Tom Grennan hit the ground running and never truly stopped.
Dashing from show to show, his rise has been a whirlwind one, dominated by that very direct sense of communication he has with fans.
Debut album 'Lighting Matches' is out now, the final stop on a journey that has occupied most of his adult life. With producers such as Frazer T Smith and Dan Grech on hand to assist, it's a refreshing, broad, often surprising debut.
As frank and honest in person as he is on record, Clash caught up with Tom Grennan as he was packing the van for his '12 shows in one day' record breaking attempt...
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How does it feel to have finally released your debut album?
Yeah it’s finally out! It feels good. It’s out in the world, people can now have it, absorb it, take it in, and turn it up loud, and have it for them.
Was it always an ambition of yours as a songwriter to make an album?
When I started making music I always had the ambition to try and write an album. I never thought it would be possible to do it, but then I got signed and that reality, that dream came true.
It’s been a long path for you, did you ever get impatient?
I never felt impatient with it – obviously it was meant to be out earlier in the year. But now it’s out… it just feels good. It feels like this was the right time to release it and get people’s ears around it.
Was recording something you dipped in and out of, or did you set aside a block of time to get the album finished?
I was in the studio writing all the songs, then I had this three month period where I went into the studio and recorded it with different producers. So we had the songs down and then went into the studio and recorded it all up.
Are you fastidious in the studio, or do you aim for something a little closer to your live sound?
I like doing one or two takes. To keep it as fresh and as organic as possible, without overdubbing and all that stuff. I think you can tell when it’s overdubbed, and that’s something that I didn’t really want. I would do one, two, or three takes and then let it be.
Did you want to retain that edge-of-your-seat style performance attitude?
Definitely. Definitely. I’m all about live, and I’m all about playing live, and I love that live atmosphere. I definitely wanted to have that live element in there as well.
Talking of playing live – you’re about to become a record breaker!
Yes! We’ve got three vans going out… so there’ll be one van going out, then I’ll drive, and then the second van will already be at the venue, and so on and so on. And each show has to be outside the radius of 30 miles. So we have to take a lightning rig, it has to be an audience bigger than 12, we have to do at least five songs… it’s going to be a tough day!
Hopefully the traffic will be on our side but we’ll have to see. And obviously the football is on as well! Hopefully we’ll get it done at 7 o’clock on the dot so we can watch it from the whistle.
Football’s coming home and so is Tom Grennan.
Exactly! Hopefully we’ll have the record under our belt as well, which would be good. It’s an incredibly personal record – on the album you sing about loneliness, substance abuse, love…
Yeah. I wanted to go deep into thought, and actually say what I was going through, and what I was feeling, and to be as real as possible, and leave everything out on the table. That was something I was conscious of. I wanted to break down barriers in myself, and not be afraid to say exactly what I was thinking. The people who were listening to it know that I’ve put everything out to be as true as I possibly can.
Frazer T. Smith and Dan Grech produce different parts of the record, what do they bring to the table?
I think with all the producers they didn’t beat round the bush with me, and I didn’t beat round the bush with them either. I went in and just said this is what I want, and they said this is what we want from you, and made this relationship where we weren’t afraid to tell someone if it was good or if it was shit, y’know?
You need honest people around you.
‘Found What You’ve Been Looking For’ was an entrance point into your music for so many people – it’s now had more than 20 million streams…
Yeah! I never really thought it was do what it’s done. At first I wasn’t really into the song and then I re-visited it and I thought, you know what? Actually, this is a banger. And obviously it’s become a football anthem, so there’s that.
At live shows it just goes off, the riff is a proper catchy riff, so it’s a song that has done me wonders. I’m a big fan for myself as well.
Do you often do that, give your material a second glance to find something new?
I do, yeah. Moreso with that one, that’s the one that stands out the most for me, where I didn’t have that instant love for it. And now – obviously – I do.
What does summer hold for you?
Loads of festivals – England, Europe. Going out to South Africa… going to Russia. And then obviously I’ve got a tour coming up in September, October, so lots of shows and then hopefully – definitely – I’m going to be jumping back into the studio to start writing again. I’m going to be a busy boy from now until the next ten years.
Finally: is it coming home?
100% mate. 100%.
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'Lighting Matches' is out now.
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