Tom Grennan told David Hennessy about his new album, playing Soccer Aid, joining Celebrity Gogglebox and keeping the memory of his Irish cousin alive.
Tom Grennan (28) has just released his third album What Ifs & Maybes with the release preceded by a massive UK arena tour.
He plays Dublin’s Fairview Park later this month and there is no disguising how much he is looking forward to it.
“I’m in the motherland, mate,” he tells The Irish World when we caught up with him last week. “I’m just driving through the countryside of Cork. Loving it.”
Grennan’s father Martin is from Ballycumber, Co. Offaly and Tom has made no secret of how proud he is of his Irish roots. He spent a lot of time in both County Offaly and Westmeath as a child, visiting the boglands and having fun on his granny’s farm.
“It definitely does (feel like home).
“Yeah, my shoulders just… go down when I get here.
“The pressure is off when you’re in Ireland.
“I love this place.
“The smell of it, everything: It brings back memories, you know what I mean? I love it.”
What Ifs & Maybes follows the huge breakout success of his second LP, Evering Road, which topped the UK charts in 2021 and spawned the top 10 singles Little Bit of Love and Let’s Go Home Together with Ella Henderson.
Fans got an early taste of the new album with the singles Remind Me, All These Nights, You Are Not Alone and Here.
How does it feel to be getting the album out there? “Aw man, can’t wait for it to be out there.
“I’ve been sat on it for a while now and I just think people are ready, and I’m ready.
“And I believe it’s a really good record.
“It’s full of colour. It’s vibrant. It’s exciting. It’s fun.
“And it’s one of them records that look forward.
“It looks forward to the future.
“That’s where I am in life right now so yeah, I’m excited.”
There’s certainly been a progression since Tom’s debut Lighting Matches and the reflective Evering Road.
Is this more you, more what you’re about and what you want to put out there? “Oh, definitely.
“I love my first record and my second record but I definitely feel like I’ve matured.
“I’ve learned a lot about my own sound, I’ve learned a lot about the craft and I’ve learned a lot about how to make a record.
“I’ve left no stone unturned.”
What made you want to call it What Ifs and Maybes, is it looking back at what ifs and maybes from your life? “You know what? It’s more the spontaneity of life. What if I didn’t do this and maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now?
“So why not take the risk and do whatever you want to do?
“And dream however big you want to dream.
“That’s what I want this record to do for people: Go out and conquer your own destiny.”
If another person was in Tom’s shoes, they might be hung up on something that he no longer dwells on.
Tom was 18 years old when he was the victim of a random attack by a gang of strangers. He was left to recover in hospital from a beating that was so severe that he still has four metal screws in his jaw. Unbelievably, he now says he is glad it happened.
Lockdown saw many performers doing live streams in aid of NHS charities and Tom was no different due to his immense gratitude to them for how they patched him up.
“I’m glad it happened.
“It shaped me and helped me learn a lot about myself and about life.”
Tom also once dreamt of becoming a footballer, even spending time on the books of Luton Town, as well as trying out for Northampton Town and Aston Villa.
He took part in the recent Soccer Aid which teams former professionals with celebrities for a fundraising charity match. On a day when legends like Paul Scholes, Roberto Carlos and our own Robbie Keane were on the pitch, Tom was player of the match. He also performed the half time show that day after he had just flown to Old Trafford straight from Wembley where he played the Summer Ball.
“It was a dream, yeah,” he says.
“To run out at Old Trafford, to be on the pitch with so many of my heroes is amazing, man.”
But Tom sees no point in going into what could have been, especially as he has so many times before.
“I’ve spoken about football so much and everybody knows that story now.
“That was just a dream when I was a kid, and that was it.”
But to put in a shift like that with the half-time show and all, was it tough? “Obviously it was tiring but at the time you’re just running on adrenaline and the experience.
“I’m gonna have that memory forever now.
“It was crazy.”
