The Sound Check: Tom Grennan
11th July 2019
World - ibis Team
“I started by playing open mic nights, going to pubs and asking if I could get a gig. I just kept playing shows around London. I was never writing songs planning to play to loads of people, I was just writing songs to get things off my chest. But I love being in front of an audience, that’s what gives me the buzz, and luckily enough I played a show in Finsbury Park one night where someone from Sony was in the crowd. It went from there. But I’m glad it’s been a slow build, not an instant success. It’s meant I’m still building a career, and I think building it this way is how it lasts.”
Blessed with a uniquely soulful but rough-and-ready vocal, he finally released his debut album 'Lighting Matches' on Sony Music Entertainment in 2018, reaching number five in The Official UK Top 40 Album Chart.
Fans have fallen in love with his anthemic, emotive songwriting, with his festival-favourite single 'Found What I've Been Looking For' now having over 50 million streams via Spotify. Recent headline shows at London’s Brixton Academy and the famous Royal Albert Hall, as well as performances on BBC Radio 1’s much-loved Live Lounge session and Later With Jools Holland on TV have confirmed just how exciting a live presence he is. He remembers his early touring days however, and one amazing moment in particular when he was offered a special opportunity.
“I was lucky enough to get involved with Chase & Status, and soon after found out I was going to play with them at London’s Wireless Festival. The week I heard, I was playing a pub in Finsbury Park and a month later I was playing in front of tens of thousands! On that big day I was just holding all my energy in… you’re never prepared for that kind of moment; you’ve just got to take it in your stride, and it’s the most amazing feeling. Whether it’s a small pub or a main stage, you just have to be you, and give it your all.”
As part of ibis Music, Tom performed three incredibly rare and intimate live shows in London, Manchester and Bristol, with support coming from up-and-coming talent sourced from each city with the help of our partner Spotify. “I think it’s great ibis Music is putting on these shows - it gives a chance for up-and-coming artists like Nxdia and Olly Flavell to play in front of a new crowd. It’s a massive opportunity, and it’s special.”
We spoke to Tom about the songs and artists that have shaped his career and continue to influence him.
Who’s your biggest musical influence?
Amy Winehouse has always been a huge inspiration for my music and I still find her an incredible musical icon. She’s played a huge role in shaping the songwriter I’ve become, and she managed to mix the best of soul music with a punk attitude from her Camden roots. Above all, her songs are timeless. As I’m in the process of writing album two at the moment, I’m also listening to a lot of old music. When I’m writing my own stuff, I like taking inspiration from other worlds, artists from the past. Lots of blues artists… learning how blues vocalists use their voice and learning from their songs.
What track reminds you of being young?
Oasis - 'Wonderwall'. It was played everywhere when I was a kid. I think it's a true anthem that captured all the feeling of growing up in Britain in the 90s and beyond.
Which song is your guilty pleasure?
Ariana Grande - 'One Last Time'. When a song is that catchy, it's humanly impossible not to enjoy it.
Which artist have your heard for the first time recently & loved?
Billie Eilish’s album 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?'. It's got a really fresh sound to the production, and seems to mix up multiple genres effortlessly. The whole thing has a great energy.
Who’s underrated as an artist?
I think Elli Ingram is really underrated. She's got such a powerful voice - check out her cover of Kendrick's 'Poetic Justice' and her amazing debut album 'Love You Really'.
If you could collaborate with one artist who would it be?
It would have to be Kendrick Lamar. He's just such a creative talent, and I'd love to be part of his writing process and see how he works. He's a global superstar who doesn't compromise his creativity. 'DAMN.' was so progressive, cinematic and forward thinking, and the soundtrack for 'Black Panther' was special too.
How do you use Spotify to help find new music?
Spotify have some really brilliantly curated playlists for finding new and exciting music. My 'Discover Weekly' is updated every Monday and always has interesting finds from brand new artists as well as established ones, and I check 'New Music Friday' too.
Check out Tom Grennan's playlist on Spotify to hear a pick of some of his favourite artists. From inspirations like Amy Winehouse and Charles Bradley to new jams from Giggs and Loyle Carner.