X Factor's Jake Quickenden: 'After losing my dad and brother, I really want to live every day like it's the last'
I'm a Celebrity runner-up talks from the heart before his star appearance at Belfast Telegraph's Holiday World
As he flies into Northern Ireland to open our three-day travel extravaganza, Jake Quickenden tells Maureen Coleman why he’s sure his brother Oliver, who died at 19, would be thrilled by his success.
When Jake Quickenden lost his younger brother to bone cancer in 2012, he decided there and then to live his life to the full and make the most of every opportunity that came his way.
Oliver Quickenden was just 19 years of age when he died, days after Jake’s first audition on ITV talent show the X Factor was broadcast. The Scunthorpe singer/songwriter made it as far as the judge’s houses that year but was sent home by judge Nicole Scherzinger before the live shows began.
The death of his brother was a devastating blow to Jake, who’d lost his father to the same disease just four years earlier. But it also spurred him on to audition again for the X Factor in 2014, this time making it through to the live rounds, under the guidance of former Spice Girl Mel B.
Despite a pleasant voice, easygoing personality and heart-throb good looks, Jake found himself in the bottom two in week three, losing out to pop quartet Only The Young in the sing-off. But a matter of weeks later, the hunky 25-year-old resurfaced in yet another reality television show, a late addition to I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! alongside former MP Edwina Currie.
His arrival in the jungle prompted criticism from X Factor boss Simon Cowell, who made a swipe at Jake’s decision to take part in the show.
Cowell was quoted as saying: “I think in any competition, if you don’t want to win, that tells me you haven’t got that killer instinct to do well in the real world, if you’re happy to come fourth or tenth and end up in the jungle ...”
But Jake’s not too bothered about Cowell’s criticism.
“I’d have been worried if Simon hadn’t commented on the fact that I went into the jungle, so when he did, it just made me smile,” he tells me. “At the final of the X Factor we had a chat and he was fine about it.
“I didn’t go into I’m A Celebrity to be famous but I knew it could help me even more when I came to release my music. Hopefully people will remember me from either the X Factor or I'm A Celebrity, so it gave me another platform.
"You never know what's going to happen, what's round the corner. I want to live life to the full, live every day like it's the last. That's how I feel after losing my dad and my brother. It would've been stupid of me to turn down such a great opportunity. So I said yes."
Since coming runner-up to World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty in the 14th series of I'm A Celebrity, Jake hasn't slowed down. He's been caught up in a non-stop cycle of live performances, meet and greets and writing material for his forthcoming EP. And tomorrow, he'll be in Belfast to launch the Belfast Telegraph's Holiday World at the King's Hall Pavilions, sharing stories of his Australian adventures with guests at the exhibition.
For someone who'd never been to the city before the start of this year, he's become something of a regular now, so much so that he thinks the city should adopt him.
"I reckon I need to start paying rent in Belfast because I haven't left the place since I came out of the jungle," he says. "I must have been there four times now, doing PAs, singing in clubs, that type of thing, so this will be my fifth visit in 2015. I'd never been before this year.
"I'm going to stay for the weekend and enjoy myself. I really love the place, I'm not going to lie to you. The people are so friendly and nice. I think Belfast should adopt me."
Given his brief flirtation with Irish model Nadia Forde in the jungle, one can't help but wonder if there's a lady over here who might have caught his eye.
Jake laughs: "I do like Irish women, they're beautiful but to be honest, I haven't had the time to meet anyone when I've been over.
"I go there to work, get pictures done and then it's straight out again."
In recent weeks Jake has been romantically linked to Carl Fogarty's daughter Danielle. According to tabloid reports, Jake began dating Danielle after apparently growing close to the family during their stint in Australia. Since leaving the show, Jake has been to visit Carl several times and spent a lot of time at the Fogarty home over Christmas.
But Jake, who recently broke up with a long-term girlfriend, says romance is not on the cards - just yet.
"We're just friends," he says, before adding: "At the minute."
He goes on: "I've been round to the house a few times, that's all. These things always get blown out of proportion by the Press. She's a beautiful girl and we get on well. We're friends, that's it, but who knows what might happen in the future?"
Jake struck up several friendships in the jungle and still keeps in touch with his camp-mates. Former Premier League footballer Jimmy Bullard rings him regularly and, not surprisingly, given his good looks and cheeky charm, he keeps in contact with the ladies, namely Edwina, Melanie Sykes and Vicki Michelle.
And he's maintained his friendships with the people he met during the 2014 X Factor, particularly series winner Ben Haenow.
"I'm still friendly with a lot of the guys but yeah, I talk to Ben every day," he says. "Ben will always be a friend. I'm also close to Only The Young, who I eventually lost out to. When I was in the X Factor house, they were four of my best mates."
He has a lot of respect for his mentor, Mel B and says, that unlike Cowell, she was very supportive when he was in I'm A Celebrity.