After his football dream ended, Tom got into music almost by accident as it was friends of his who told Tom he should pursue music after they were impressed by his karaoke performance at a party.
“I went to a party and it all kind of started from there. There was a karaoke machine and I just jumped on. I didn’t sound the way I sound now but that’s how music started for me. I jumped on the karaoke machine and then ended up joining the band of kids at school and then it all kind of escalated from there.”
All of a sudden, Tom had a new passion.
He would teach himself guitar via YouTube videos and started performing regularly in pubs while studying drama in college.
After releasing his debut EP Something in the Water in 2016, Tom was invited to guest on electronic duo Chase and Status’ All Goes Wrong which was a huge break for the young singer as Chase and Status have a huge following and have worked with big names such as Rihanna, Example, Plan B, Tinie Tempah and Cee Lo Green.
Instantly recognised as one to watch, Tom would be shortlisted for MTV Brand New Award, BBC’s Sound of 2017 and he would be nominated for a Global Rising Star award. His debut album, Lighting Matches, went to number five in the UK charts when it was released in 2018.
Now he is a formidable live performer who has been touring arenas across the UK and Ireland since March on his latest tour.
The Irish World was at Tom’s London O2 show- his largest to date- back in March.
“It was so special,” he remembers of it.
“The whole arena tour, to see how many people were there.
“I felt like I was at home on them big stages, it just makes me want to go on and do bigger and better shows.”
It has been reported that Tom brought a personal trainer with him on tour and we aren’t surprised. There were a few times in that show that we expected him to take a breath only doe him to go straight into another song making it a medley rather than just a number.
“I live and breathe this stuff now, and I don’t want to miss any opportunity so being fit, being athletic and having that mindset of an athlete is how you win and how I win and I believe that’s the way I need to do it.
“It’s working so far.”
The night came with drama when someone in the crowd collapsed. Tom had to halt the show and ensure he got help.
“It was one of those things, everybody’s there to have a good time and obviously safety comes first and thankfully he was alright at the end of it and everybody else then got to have a good time too.
“But yeah, scary time at one point there.”
Many of Tom’s Irish relatives flew from Ireland, and even as far away as Australia, to be there for that show.
But there was one who was sadly missing but still remembered.
Before performing his song You Are Not Alone, the screen displayed a picture of Tom, his brother and his cousin Alan all as young boys.
Tom explained to the crowd that night, ‘we lost Alan a few years ago’.
Although Alan is sadly no longer with us, he is with you every time you step onstage, isn’t he? “Of course he is, he was one of my best mates and I wish he could be able to see what I’m doing now.
“But yeah, he’s with us.
“And I believe to always keep mentioning his name so he lives forever, you know?”
You can be sure the same Irish relatives are going to make the trip to Fairview Park for Tom’s 30 June show.
“They’re all going to be there, definitely.
“Family means everything to me.
“That’s my circle of people and the people that I love and trust the most.
“It’s great for them to experience what I’m experiencing.
“It doesn’t happen to a lot of people.
“I think the Irish audience are always gonna expect big things and there’s big things coming to Fairview Park that day.”
Tom led The London Irish Centre’s St Patrick’s virtual celebrations back in 2021 singing Fields of Athenry as well as his hit Found What I’ve Been Looking For in his Offaly jersey.
Was that a special thing to get to do? “Yeah, of course. It was a special time and to be able to sing in my Offaly shirt and that cover Fields of Athenry always resurfaces around St. Patrick’s Day and whatnot so it’s good.”
Tom and his father Martin have just joined the cast of Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox. Tom told us he thought it could turn his father into a national treasure and he has already been vindicated in it.
“My dad is a funny man.
“I don’t know. I think there’s a space in TV for an Irish daddy.
“We watch all sorts of sh*t on the TV.
“It’s just that his commentary is gold.”
Tom Grennan’s third album, What Ifs & Maybes, is out now. He plays Fairview Park, Dublin with support from Cian Ducrot on Friday, 30 June.
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