At the end of last year, I chatted to Singer/Songwriter Tom Grennan about his debut EP Something in The Water, his almost overnight success, and his plans for the coming year.
Having just released the EP you’ve been getting fantastic reviews and reception – has it all sunk in or is it still surreal?
Not really, it still feels a bit mad but I’m just plodding on. I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Can you pinpoint a defining moment for when you realised everything was taking off for you, or has it been a gradual process?
It’s been a gradual process. The Wireless performance I did was pretty mad ‘cause about two weeks before that I played at a pub, to probably about a hundred people, and then played over the road at Finsbury park to 55,000 people. So that was a big step.
With this being your debut release, how did you find the recording process? Did you have the songs pre-written before going into the studio?
Yeah, I had them written and then had little demos of them. Charlie Hugall who produced the EP just put his magic to it really; the process of it was fun, creative. It was wicked.
In terms of that creative process behind the songs, do the lyrics and music come together at the same time for you, or do you tend to work on one before the other?
It kind of comes in waves, it’s a bit of both. Sometimes I’d have lyrics and I’d go home and try to put music to them, or I’ll have a melody in my head and then put a lyric to it; but some days are different.
Do you find that lyrics are more important for you than music?
Yeah, I’m a lyric man, I love lyrics. I love sitting down and bettering a lyric and stuff like that.
I think what’s interesting about your lyrics is that they’re so easy to connect to.
Yeah, that’s what I’ve tried to do. I tried to make them as real as anything, at the end of the day we’re all people, and most people go through the same kind of stuff. We all have a different story, but all kind of connect with the same things. I just try to keep them as real as possible.
Do you have to have gone through something personally to be able to write about it, or can you draw on the lives of people around you for inspiration?
Both. Friends and people that I’ve met, I take inspiration from them, and from my own stories, and try to put them all together really.
How did your collaboration with Chase & Status on the track All Goes Wrong come about?
I got the call out of the blue really, I was about to sign my deal and then my publisher sent one of my songs to Chase & Status and they loved it and were like ‘we want to work with him’. It happened naturally really, and then went in the studio to record All Goes Wrong.
You’ve done loads of shows with them, how has that been?
It’s been wicked, I’m on tour with them at the moment so it’s been crazy. It’s been big shows, a lot of energy, and it’s been a dream really.
Apart from on All Goes Wrong, have you done a lot of co-writing with other artists?
At the moment I’m co-writing with a lot of different people in the studio album-wise and for my next EP, because I believe two minds are better than one anyway.
Is there anyone in particular you’d love the opportunity to write with?
Adele, one hundred percent. That would be amazing.
Having grown up in Bedford and moved to London, how did local gigs and the respective music scenes influence you?
Massively. My first gig was in Bedford and I met some of my best mates through doing gigs, and the amount of stories that we’ve made together that have become songs has been wicked. The music scene, especially in Bedford when I first started, was wicked. It was amazing, and it’s taught me a lot; going to London taught me a lot.
How does it feel going from those local gigs to being about to start a headline tour?
The step has been crazy; it feels like I’m living a dream. It’s the shows I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m doing them.
Performing on Jools Holland and Radio 1’s Live Lounge must have been incredible.
Yeah, Jools Holland was a big dream, and I never thought I’d get to do it, especially this early in my career as well. So yeah, Jools was crazy, and obviously Live Lounge was another dream. I used to listen to it when I worked doing building. We used to drive to work and listen to Fearne Cotton’s Live Lounge. And then to be in the building and to actually do it, and to have a response like we had was crazy, it was a good feeling.
You’ve achieved so much in the last year, do you have any particular ambition for where you’d like your music to take you in the next few years, or are you happy to keep making it and see where it goes?
A bit of both. I like the spontaneity of it all, but I do want to be playing arenas. I do want to be touring the world. So I’m driving for a lot, but I’m also taking everything with a pinch of salt.
2016 has been fantastic for up-and-coming artists, but it’s also been terrible for the loss of music icons. Have likes of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen had any influence on you as a songwriter?
I’m not going to lie – no, not really. It’s been the past year I’ve started listening to Bowie, which really upsets me in a way; I didn’t really give Bowie the time before he died which is really sad, I’m obviously a massive fan now.
Who would you count amongst your biggest influences?
My biggest influences are probably Amy Winehouse, Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Paolo Nutini. I used to listen to a lot of grime music when I was growing up, so I’d say grime is an influence, maybe not in my writing or in my music, but how it’s grown. I used to listen to Skepta ten years ago, and seeing what he’s doing now is an inspiration.
Next year you’re releasing another EP and an album. Can we expect a similar acoustic sound as on the debut EP?
No, no. I’m going big. I want an epic sound. I want brass, I want strings, full band. A lot of instruments and a lot of melodies – epic. Big album.
I’m looking forward to that. Do you have any gigs in Belfast or Ireland coming up soon?
Yeah, I’m going to Ireland – I’m Irish myself; my dad’s Irish so I’ve got a lot of family there. Hopefully I’ll be going over in the new year. I can’t wait to get to Ireland and Belfast.
Tom’s debut EP Something in The Water is available now for purchase and streaming. Be sure to keep an eye out for his new releases and UK headline tour dates in early 2017.