Tom Grennan, English singer and songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about wanting to be a footballer, his musical inspirations, his debut album Lighting Matches and his forthcoming headline tour.

Tom Grennan is singer songwriter from Bedford who was recently picked as one of the NME 100 Most Essential New Artists to keep an eye on in 2018.

At aged 18 he was attacked by a group of strangers that left him badly injured resulting in him having screws and plates in his jaw for life. That experience spurred him on to develop his music, which is polished pop-soul with a wide boy touch that is fast earning him acclaim.

At a house party during his A level years he got very drunk and started to sing the Kooks’ Seaside; the first band that he saw live. His friends assured him that he was better than a boozy karaoke singer, so he began making his music.

He taught himself to play the guitar whilst studying acting at University. After graduation he worked at a coffee shop during the day and sought out open mic nights in the evening. Eventually, label managers started to take notice and he eventually landed a record deal.

Since then he has released three EPs, duetted with grime MC Bugzy Malone, obtained permission to sample Oasis’ Wonderwall and provided the soundtrack for Sky’s Premier League coverage.

Whilst preparing for his first headline tour, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Tom how are you?

Hello Kevin I’m fine thanks, how are you, are you alright?

I’m very well thank you and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s no problem man.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Oh mate, life is great. Life at this moment in time is a bit weird, a bit mad, but life is good man. I am really enjoying it.

I have to say that whilst I have not heard all of the album as yet because you are keeping it very close to your chest, but the few tracks that I have heard off Lighting Matches, I think are brilliant.

Thank you so much. You don’t have to wait that long as it will be released on 18th May (laughter). I can’t wait to get the album out there and for the people to hear it. I really am excited.

Please don’t take this as anything other than a compliment but I think that your voice sounds a little like Finley Quaye. Would you agree with that?

I’ll take that, thank you.

Are you happy with the album?

I am deliriously happy with the album. To me, making the album felt like a natural and organic experience. I feel that I have created something that I am so very proud of. I can’t wait for the people to hear it, and yes, I am so very happy with it. It’s my baby (laughter).

You have written fifteen tracks on the album; just how long did it take you to write the album?

To be honest with you I was writing songs for the album for just over a year.

What was it like working with Fraser T Smith (Stormzy, Adele, Kano, Plan B) and Dan Grech (Liam Gallagher, Killers, Radiohead)?

Unbelievable. Dan is so nice and we are now friends. We actually grew up in the same place and we went to the same school weirdly enough. And what can I say about Fraser except that he is an absolute legend.

The two stand out tracks for me are Run In The Rain and Praying.

Thanks so much that is great to know.

I have been looking at the video for Praying and I have got to ask you, are you a soulie at heart?

Mate, I’m not just a soulie at heart, I love blues and soul, that’s my bag man.

I was just looking at your polo shirt, the Harrington jacket and the Loakes loafers. It somewhat gives the game away (laughter).

(Laughter) yes man, a soulie at heart always.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Yes there is a song on the album called Aboard; that’s one of my favourites.

The opening track on the album is Found What I’ve Been Looking For. Just what is it that you are looking for?

At the moment I am looking for everything. I don’t know, I suppose that I am looking for the good in everyone, the good in myself, the right path, I am always searching if you know what I mean. I am always searching for better things such as love, friends, experiences, memories, so I am always looking, I am always searching.

You have mentioned that the album has a release date of Friday 18th May, is it now the nail biting period whilst you are waiting to get it out there?

(Laughter) yes it is, this is what I call the shit time because it is now out of my hands. All that I can do is sit and wait to see how the album is received. Having said that I am really excited and I just want to get my music out there now and let the people do what they will do with it. Hopefully they will love it.

Why should I buy the album; this is your chance to sell the album to me?

If you buy this album you will be a different person. I will sell the album to you in three words, exciting, real and homely. When you listen to the album it is like I am your mate. The album is real, very real.

You have got to be pleased because the forthcoming tour literally sold out in minutes.

(Laughter) well in all honesty it may not have been minutes but yes, the tour is fully sold out now.

I have to ask you, whose idea was it to tour the UK a full two months before the album is released?

To be honest the album was originally going to be released in March but we have now pushed it back. It was meant to be an album tour but we have now pushed it back to May so I can’t really explain that to you. All that I can say is that I am really excited at the thought of being out there on tour. It can’t come soon enough for me. By the time that the tour comes around there will be a few of the songs from the album out there on YouTube so it won’t be as bad as it sounds at the minute (laughter).

Despite that, does the thought of touring the album excite you?

Yes it does. I feel as though my home is out there on stage and that really does excite me. That is where I feel the most relaxed.

The tour hits Rock City here in Nottingham on Saturday 24th March, just what can we expect?

What can I say, expect the unexpected (laugher). You should expect high energy, big vocals, and Tom Brennan on stage with you. You can also expect my band to be wicked; they really are a tight knit unit. I can’t wait to get back to Nottingham, I absolutely love the city. I have heard that there are some really good places to get a drink in the city. I will most definitely be trying one or two (laughter).

How many of the new songs do you think will make it onto the set list?

The honest answer is that I simply don’t know yet because we haven’t as yet started rehearsing. However, having said that I suppose that most of the songs off the album will make it onto the set list for the forthcoming tour.

Will you have any surprises up your sleeve for us?

(Laughter) what can I say, maybe, maybe (laughter).

When are you expecting rehearsals to begin?

I am hoping to start rehearsals sometime early in March.

Will you be playing any of the UK festivals this summer?

Yes I will be playing loads of festivals man, loads of them. I am playing Reading, Leeds, Transmit, Latitude, and I am sorry but they are the only ones that I can talk about at this moment in time (laughter).

Who has musically inspired you along the way?

I grew up on UK Rap and Grunge but I am actually a massive fan of Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, Plan B, but then I am also a massive Hip-Hop fan. I wouldn’t say that any of those artists individually have influenced the album but I have taken elements from many different people and different styles of music and I have tried to make a classic record.

Whenever you get any down time who do you listen to; who do you go back to?

That’s easy, for me it is Amy Winehouse, Ella Fitzgerald, Snoop Dog, I love all types of music. Don’t laugh but I am a massive Artic Monkeys fan. I love what Kasabian are doing at the moment together with Liam Gallagher’s new album and all of the classic Oasis stuff. I am simply a massive music fan.

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

No man, I always wanted to be a footballer but it simply didn’t happen. I always had a dream of playing football for Manchester United but it simply didn’t happen. I remember watching David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs and thinking that was what I wanted to do but it simply didn’t happen for me. I even went over to America to play football but that didn’t happen either but luckily enough I found music on a drunken karaoke night (laughter). It was at that point in time that I thought ‘yes, I want to do that’ (laughter). I was lucky to find music and that is now where my heart is.

Now that you have found music, where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

That’s easy, in five years’ time I would love to be playing to a sold out Wembley Stadium.

What was the first record that you bought?

The very first record that I bought was Curtain Call: The Hits by Eminem.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

That was The Kooks.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That was Adel, she gets to me every time that I listen to her.

Tom on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been great and I will see you at Rock City.

Nice one Kevin, you take it easy and I hope to catch you at Rock City.