Tom Grennan interview: "I need to feel like an athlete when it comes to music"
Tom Grennan makes no bones about the fact he's aiming for another Number 1 with his just-released third album, What Ifs & Maybes. He reached the top with his second LP, 2021's Evering Road, and peaked at Number 5 with his 2018 debut Lighting Matches, so he definitely has impressive Official Charts form.
What Ifs & Maybes has already yielded the Top 40 singles Remind Me, All These Nights and Here, so it's off to a strong start as well. The album contains some of the most personal and accomplished song writing to date from an artist who says he now approaches making music with the vigour and focus of an athlete.
Here, Tom talks about how he's always been an emotional person and explains why therapy has enriched his song writing.
Tom, What Ifs & Maybes feels like a step up for you in so many ways...
Definitely. I'm on my third album now and I feel like [with] a lot of artists, they're on the decline after their third album. Whereas, my directory is going like this [upwards].
My first album, it was a great record, but I listen to it now and I'm like: 'You sound very young.' I had a lot of learning to do. With my second album, I was still learning and doing what I had to do, and thankfully it connected with so many people. But with this album, I can say I've matured and I've learned the artist I want to be. I've changed my whole life; I live and breathe this shit now. And I believe that personally and career-wise, everything is as it should be. I've got my head screwed on and I'm sharp.
Are you very self-critical of your own work?
Of course, I'm human. This is a big thing – when you put out an album or anything into the world. Like, you always go, 'F**king hell, are people gonna like it?' If I was a listener and I put it on, I'd be like, 'This album is great!'
But that's my opinion, and I'm trying to hit as many people as I can, and people are gonna have their own opinions. So, we'll see what happens. But I just know that this album is full of colour – it's vibrant, fun and exciting. It looks towards the future – it doesn't look back. And not only that, but it's full of spontaneity. And I hope that this album gives people the courage and determination to go and conquer their dreams.
You've spoken about cutting back on alcohol in order to improve your mental clarity. Has that affected your creative process at all?
Definitely, man. I feel like I had a cloud over my head for so many different periods of my music career. And don't get me wrong, like, sometimes people can be so, so creative with whatever they're doing. But with how my brain works, I need to be sharp [and] I need to feel like an athlete when it comes to music. And I feel like I'm the most creative when I've had, like, enough time to absorb the day.
We admire the way you're so open about your mental health and the fact you go to therapy. And at your gigs, you see guys especially showing emotion – whether they're super-happy or crying during the ballads – in a way that maybe society doesn't always let them.
I've always been an emotional person – it's my mum, to be honest with you. Like, she's always said: 'Do not be afraid to show your emotions.' And my music is truthful – I can't be anything else apart from truthful. And you know, sometimes it's going to go deep. I hope that it helps as many people as it possibly can, but honestly, it helps me. It helps me to get out into the world and to try and navigate my thoughts and feelings.
Has therapy helped you to be more open and vulnerable as a songwriter?
Definitely. Like, there was a point in my life where I held so much back. And that caused so much stress and anxiety. But being able to talk about it, especially at therapy and whatnot, it's helped me to go into the recording studio and say what needs to say in that room, and then say what needs to be said in a song.
Is there a particular track on the album that you've been excited for people to hear?
This Side of the Room is probably up there with the best songs I've ever written. I feel like, wow, people aren't ready for that song. There's another song on the album called Problems that I love and another one called Head Up that I've actually played at my live shows. But yeah, I'm excited for people to hear the whole album.
Is there anything else that's on your bucket list for 2023?
There's loads, mate, but right now it's all about getting this album to as many people as I can. I'd love another Number 1 album. That's where my head's at right now.
Tom Grennan's What Ifs & Maybes is out now via Insanity Records/Sony Music UK.