Jahmene Douglas captured the public’s heart, whilst a contestant in the UK’s most famous talent show, X Factor, last year. People loved his singing; his humble attitude; his love for his family, and the fact that he’d overcome a difficult childhood and had retained a positive attitude. Jahmene’s mother was a victim of domestic violence, for which his father was imprisoned.
Due to his openness about his childhood experiences, Jahmene was appointed as the first ever Ambassador for Children and Young People for domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid. During the show, it became apparent that Jahmene was also a Christian; a lover of gospel music, and sang in the choir at Bible Life Church in Swindon, where he is a much-loved member.
Although Jahmene was the runner-up in the X Factor final, the public will still hear from him, as he has signed a record deal with Sony Music. He spoke to Keep The Faith about his experience on X Factor; his love for gospel music, and how faith in God has impacted his life.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): Congratulations on reaching the final of X Factor. That was a great achievement. What was it like being in the final?
JAHMENE DOUGLAS (JH): Thank you! It was an overwhelming blessing. It was also a moment of release, singing ‘Let It Be’. I felt I was being a vessel, and that I had to pass the love on through music. The final was a turnaround moment for me, a moment of realisation that I had so many people supporting, and the doubting had to stop, so I let go.
KTF: What was your favourite moment(s) whilst in X Factor?
JH: For me, it’s always about the people I’ve met from all walks of life. You learn so much from the people around you, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great, inspirational people. When it comes to moments, it is hard to choose: from spending time with Nicole; the contestants; meeting Samuel L Jackson, or meeting the truly amazing Katie Piper. So my favourite moment would have to be the fact that I applied for all of this to happen in the first place.
KTF: What was it like living in the X Factor house with the other contestants, and being treated like a celebrity when you went out to special events?
JH: The whole experience has been a blur, and I would say it’s been hard to embrace each moment because they are so overwhelming and incredible. Because of that, I’ve been floating from place to place in disbelief that all these amazing things are falling into place for me.
KTF: How did you feel performing on stage with your mentor/coach, Nicole Scherzinger, during the final, and what support did she give you during the show?
JH: ‘The Greatest Love Of All’ is one of Nicole’s favourite songs and also one of mine, so for us to learn about each other’s lives and to grow close as friends, to have that moment to share on stage with such a wonderful woman, was moving for me. I felt even in rehearsals, singing that song with her, that it was one of my greatest achievements for my spirit. She has continuously uplifted me from the beginning until each passing day, with her funny little motivational texts.
KTF: We read that you prayed with Nicole before going on stage. How important is prayer to you?
JH: Prayer for me is zoning out and stepping out onto another plane and walk of life. A place where you can watch, observe, listen and understand life. So prayer, for me, especially before I go out to sing, takes me to that peace of mind to make that much-needed connection with the people listening. Nicole is very much on the same wavelength as me, and completely gets me.
KTF: You’ve now signed a record deal with Sony Music. When will your debut album come out, and what kind of music should we expect on it? Will it include any gospel songs?
JH: Whatever music I make will be music from me, music from my heart and, to me, when the message is love … it’s gospel. I am not compromising myself when it comes to music; it will always be authentic, and I will always try my utmost to keep the music classy, because that’s what I’ve been brought up listening to.
KTF: You’ve been through a lot, having seen your mother be a victim of domestic violence. How has that experience impacted your approach to life and relationships?
JH: Life has thrown many things at my family and me, but I’ve always tried to learn from things to grow into a stronger person. It’s easy to let these things take over and push you down into an even lower place. It’s not always easy, but that just encourages me to strive for better. I think it’s important to stay in the light of positive change, not just for yourself, but for those that look to you for strength because they’ve been through something similar. It’s nice to know you can pull through and still have inner happiness.
I’ve been lucky to have been blessed with an incredible mother, who has brought me up with amazing standards and morals, so I have always promised myself to never disrespect my mother by straying too far from what she’s taught me. I am in no rush to find a relationship, because I believe in going with the flow; you can’t chase love, it finds you. When you finally have it, cherish it, but let it breathe.
KTF: How does your family feel about you reaching the final and getting a record deal?
JH: I think it’s just a massive break for my family to finally have some type of stability and security.
KTF: Can you tell me a bit about your faith in God and why it is important to you?
Ever since I was younger, I have always believed in some kind of higher love, but at that time I was too young to understand, but I knew about prayer. There were a lot of dark times, but my mother’s inner happiness and strength have shown me that there was something ‘other worldly’, something higher, that place people delve into to find hope, strength, wisdom and love. My mother tried getting us into Sunday School, but it was quickly stopped by my father, but I’ve always had that centre of faith, and I felt that I could use my singing as a vessel of that love to help others who felt the same kind of ‘lost’ that I did throughout the years. Music is powerful, and has helped me a great deal, and my faith is merged into it.
KTF: Your church and the gospel choir you were part of were featured on X Factor. How long were you in the choir, and what did you enjoy most about going to church and singing gospel?
JH: When I was living with my father, we weren’t allowed outside, so church wasn’t really an option. Moving into Swindon without his control, a college friend suggested her church to me. I went along, and as soon as I entered the building I had to walk on the stage to sing ‘Just a Prayer Away’ by Yolanda Adams, because my friend had told them I was a singer. Ever since that moment I stayed in that church, which was mainly made up of extremely welcoming Africans. There is always love in that place, and I would always leave uplifted. I used to sing solos, with the choir, in the choir, but I kept trying to push the youth in the church to sing more rather than me singing every week. The thing I enjoyed most about church was the ever-flowing love – 1 Corinthians 13:8 ‘Love Never Fails’.
KTF: Who are your favourite gospel artists? Will you be dueting with any gospel artists on your debut album?
JH: My favourite gospel artists! The list is endless: Karen Clark Sheard, The Clark Sisters, CeCe Winans, Lashun Pace, Yolanda Adams, Patti Labelle, Kim Burrell, Kirk Franklin… It would be a dream to work with any of them because they are extremely inspirational!
KTF: Aside from your album, what other projects will you be involved with during 2013?
JH: During 2013, my main project – other than music – is to tend to my role as the Youth Ambassador for the ‘Women’s Aid’ charity. It’s a cause that hits home, and I’m really looking forward to helping out as much as I possibly can. Domestic violence is such a common thing; the statistics are shocking. It surprises me that there isn’t more in the way of Government help and funding. I would love to make sure people knew they definitely had somewhere to go that was 100% secure, with solid help.
KTF: Lastly, what impact are you hoping that your life and music will have on the world?
JH: A strong faith is a contagious thing; I just hope to lead by example with nothing but love in everything I do.