EXCLUSIVE: Britain’s Got Talent winner breaks silence on eight year-long Simon Cowell feud

Jai McDowall became a sensation overnight after winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2011 – but one remark sparked a bitter back-and-forth between himself and Simon Cowell for years to come

Simon Cowell had said he was 'disappointed' that Jai had won BGT in 2011

Simon Cowell had said he was ‘disappointed’ that Jai had won BGT in 2011

Jai McDowall became a sensation overnight after winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2011 – but one remark sparked a bitter back-and-forth between himself and Simon Cowell for years to come

After winning Britain’s Got Talent back in 2011, Jai McDowall became a star overnight.

With fans screaming his name and pleading for autographs, the singer was left bewildered by the attention as he toured the country doing what he loved. But fame comes with its downfalls and – after being dropped from a record contract – an innocent remark about BGT boss Simon Cowell led to an awkward eight-year feud.

“It was misinterpreted,” Jai insists to the Mirror as he opens about his fallout with Simon. Just months after winning the show and bagging the top £100,000 prize, he secured a record deal with Syco – Simon’s label – and Sony Music to release album Believe in December that year. He went on to perform a number of sell-out shows across the country, which included singing with Josh Groban in the Royal Concert Hall.

However, it was announced the following March that his contract would not be renewed. During the live shows, Simon had criticised his vocals for being “monotone”, though he later complimented him on his rendition of Groban’s To Where You Are during the final.

Jai was later reported to have hit out at Simon for being “anti-Scottish”, which led the media mogul slamming the remarks and pointing out that his mum was Scottish and that he had signed and still worked with Susan Boyle. He also said that Jai wasn’t a “genuine star” and that he was “disappointed” that he had won.

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Jai McDowall was left on the brink of bankruptcy despite winning Britain's Got Talent
Jai McDowall won Britain’s Got Talent in 2011 

They would later meet again years later on Britain’s Got Talent’s Champions spin-off, during which Simon would apologise for not supporting him.

“That was another turning point for my career and also mentally for me because there was – back in the day – some stuff with Simon and it was all sort of misinterpreted,” he tells us. “It was a shame because I was doing an article for a paper on BGT and the guy was giving me a million reasons why and that Simon could be anti-Scottish. I laughed and said, ‘Yeah, sounds like it.’ And then it was like, ‘Jai says Simon is anti-Scottish’ and I was like, ‘No, that’s not what I said!’

“Then it just opened up a floodgates. It then took eight years to get back on the show. I remember getting the call for it and my agent was like, ‘Will you go?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I will.’ And he was like, ‘Are you sure?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I’m sure.’ Because I thought, at the end of the day, if there’s an issue I want to rectify it because I’ve always been grateful for the show.

“I’ve done lots of things with my life now that I just wouldn’t have looked to do if it wasn’t for BGT. It was life changing and I am and always will be grateful for it. I didn’t know how that was going to go and if Simon was going to slate me. But thankfully, he apologised and then I had the chance to apologise back.”

He is now performing with G4
He is now performing with G4

Speaking about their interaction backstage, he says: “Even after the show I spoke to him and shook his hand and said, ‘Look, genuinely, my life is a dream come true and I’m grateful and it’s all because of an idea you had. You made this happen to my life. So thank you.’ It can be difficult and it is one of those things where it is a business. There will be a lot of people in the world who will be like, ‘Oh but he was mean to you, why do you like him?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, because I get it, I understand.’

“At the time I didn’t really understand so of course I was angry but as I got older I understand that actually, it is a music business, the guy has to make money and he’s got to make things work. He’s also human at the end of the day and now he’s a father and things like that. Because that’s the trouble with the industry – when it gets to a certain level, people almost treat them as if they’re not human. But they are human and they do have feelings. And social media puts that to another level with keyboard warriors.”

Last year, Jai joined successful X Factor group G4 as they head on tour across the country. “It’s been a massive learning curve for me. I knew the guys before anyway through Jonathan, so it wasn’t such a big change as it may be. I worked with Jonathan [Ansell] a few times and I met Duncan [Sandilands] through him, so it’s a slightly easier transition. But it’s still one of those things – especially on stage because I’m used to being alone – it’s funny to have three other guys singing different lines or different harmonies. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes in the last couple of weeks just because I’m not used to it! It’s been fun and the audiences are loving it and it’s been lovely to see all the nice comments about me joining as if I’ve always been there. They’ve been really nice and it’s been a great couple of weeks.”