It’s one milestone after another for 27-year-old Bedford-born lad Tom Grennan. Emerging onto the music scene as the featured artist on Chase & Status’ 2016 platinum-selling single “All Goes Wrong,” it didn’t take long for his own material to propel him into becoming one of the UK’s most prominent and sought-after male artists. Following a run of EP releases, Grennan has spent the past five years as a hitmaking machine with a live reputation. To date, he has accumulated five platinum singles, and 8 top 40 entries while spending over 200 weeks in the top 100.
2018’s Lighting Matches, the first of two gold-certified albums, served as the then-23-year-old’s debut LP and sparked what has been a meteoric rise for Grennan ever since. Avoiding the sophomore slump, 2021’s Evering Road went straight in at No. 1 and proved that Grennan was being embraced by both the industry and the public at large. In the previous two years alone, we have seen him performing on the Reading and Leeds and Isle Of Wight Festival main stages, rack up three BRIT Award nominations, a nod at the IVOR Novello Awards, as well as produce more major collaborations with Calvin Harris (“By Your Side”), Ella Henderson (“Let’s Go Home Together”), KSI (“Not Over Yet”), and Joel Corry (“Lionheart (Fearless)”), the latter of which became the England football team’s anthem during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Based on those statistics and achievements, it’s not hard to recognise how he recently shifted over 180,000 tickets on his most recent European tour, is it?
The booked and busy star meets Principle on a sunny Thursday morning for his cover shoot at a studio in High Barnet. His schedule is all go go go as he’s just flown back into the country after a recent visit to Ireland and has even more promotion straight after the five-hour shoot. Sitting in front of the mirror, I introduce myself to Grennan who is getting his haircut. Despite the blatant tiredness, he is still engaging and a total professional. Grennan moves into another room where the grooming continues and our interview begins. It’s been a few weeks since he conquered his biggest run of headline shows and it’s clear from the tone in his voice and the life in his eyes that he’s still on a high from the experience.
“I felt like it was a whirlwind of emotions. It was a mad thing to see how much the journey has been a constant growth, do you know what I mean?” Grennan says. “It was just a big party, man. The set was amazing, the stage was amazing, the crowds were unbelievable. I feel like me as a showman, I upped the levels and came off that tour thinking, ‘Yeah, I deserve to be in these arenas and I’m gonna stay there too.’” Kicking off the UK leg at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena, Grennan went up and down the country and played in 10 packed-out arenas throughout March.
Concluding at London’s iconic O2 Arena, he recalls pulling up to the venue as a “pinch-me moment” but makes it known that this milestone is only what he considers a stepping stone for his next set of goals. “The next tour it’ll be two or three. I’m excited just to keep building and seeing the journey growing even more,” Grennan says.
During the preparation stages, it was important for Grennan to make sure fans were going to get their money’s worth, at an affordable price. Over the past year, it’s been pretty hard to ignore or for people not to be affected by the cost of living crisis that is impacting the country right now. And like all things that cost money, tickets for concerts have rapidly increased in price. For example, those planning to see SZA on her first UK tour will have to fork out as much as £120 for a standing ticket while nosebleed seats for Madonna’s upcoming “Celebration Tour” are a hefty £225. VIP packages have become the norm and Ticketmaster’s re-sale service is an opportunity to scam customers into coughing up three times more than they should. Grennan recognises that this is a huge problem and made the cautious decision to have tickets for his shows capped under £50, something which his audience expressed appreciation and respect for.
“I think it’s embarrassing when people do it,” he says in response to the inflation of packages. “Don’t get me wrong, each to their own. But for me, my experience with fans is that they have invested in me anyway, in my music and their time. And I don’t want anybody to feel like they’re being taken for a mug, really. I wanted to keep prices down and for everybody to come away from that tour happy and still have a bit of money in their pocket.”
Some may say that the arena tour took place at an interesting time in Grennan’s career. Over the past 12 months, he’s been dropping hit singles that have simultaneously been charting and dominating the airwaves. However, he has yet to release the project they were always intended to exist on. Announced in September of 2022, Grennan’s third studio album, What Ifs & Maybes, still remains unleashed but is scheduled to arrive on June 16 via Insanity Records, who offered him a recording contract after a representative saw him performing live at a pub in Finsbury. Knowing that his audience was going to have to wait a little longer to hear the record in its entirety, Grennan used the opportunity to perform a number of new, unreleased music three months in advance. What could have been considered a gamble resulted in the complete opposite as Grennan recalls fans gravitating toward certain songs pretty immediately.