"She messaged me after the jungle and said she was happy that everyone got to see the real me," he says. "And she said she'll ring me in a few months to see how I'm getting on. She doesn't have to do that, she's picked up her pay packet and gone back to the States so she doesn't have to keep in touch with me. But she wasn't just a mentor, she's a friend as well."
During his time on the X Factor Jake was criticised, many would say unfairly, by Cowell. However during his audition for the recent series, Cowell had made a point of hitting out at former judge Nicole Scherzinger, for sending Jake home in 2012.
After performing Jessie J's Who You Are for the judges, Cowell told Jake: "I'm not a massive fan of people who come back because there's usually a reason why you get kicked out. However, this particular year I wasn't on the show and you shouldn't have been kicked off."
So Jake doesn't take his criticisms too personally.
"Simon was harsh on all the boys in Mel's category (Paul Akister, Andrea Faustini), not just me. I think that's what Simon does though. It's all mind games with him. As well as it being a talent show, he likes to get inside our heads," he says.
"I think we were the strongest category going into the show, Paul and Andrea with their voices, maybe not as much me for my voice but for the whole package. To be honest, I thought both Simon and Cheryl (Fernandez-Versini) were both quite critical of the boys."
He has absolutely no regrets about taking part in the talent show and says he hasn't one bad word to say about the experience.
"It can be a bit of a pantomime, but for me it was a great opportunity and a great experience," he says.
Deciding which reality TV show he preferred being in is impossible, he tells me, as they were both very different. While he loved every minute of living in the X Factor house, performing live in front of the nation and making new friends, I'm A Celebrity threw up exciting challenges and trials, that otherwise he'd never had the chance to take on.
From the moment he arrived in the jungle, Jake stood out as the bookies' favourite to win, so was he disappointed when Carl was crowned King of the Jungle?
"I never expected to get down to the last two," he says. "But when I was in the final I thought 'God, I could actually go on and win this'. In saying that, I'm glad for Foggy because he's a really good guy. And I knew it wouldn't matter that much if I didn't win, I'll still get my music out there."
For the past few weeks Jake has been in the studio, writing songs for his new EP, which he hopes to release in May this year. He says he thinks people will be surprised when they hear his material, which is a world away from the "s***e" songs he was given to perform on The X Factor.
"I'll be going back to my guitar and the stuff will be a lot edgier," he says. "I'm a singer/songwriter at the end of the day, that's what I've been doing for the past few years, but I never got the chance to do that on the show.
"I'm hoping people might be taken aback that I can actually write and that my voice isn't too bad either. So I'll get the EP out, release dates for my tour and then try and get a record label, if Simon doesn't want me! That's doubtful, of course, but who knows, I'll send him a few letters."
Sadly for Jake, Oliver never got to see him perform on the live shows of the X Factor or take part in I'm A Celebrity, but he was able to watch his first audition in 2012. The day Jake found out that he'd made the live rounds with Mel B marked his brother's second anniversary.
Jake admits the last few years have been tough and he's had more than his fair share of heartbreak to deal with. But he's confident that better times are ahead.
"I haven't stopped in months, I only had one day off over Christmas and that was Christmas Day itself," he says. "But it's great being busy.
"And Olly would have loved to see me in I'm A Celebrity. He loved that programme and would have had a good laugh at me, being out there in the jungle.
"I like to think that he would have been very proud."
Take a trip to Holiday World
- Jake will be the star guest at the launch of this year’s Belfast Telegraph Holiday World, which runs from tomorrow until Sunday at the King’s Hall Pavilions, Belfast
- The exhibition will give holidaymakers a sneak peak into what’s up and coming for the 2015 travel scene. It will bring a dash of globe-trotting excitement to the city, showcasing amazing getaways from close to home and from around the world as well as providing show-goers with an array of travel-themed entertainment, competitions, activities and special offers
- The Caravan & Motorhome Show will feature the latest models, from modest tourers right up to high-end luxury, with a chance for show-visitors to step on board to check out the detail. Oasis Travel Cruise Pavilion and the Clubworld Honeymoon & Wedding Destinations will also help your holiday dreams to come true
- Big names taking part include the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Titan Travel, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Emerald Waterways, P&O Cruises, and Cunard Cruise Line, while major travel sector partners at the Clubworld Pavilion will include Classic Collection Holidays, Eurocamp Travel, Gold Medal Travel, Jet2 Holidays, Topflight Holidays, Travel2 and Turkish Airlines
- With new exhibitors — including Belfast International Airport and tourism bodies for destinations as diverse as China, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Cyprus, Andalucia and Antalya, joining old favourites such as New York, United Airlines, Malta, Cyprus, Tunisia and India — there’s plenty for everyone
- Tickets are £5 for adults, £4 for seniors and £3 for students, and £10 for a family ticket (two adults and accompanied children). To find out more about the show and its exhibitors, visit www.holidayworldshow.com