Rolling Stone talks to UK pop singer Tom Grennan ahead of his 2022 Australia Tour
Tom Grennan has spent much of 2021 putting the sophomore slump phenomenon to shame.
The London-based pop singer released his second album, Evering Road, in March. The record debuted at #1 in the UK charts and the single “Little Bit of Love” has gone Platinum. But the album’s 14-track, 46-minute duration isn’t the extent of Grennan’s 2021 output.
In April, Grennan was back in the UK top ten courtesy of the song, “Let’s Go Home Together”, a collaboration with fellow UK rising star, Ella Henderson. “Let’s Go Home Together” remains in the UK top 100 five months later, making it Henderson’s most successful release since her chart-topping debut single, “Ghost”, from 2014.
In June, Grennan featured on the Calvin Harris single, “By Your Side”, the Scottish producer’s latest attempt at penning the song of the summer. “By Your Side” thrust Grennan straight back into the UK top ten and quickly joined “Little Bit of Love” and “Let’s Go Home Together” in surpassing 50m global streams.
But that wasn’t it for Grennan, who recently turned 26 years old. In early September, he released the single, “Don’t Break the Heart”, one of five new tracks to appear on the Evering Road Special Edition. With a couple of extras having already surfaced on the album’s deluxe edition, Evering Road is now a 21-song, 70-minute album.
Watch the official music video for ‘Little Bit of Love’
“I think I wrote 130 songs,” says Grennan, who roped in more than a dozen producers and twice as many co-writers to bring Evering Road together. “I just didn’t want [the leftover songs] to collect dust, to be honest. I didn’t want them to not be heard and I felt like they still made sense to the record.”
Grennan’s debut album, Lighting Matches, came out in July 2018. Recorded when Grennan was just 21-22 years old, Lighting Matches put the spotlight on Grennan’s mighty vocal facility and knack for taking command of familiar pop melodies.
The songwriting was split between radio friendly pop rock a la Blossoms and the sort of rousing pop-soul that’s proliferated in the post-Adele era. Although Grennan didn’t quite stamp his name on either genre, the album won him an enthusiastic fanbase, reaching #5 in the UK charts and eventually going Gold.
On Evering Road, meanwhile, Grennan extinguishes any ambiguity regarding his core focus. “I make pop radio tunes,” he says, speaking to me on Zoom as part of his Australian virtual media tour. “That’s what it is and that’s what it is always probably going to be.”
“Little Bit of Love” is a prime encapsulation of that which gives Evering Road its broad appeal. Essentially, Grennan and his crew of co-workers—whose previous clients include Lewis Capaldi, Tom Odell and Dua Lipa, to name but a few—sought to combine heart-on-the-sleeve singer-songwriter traditionalism with the snap-to-grid polish of contemporary pop.
Watch the official music video for ‘Something Better’
The results are nothing if not familiar. “Little Bit of Love” is built around the I-V-vi-IV chord progression—famously deployed in everything from The Beatles’ “Let It Be” to Blink-182’s “Dammit” and Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods”—and one listen is enough to implant the chorus in your brain for several days.
“It’s a simple song, but listen, nursery rhymes are simple tunes and they lock onto kids’ eardrums and they go round and round and then adults starts singing it with their kids. And that’s what we’ve done,” Grennan says.
He continues: “If you start over-analysing and start thinking, ‘It needs to be this cool thing,’ it’s like, fucking no it don’t mate. It just needs to be fish and chips. It just needs to be that nice, cool meal that everybody loves and you don’t need to be putting no weird shit on the side, like caviar on fish and chips.”
In other words, Grennan’s professional ambitions are utilitarian in nature. But even so, saying Evering Road is the musical equivalent of fish and chips is a bit misleading. For one thing, Grennan has a charming, geezer-like personality, which shines through in his photo shoots, music videos and media appearances. He also sings with an unmistakable vocal rasp, a result of his customary high-velocity vocal delivery.
“I have my own little things, I’m creative,” says Grennan. “But my way is just like, I want to hit every person.”
Watch ‘Little Bit of Love’ performed live from the Late Show with James Corden
“Little Bit of Love” has essentially done just that, attracting nearly 200m global streams and more than 20m YouTube views. It’s been certified Platinum in Australia too, leading to an appearance on Channel 10’s The Project and a televised performance on the eve of the AFL Grand Final. In June 2022, Grennan will fly to Australia for a tour of capital city club venues.
But he’s not declaring mission accomplished just yet. Beneath an acoustic performance of “Little Bit of Love” on YouTube, a number of commenters voice frustration at Grennan’s perceived maltreatment by the arbiters of pop hegemony. “How is this guy not absolutely massive” says one, while another states, “I don’t care if he’s underrated, he’s my secret to enjoy.”
“It’s true,” says Grennan, siding with the YouTube commenters. “This whole game is luck and at the moment I’m having a bit of luck. But do I think that I’m underrated and not as big as I should be? Yeah, I do, to be honest.”
Grennan’s candour is refreshing—he has no time for self-defeating soliloquies about the virtue of creative insularity—but it does raise some questions. Namely, if your primary aim is to become “that nice, cool meal that everybody loves”, is anything short of playing the Superbowl halftime show going to feel like a failure?
“Listen,” says Grennan, chewing it over, “Would I like to be worldwide and known by millions of people, being really famous? I would actually, yeah. But am I happy with where I am right now? 100 per cent, and I will never be bitter in that sense.”
Watch the official music video for ‘Amen’
All this talk of top tens, streaming figures and status, but what does it amount to? Chart success isn’t the reliable indicator of pop cultural dominion that it once was. And as for Grennan, well, he’s observed much of his recent success from the confines of COVID-19 lockdown in his London flat.
But as high-vaccination numbers and rapid testing has allowed the UK to reopen, Grennan’s success is finally being concretised. In late August, he appeared at the Reading and Leeds festivals for the third time in his short career. Official footage from Reading shows Grennan and his band leading a massive crowd sing-along during “Little Bit of Love”.
Such enthusiastic crowd involvement will no doubt be a common feature of Grennan’s September-October tour of England and Scotland—tickets for which completely sold-out in advance—and his trip to Australia next June.
“I’ve never been to Australia, so it’s a dream,” Grennan says. “I’m going to make sure we have a big old party and I’m going to make sure that I get invited back to Australia.”
2022 Tom Grennan Australian Tour Dates
Wed 8 June – The Triffid, Brisbane
Thu 9 June – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Fri 10 June – The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Presale available from 10am local Thursday 30 September via secretsounds.com
General onsale starts 10am local Friday 1 October