“I’ve got a song called ‘Psychedelic Kisses’ and I really felt like that one connected with people,” he says. “There was this one fan, she created her own boiler suit with these illuminated, reflected kisses going down it. It was from then that I knew it was obviously connecting. All of them really felt like they deserved to fill the room. I could see that these songs are gonna definitely be loved by people.”
Personally and professionally, Grennan has never been in a better place, and the music on What Ifs & Maybes represents those positive vibrations. The artist previously described 2021’s Evering Road as a breakup album that was written as more of a thank-you note. This one, however, is all about spontaneity and how it feels to be full of life. In return, Grennan wants listeners to be able to match his energy and mindset after hearing it.
“I want this album to be for people who haven’t got the confidence or feel like they can’t get somewhere. If you’ve got a dream, believe in that dream. I’ve done that all my life. And it was only after Evering Road came out that I then really became happy. I found the love in me,” he says. Grennan credits his girlfriend for playing a huge role in his journey to loving himself. “I found my missus and I was just energised by life and I saw everything as a colourful thing. I didn’t have the black clouds over my head. This is what this album’s all about. It’s about just being free and being able to express myself the way I wanna express myself,” he adds. “I want everybody who’s listening to say, ‘I can be what I want to be, do what I want to do, and I’m gonna live everything that I want to live.’”
Lucky enough to be given an early listen to the album, I selected a handful of tracks for Grennan to give fans a little more insight into.
“How Does It Feel,” the most recent offering and the album opener: “I was all in a feeling of connection and I was reminiscing on a time when I really needed to sort my stuff out before I could do anything about the relationship I had with my missus, basically. I wanted to take this song to a place where I sing about how important connection is and I needed it to be a feeling of that and how beautiful intimacy is and just how when you are back in that mode of ‘Let’s meet up again and relight the fire’ kind of thing, and how exciting that is. When I was writing ‘How Does It Feel?’, I was in this mode of just, I’ve got everything I want, I’ve got the girl I want, I’ve got fucking everything.”
“Psychedelic Kisses,” an obvious standout that has already started to become a favorite with fans: “This song happened really late during the album process. I didn’t want to let the fans down who have been with me from the get-go, so I was like, ‘I need to kind of go back to what I was doing years ago, but make it better.’ And ‘Psychedelic Kisses’ happened and I dunno, it was a quick song and it just felt like it was a banger from the get-go.”
The soulful “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” (Funnily, Jennifer Lopez’s song of the same name starts to play in the background when discussing this one): “This one happened early on. I wanted to recreate that Rihanna song with Kanye West and Paul McCartney, ‘FourFiveSeconds.’ It’s one of my favourite songs. I was like, ‘How do we do that song? I want that feeling that that song gives.’”
“Sleeping Rough,” a signature Tom Grennan anthem with a lot of passion: “One of my favorites on the album. We wrote this song with the intention of just telling a story of going, I will literally stay in the cold until you come back and I’ve learned my lesson. Do you know what I mean? We’ve got the album title in the lyrics of that song and it’s one of those songs with a big chorus and it’s just happy.”
The sentimental “Before You”: “‘Before You’ was actually made at the beginning of the record. We went away to Suffolk and I was like, ‘I really want to go in a different direction. I need the DNA of what this record’s gonna be.’ And ‘Before You’ was the blueprint of the whole album for sure.”
After keeping the album under wraps for so long, Grennan isn’t manifesting much that is out of reach. “I’m manifesting a number one album, for sure,” he says. Given that he achieved that with the previous, that seems more than likely. He would also like to see himself headlining stadiums at one point, which for any seasoned live performer is the ultimate goal.
“All I want is for this album to live in people’s lives. I want people to take this album and go, ‘This is the best album that I’ve ever done.’ Because it is. I want it to be one of the best albums of 2023,” Grennan adds. “I don’t like to look too forward. But right now, that’s how I’m feeling about what I want.” As a previous acting student at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, Grennan still has hope that he will be able to put that degree to use in the near future once his diary clears up a little. For right now though, he appears more than happy to focus solely on his career in music.
The biggest lesson Grennan has learned along the way? “Not to be a dickhead,” he replies. “Always just be polite, kind, and have manners as they cost nothing. It’s not just about the music. For me, it’s all of the above. Being able to just be sweet and not take this whole thing for advantage, you know? I’m grateful to be here and I’m grateful for the team and fans that I have.”