Tom Grennan certainly is a special kind of talent. From the raw emotion that’s laced through his music; to the down-to-earth charm of his personality that you just can’t help but love him for. He is a star getting brighter by the day, yet in his own words, still sees himself as “just a boy from Bedford”. It has been a whirlwind of a year for the guy, with the release of his first-class debut album Lighting Matches, to touring the UK on a epic Autumn tour. All while still finding the time to do a skydive to raise funds for the charity Mind, as well as becoming a Guinness World Record holder for playing the most gigs in 12 hours. You could ask where he gets the energy from, but the simple answer is: passion. As well as the desire to keep climbing to the top. I sat down with him last week, before he played a small acoustic set for Amazon Fashion’s new pop-up shop, to talk music, self-belief and what is still to come in the Tom Grennan story.
Congratulations on your debut album ‘Lighting Matches’ – it was wicked. Are you happy with the way it was received by fans?
Thank you. Yeah, 100%. It went top 5. I think it’s the best selling male solo artist record of the year, so yeah.
There’s a lot of self belief on the album – is that a big thing for you?
Yeah, because I didn’t really have much before – I still don’t really have much, but you know what I’m saying. I think I’ve always wanted to strive to be the best, and strive to be better, and strive to like have, I don’t know. To make sure that my Mum and Dad and my Brother are gonna be cool, so yeah. I’ve always thought of myself that I knew that I’ve got something different about me and I’ve always kind of, without lying, I want to be a star, I want to be massive and I want that life. So yeah.
But I like that though. You’re a big brother, right? I’m a big sister. I feel like you take on that responsibility to try and do better for your family.
Of course. Yeah, definitely.
What have been your highlights of the whole journey so far – from releasing the album until now?
It’s all a bit of a highlight. But playing Brixton Academy the other day. It was so good. Obviously the album coming out, playing Reading and Leeds festival and just being able to travel. I got to go to South Africa the other week – it was amazing.
As well as all of that, in 2018 you’ve also been jumping out of planes, smashing world records and touring – have you even had time to take it all in yet?
No, that’s what I’m saying I haven’t had a chance to kind of sit down and think about what’s going on. Maybe in the next few weeks. I’ve just got a sofa, so maybe I’ll have a few days and just sit down on my sofa and actually think about what the hell’s going on.
Yeah, I saw on your Instagram that last night was your first night at home. Right?
Yeah, It was nice to sleep in my own bed.
Have you got a break planned?
Nah, I’ve actually just booked a holiday to go to Havana, which is going to be sick. But that’s not until after Christmas.
We was talking earlier [before the interview] about where you’re originally from, Bedford, now living in London. What are your favourite things about this city? And what makes it different?
When I came to this city I was on my own and it was massive. It was like a thing from nowhere. It brought opportunities. There’s a lot of opportunities in London, a lot of good music in London and a lot of good people in London as well. And like, whether it’s creatively or for me, I don’t know about the other sides of London, but I know about the creative side, I think, of London and there’s a lot of creatives here. I think it’s the best city in the world.
Like, 100%. Just going over that London Bridge and you see London.
The Bridges are the best. I feel inspired every time I go over them. Especially at night, seeing the lights.
One of the things I love most about your story, is that music wasn’t always the route you planned, but yet it’s happened for you, in a massive way – do you think that some things are just meant to be?
Definitely. I’m definitely made to do this and I definitely found, without sounding all cliche, but I’ve definitely found my calling in a sense.
Found what you’ve been looking for?
Are you superstitious?
Er, kind of. I’d definitely go to a tarot reader or something like that and believe that.
Have you done it before?
I’ve done it yeah. And things have… I believe in that stuff. And I believe in like spiritual people, but I don’t know if that’s superstition or not, but I do believe there’s something, there’s another energy.
Like the universe?
Yeah, I believe in that.
Yeah it’s powerful and it lines you up with things.
100%, yeah. You just can’t abuse it though, do you know what I’m saying.
Definitely. Do you have any lucky numbers?
Yeah, 3 and 7.
There’s a few tracks on the album that I feel like I can relate to, at the beginning of your career, how easy was it for you to share personal stuff with the world?
