I would say that that’s true. Simon, he would not apologize if he does not mean it. That, for me, meant so much. I think that because, as I mentioned before, there were so many misinterpreted things that went their way because I could not speak to him or deal with it. You know what it’s like. If you got a grievance with someone, if you have an issue, you want to talk it out. You want to fix it. I am not for strife or conflict. I do not like it. I think that the fact that there was that elephant in the room, as you said, was a bit awkward. But, I am glad we managed to get it solved.

Jacob Elyachar: Currently, you are touring across the UK on the Les Musicals: Live in Concert. What have been some of your highlights of the tour?

Jai McDowall: The tour has been fantastic. The audiences have been brilliant. It’s such a buzz for me, but it’s lovely to hear audience members coming back time and time again and telling you they so love what you’re doing. (co-star Jonathan Ansell) and I are on our 56th concert date. I am still enjoying it. The audience is still enjoying it. It’s just brilliant. This whole tour has been great. But, the one day, for myself, was, obviously, Glasgow. It was great because I was on Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions the week before. Then, the following Saturday, I got a gig in Glasgow. It was almost like a homecoming gig. It was such a glowing reception, and the audience was so warm and so enthusiastic. It was such a buzz for me. I love interacting with the audience during my set.

Jai McDowall is expected to drop a brand new album & tour with Susan Boyle next year. (Photo courtesy of Jai McDowall)

Jacob Elyachar: You have also found success in the UK Pantomime world. Have you thought about jumping from Pantomime to portraying roles on the West End or Broadway?

Jai McDowall: I would absolutely love to perform on the West End or Broadway. I have auditioned for a few West End roles, but sometimes they can be carnage. (Laughs) I do still get nervous at auditions. However, the casting department are always lovely and are always on your side. They want you to do well, but I just get really nervous. There are some dream shows that I would want to audition for. I hear Moulin Rouge is coming to the UK. That would be phenomenal to do. I have auditioned for Les Misérables and I would love to perform in The Phantom of the Opera. I love the Phantom’s darkness.

Jacob Elyachar: Jai, I believe that you would be a fantastic choice to play Erik or Raoul.

Jai McDowall: Yeah. It would just be great. The point is, there are a lot of shows out there that just have such brilliant music. It’s lovely. I love listening to musical theatre, as well, because there’s always a story behind the song. It’s great. Obviously, coming to America, I would love to do that. I spent a couple of months out in L.A. before and it’s just such a great place to be. I’ve been in New York, but only for six hours. I was on a layover flight, but I decided to leave. It was midnight and went to Times Square and it was completely empty, so it was brilliant. That was really good. I would love to come back to the States and if it were to do a Broadway show, that would just be the icing on the cake.

Jacob Elyachar: Currently, you are working on putting the finishing touches of your latest studio album. What can my readers expect from this album?

Jai McDowall: It has been a long, long time and process. It has taken so long because I get to a point, and I have been in the studio, written music, and recorded material. Then I was like, “Nope. That’s not me anymore. It’s not what I want to do. It’s not who I am.” I fluctuate. I was lucky as a youngster. My Dad performs, as well. He’s a singer. I used to go and perform with him at the weekends. We would learn old and new cover pop stuff. I can sing pop, but I also love country music. So, I can sing country music. Then, I also love the musicals. It’s one of those things, I think I am going to have to just be like, “Right, what do you guys want to hear?” And roll with it because I’m so indecisive, at times. I can be a bit crazy.  I think we have got some stuff just now that I really think would make sense, as well, for the audience, and things like that. I always tend to think, as well, in terms of live performances. I can record an album, but you have got to then tour that album, sing the songs from that album. I always try and think of, how would I put a show together with all of this music, and things like that. It’s sort of a weird process. I think, for me, obviously I am known for ballads, and big belty notes, and things like that, so there will definitely be a few of those in there. I would love to do some original songs, plus I would love to record some covers.

Jacob Elyachar: In March 2020, you will be joining Susan Boyle on a UK tour. What are you looking forward to the most about touring with her?

Jai McDowall: I am looking forward to that. I have been a fan of Susan’s for years. We have worked together a few times and I have met her at random events. She is such a brilliant woman and I honestly cannot wait to go on tour with her in March. I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. Hopefully, there will be talks of an American leg, so fingers crossed.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring performers who want to audition for Got Talent, what advice would you share with them?

Jai McDowall: If they are singers, I would say know your song. Know how to put emotion what your singing. Also, know it inside out because sometimes nerves can be a pain in the backside. They can throw you. You can forget words and you forget things. I was very lucky. I was nervous, but it did not affect me to the point that I forgot my words, or anything like that. But, that was because I knew the song that I was singing inside out. I had sang it million times over. Obviously, if you have got an act, or things like that, just train. Train and be prepared.


But, also, on top of all that, you just have to enjoy yourself. I went down with a positive attitude that was like, right, doesn’t matter what happens. It’s a great experience, and all that stuff. I tried to just stay really positive in my head. I thought, if I get inside my own head and overthink things, then I’ll get nervous, start worrying, and I would panic. So, I just thought, it’s fine. It does not matter what happens and just enjoy it for what it is. I try and carry that on for most of my life. Do not get too bogged down worrying about what might happen. Yeah, pretty much enjoy yourself would be the biggest advice.

For more information about Jai, visit his website! You can also connect with Jai on social media. Visit his Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter channels.

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar