To say that British singer-songwriter Tom Grennan has had a successful 2017 so far is probably a bit of an understatement – from nabbing a place on the much acclaimed ‘BBC Sound of’ list for this year to announcing the release of his debut album, Lighting Matches, for next March, it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty good ten months. I chatted to Tom ahead of his sold out show at The Old Firestation in Bournemouth to talk stage fright, festivals and drunken nights on tour.
How has the tour been going so far? Have there been any highlights?
The tour’s been really, really good. KOKO was a bit of a highlight, last night was a bit of a highlight. But it ended up being messy after. That’s why we’re all tired! We’re all fragile right now. The whole thing’s been pretty full of highlights. Very fun.
You were featured on the longlist for the BBC Sound of 2017 – have you found that it’s had an impact on more people discovering you and your music?
Yeah probably. I don’t really know though. When I got put on that list, it was all a bit of a whirlwind. It still is. But yeah, it definitely has helped me out loads.
You’re also on the soundtrack for the FIFA 2018 game which is a big deal for you – have there been any other “pinch me” moments that you can think of since you’ve started making music?
Yeah, going to L.A. to work with a songwriter called Diane Warren. Finishing my album. The whole lot has been a pretty big “pinch me” moment.
You’ve just announced the release of your debut album for March next year – are you feeling nervous or excited about putting it out?
Both. ‘Cause I know how good it is. And I know what it could do. If it doesn’t do what it’s gonna do, then I’m sh***ing it, you know what I mean.
How would you describe it and what can people expect from it?
I’d describe it as epic. People can expect choirs, they can expect brass, they can expect orchestras, and they can expect gospel.
Are there any songs on it that you’re particularly excited about or proud of?
Yeah, there’s one called ‘Aboard’ which I’m playing tonight. But I’m excited about all of it really.
What’s your writing process? Do you find that the lyrics or melody tend to come first?
There’s not really a formula. Either I get a melody or I get a lyric, and then I put lyrics to a melody or vice versa. It kind of goes in and out.
Where do you find that you draw most of your inspiration from when creating music? Are your songs written from personal experience or do you use your imagination?
Both imagination, family experiences. Friends’ experiences, people that I meet randomly that tell me stories, my own stories… It’s all about life isn’t it, and honest experiences.
Were there any artists or bands that made you definitively decide that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Yeah, the first ever song that I sung in front of anyone was by The Kooks, and they were my first gig that I went to. I went to that gig and was like, “I wanna do that.” I love Amy Winehouse and I love Arctic Monkeys as well.
Your first time singing was just getting up at a party and doing it – having not performed your whole life, do you get nervous going on stage?
Not really because I love it. I love people watching me and stuff. I love being the centre of attention.
You played a lot of festivals over the summer – how do you find that festival crowds compare with those at headline shows?
With festival crowds, people don’t buy tickets just to watch you play – well they might do. But 99% of the time that’s not the case.
Do you prefer playing festivals or headline shows? Did you have a favourite festival that you played over the summer?
I don’t wanna see another festival for another year, straight up. With a headline tour, people have bought tickets just to see you. It’s different though, festivals are sick. Boardmasters was probably my favourite – that was sick.
You collaborated with Chase & Status last year and Bugzy Malone a few months ago – is there anyone making music at the moment that you’d like to work with?
I don’t know ‘cause I haven’t really been listening to that much music recently. If anyone, I’d say someone like Dave or anyone in grime. I’d like to get back and do that again.
Check out the latest single, ‘Royal Highness’, from Tom’s forthcoming album below.