I don’t know. I’ve always been a kind of person, like my Mum and Dad, especially my Mum, has always told me to not be afraid to say what you’re saying and not be afraid to think what you’re thinking. For me, when I started writing music, it was a release for me. When I put it out into the world, or went into a gig and sung a song, it was that feeling that I had when I was writing it about that certain thing, it was kind of that burden off of my back. And I was like, now you’ve got it, it’s out there now and it’s not for me to worry about no more. Now I’ve got like a fan-base and people know my songs and stuff like that, it’s nice because them songs that I’ve wrote and sung, they were a feeling and a thing that’s gone on in my life, but now that other people have got them, it’s for them now. I get messages from people saying it’s helped them out and it’s kind of saved them in certain ways and I’m so glad, because that’s what the song did for me. But now you’ve got it, do what you want with it, and do what you will, and let it be for you.
You’re in a good position, you’re like a role model now – how to do feel about that?
I don’t really see myself [as a role model]. I wouldn’t wake up and look at myself in the mirror and go “you’re a role model”
No, but people are inspired by you.
Yeah, it’s cool. Like for me, it’s funny, innit. I’m just a boy from Bedford. For me to be a role model or an inspiration to people, it’s humbling and I’m very lucky to be in that position and like, it’s cool.
Do you find it easier or harder to build relationships with people, now that you’re in the limelight?
I’m exactly the same. I don’t look at myself as in the limelight, I don’t look at myself like that. I want to be massive and I don’t think even when I’m massive, I don’t think I’ll think like that. But obviously, that might change. Right now I just… I’m friendly innit. Come be my mate.
Is that an invitation?
So we’re here for Amazon Fashion’s pop-up store, where you’ll be performing later – you’re a stylish guy – what does fashion mean to you?
It’s like painting another picture innit. For me, it’s art really. I love just picking out things that don’t match up, or they do match up. But for me it’s painting another picture and it’s something that you can have fun with and it’s something that is just refreshing. There’s all these different styles going about at the moment, with like working man’s clothes and reflective stuff that look like bin men, I love that stuff. And yeah, it’s just creative. I love it really.
Do you feel like it impacts your music and the way people receive you?
I think maybe. I was talking about this the other day. Like the grime boys, there’s a movement with a guy called Slowthai and Octavian and all them lot. Their music’s very fashion led and they’ve got all these designer clothes and that. But I don’t think my music’s like that. I love fashion, but I wouldn’t say my music’s fashion led. Maybe it will be one day. I do focus a lot on my fashion, because then I feel like if you look good, you feel good and you perform good.
It gives you confidence doesn’t it. You share the Gemini sign with the likes of Tupac, Kano and myself – do you think you’re a typical Gemini?
Sick. Probably, yeah.
The two sides?
Yeah. Not in personality. But like, I’m either calm or I’m either, like, put a drink in me and I’m a different person. But not a bad person, just like, I’m everywhere.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
To keep doing what you’re doing, mate. Stop worrying as well. Even if I didn’t end up in this position, I’d still say like, stop worrying, enjoy your youth. And I’m still youthful, but enjoy your teens. Get fucked up, even more.
I’m excited for your future, so no doubt you are too – what’s next in your story?
Thank you, I appreciate that. Hopefully big things. Obviously new music, more shows. I’m ready to smash it!
You’ve got your eyes set on Wembley Stadium, haven’t you?
What are your plans for New Year and who will you be spending it with?
New Years Eve I’m going to Manchester to play in a gig and then I’m going to Havana. But my New Year in general, like 2019, I wanna spend a lot more time with my parents and stuff, but obviously I’m going to be working hard. And I’m going to be spending a lot more time with myself as well. And just trying to figure out what I want to do, and what space I want to take, and what road I want to travel down, and what music I want to put out into the air.
Your favourite place in the world: Where my Dad’s from in Ireland, Offaly
Stage or studio? Stage
Best city from the tour? London
Do you drive? Sometimes
Last time you took public transport? Before tour. I’m always on the bus. I’m always on the tube
Really. Do you get stopped? Sometimes. But I’m like, “cool, what you saying?”
Favourite alcoholic drink? Brandy
One thing you want to do but haven’t done yet? A world tour
By Demi Leigh
Read our live review on Tom Grennan’s Amazon Fashion pop-up gig here