Wandering around the offices of Sony Music Ireland HQ in Ballsbridge, we easily spot Tom Grennan with his mop of curly hair and brightly coloured clothes. Pop singer-songwriters tend to stand out from the crowd, though Grennan has a definite relaxed air about him for someone topping the charts. He’s just returned to Dublin after a brief stint in Westmeath with his cousins, his mood laidback ahead of a packed Irish media schedule.
“I’m heading home tomorrow. Westmeath was lovely. It was good to be back with family, chilling out,” he tells me in the meeting room, his pink vape on the glass table in front of him. “Just having that time to relax. I know the area pretty well anyway, so it’s great to stop in.”
Having performed at Cork’s Live at the Marquee last summer, Dublin venue Fairview Park will mark his second major Irish outdoor show in the space of a year. What’s special about it?
“It’s summer!” he grins, shrugging. “Everybody’s up for celebrating being outside, enjoying music and having a good time. I love an outdoor show for that reason, but then the Irish crowd is a different crowd. Everybody is up for it from the get-go. It’s always amazing.
“Every day is unique. When I come to Ireland, I see that everyone is on your side from the very beginning. Sometimes England is impossible to get that kind of pace. You just have to work the crowd a bit more than you do over here. It’s always fun.”
Storming new single ‘How Does It Feel’ is the latest cut from Grennan’s third studio album What Ifs And Maybes, which is set to be released on June 9. Premiered on Clara Amfo’s BBC Radio 1 show the day of our interview, Tom seems unphased.
“It’s happening,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I’ve been listening to this song in the car for so long, but I just need people to take it and let it be theirs. It’s a different side to me and also another taste of what the album will be. It feels good.”Grennan first appeared on the charts through his 2016 Chase & Status feature ‘All Goes Wrong’. Why are electronic artists like Disclosure sublime at launching new voices?
“They must have a good ear. Chase & Status are a massive part of what I’m doing now. They just gave me the confidence that I could do it. They heard something in my voice that they knew people would like – these musicians know their craic. I’m into different types of music. If anybody says they want to do a song, and it’s the right feel and time, then I’ll do it.
“KSI and Joel Corry are very different characters,” he says of his more recent collaborators. “I just throw myself into things I don’t think I’ll be comfortable in. I like the uncomfortable, I like testing myself and seeing what works. I get on with Joel and KSI well, so it was fun.”What Ifs And Maybes is unequivocally a faster-paced album than 2021’s Evering Road, with few ballads in the mix. Post-lockdowns, dance-pop tracks with huge choruses are all the rage.
“I don’t think about the pressure,” shrugs Tom. “Honestly, post-Covid and with what my other album was, I had to draw a line under it all. I was entering a different chapter of my life. I was happy I was free and I am still. Creatively, I was in a place where I could do what I wanted to do. I could finally make the music that made me feel good – that’s what this album is about.”A standout track is undoubtedly the soaring, gospel-like pop anthem ‘Crown Your Love’.
“Thank you very much!” responds Tom. “A Claddagh ring was actually the inspiration behind that song. My mum used to wear them sometimes. She asked if I knew the meaning behind it, and she said, ‘Hold your heart in my hands and I’ll crown your love forever’. I went, ‘That is a serious song title!’“Some friends and I wrote it in a session after racking our brains trying to find an idea. I explained the lyric I wanted to experiment with and they said it sounded like gold.”
Are you sick, I wonder, of being asked about The Kooks’ 2006 hit ‘Seaside’? For context, Grennan revealed he was singing that song at a party when he was 18 for his friends, which effectively kickstarted his attempt to make it in the music industry.“I hate that question now – if people ask me about it, I quit!” says Tom, shaking his head with a grin. “It’s been done. We know enough about me now, we’re past that. I’m three albums in now. I feel like I’m established and interesting enough to ask me about something different. Not about when I was 18, that was fucking ten years ago. I know Luke [Pritchard] and the band pretty well. They know the story and tell me to shut up about it now!”
Is there someone within the industry who offers golden nuggets of advice?“I’d love to say there is, but I don’t have anyone like that,” says Grennan. “I’m a lone wolf, if I’m honest, when it comes to the industry. I’ve got a lot of friends who are musicians and whatnot, but I feel I’m pretty sweet with where I’m at right now. I’m happy. If I need advice or I need help with anything at all, I’d go to my missus, my mum or my family.
“In the next while, I’d love to have a number 1 record around England, Europe and further afield. Just being able to keep building, to keep progressing without falling off, is on the bucket list. I’m on my third album, and it’s rare to see an artist still progressing at this stage.”