In The Middle with Tom Grennan

I sat down with Tom Grennan before his sold-out show at Brudenell Games Room to discuss his first headline tour, new EP Release the Brakes and what the future holds for the emerging star. Clearly enjoying the perks of his growing fame, he was recovering from the previous night at the NME awards. 21 years old and fresh out of university, the future is looking bright for the Bedford born singer.

The previous year has been massive for Tom, with Chase & Status’ chart hit ‘All Goes Wrong’ showcasing his soulful vocals to the world. I asked him about his personal highlight. “It was definitely signing a record deal and playing at Wireless Festival. I played at Finsbury Park pub 2 months before to about 55 people. Wireless had a crowd of 55,000.”

I asked about the experience of working with electronic veterans Chase & Status. “It was wicked,” he says. “I’ve always been a big fan so to work with them was a big privilege.” Tom recently performed at the MOBO awards alongside his high-profile collaborators. “It was nice to be asked to play somewhere like the MOBOS. The confetti cannon nearly blew my ears off! I was almost deafened by it. It was a great feeling.” Speaking about other dream collaborators, he says: “Adele would be my first choice. Or Skepta, someone like that. I listen to a lot of grime. I love it.”

Tom’s first headline tour this February almost completely sold out. “The tour has been wicked. There’s been a lot of shows since it’s the first tour I’ve ever done, apart from with Chase & Status. Every show’s been good and it’s great to meet the fans.” When asked if he did anything to prepare for hitting the road, he says “I’ve just gone straight into it. It’s my first tour so I don’t really know what to expect. I went to the gym but not much else.” I asked Tom what he gets up to when he’s not touring or making music. “I’ve been so busy since I’ve been signed! I’ve not had much spare time. The next couple of years are probably gonna be the same.”

The rest of his year is shaping up to be a busy one as Tom’s name is appearing on most festival bills this summer. He’s playing Y Not, Boardmasters and Secret Garden Party to name just a few. “I’m buzzing. It’s mental. I love going to festivals so it’s such a big privilege to play them. I played Pukkelpop in Germany which was a wicked festival. Secret Garden Party is also sick.”

Our conversation turned to his unconventional route to success. Tom describes his entry into music as “really random.” I asked about his story: “I got pissed and I just started singing. A couple of mates asked me if I wanted to join a band and I was like ‘nah.’ I ended up doing it and it’s just spiralled into this. I never thought I’d be doing this… it only happened 3 or 4 years ago! I graduated from university but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.” Tom studied acting but assured me that being an actor was never on the cards for him.  

Showcased on his gritty debut Something in the Water, Tom’s talent for writing powerful, emotional songs has earned him a lot of praise. “Lyrics just happen naturally,” he says. I asked about his inspiration when it comes to song writing. “It’s the little everyday things. Stories inspire me to write. It’s natural, it all just pops out. I always try and better a lyric but I don’t think you can rush creation. I just go with it and see what happens. It could form into an ugly thing but then you can make it beautiful.” He draws inspiration from Amy Winehouse and Adele. “Grime music also inspires me because of the stories. And Ray Charles. I like people who tell stories” he adds.

Tom’s new EP Release the Breaks is released on March 10th and lead single ‘Praying’ has just been released. Tom describes his new EP as “a big step up from Something in the Water. It’s got more production and it’s more instrumental.” His current EP is raw and stripped back but Tom tells me that the next EP will have a bigger sound. There might even be an orchestra featuring on the new album.

His plans for 2017 are to keep touring and write his debut album. “I’m also going to America in June and just playing as many shows as I can.” I asked him to describe his music for anyone who hasn’t listened before: “It’s fiery, passionate, real life music,” he says. “None of that fake business. You’re getting what you see and that’s just me. My music is just me – it’s personal.”

Tom Grennan’s new single ‘Praying’ is out now. Catch him at Live at Leeds festival on 29th April.

Lucy Milburn

(Image: Redbull)

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