Tom Grennan told David Hennessy why he’s glad he was attacked and beaten by strangers when he was 18, how his music career started with a bit karaoke at a party and why his next album is about him being ‘a bit of a twat’
Singer-songwriter Tom Grennan 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.
Tom told The Irish World: “I was attacked and beaten up and yeah, the NHS looked after me very well. That was a long time ago. I think the NHS need to be paid more. They need to be held up on a pedestal. They need to be appreciated and appreciated by the government.”
Lockdown saw many performers doing live streams in aid of NHS charities and 25-year-old Tom was no different due to his immense gratitude to them for how they patched him up.
“A few of my friends work for the NHS and they’re saying things have kind of gone back to normal now, that it’s all been forgotten about. They’re the real superheroes and I think all nurses and doctors, especially nurses, need to be paid more. And that’s in Ireland as well.”
Of course, the attack left its mark on Tom for some time afterwards.
“I couldn’t leave the house for six or seven months. Now it’s a very positive thing that happened in my life and I’m glad it did happen because it spurred me on to do better. It got me out of Bedford where I was living, got me into London, following my dreams and it changed me as a person for the better.”
The screws can still hurt on a cold day but thankfully this is the only way it still affects him as he is free from any long-term trauma.
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.”
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 sister 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.
Tom was still new on the scene when he used his profile and voice for a worthy cause. It was in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster that Tom joined Stormzy, Robbie Williams, James Blunt, Rita Ora and a host of other stars for the charity single, Bridge over Troubled Water.
Thinking back to it now, he says: “It was a massive honour. It wasn’t long after Grenfell as well so to be asked to be a part of such a massive thing was amazing and again it’s still hard to imagine that that has even happened and to try and put into words. Of course, it shouldn’t have happened. Really, the song should never have been recorded but it was, and it was just a massive honour to be a part of it.”
If coronavirus hadn’t wiped out most people’s plans for this year, Tom would have released his second album by now but he sees the big picture rather than feeling sorry for himself and remains philosophical in these difficult times.
“We’re all in the same boat. We’re all in this together. Health is way more important right now. The times will come again where I can put an album out, I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do: Putting an album out when there’s a global pandemic going on. The times will come again where we can go back out and play music and go back out and enjoy music.”
The singles This is the Place and Oh Please have already provided a taste of it but Tom explains more about his next album: “It’s an emotional album. It’s a redemption letter to my ex-girlfriend.
“Unfortunately things didn’t work out. I was the toxic one in the relationship. I was the one who put it all on her. Then I thought it was all her doing. I thought she was the one holding me back. I thought she was the one just being annoying really. Ego got in the way. I actually realised it was me who was the toxic one in the relationship and the one who actually treated her in a way that I really shouldn’t have treated her with just being an idiot.
“I thought because I do music, I can be whoever I want to be and not come home and stuff like that. It just wasn’t nice and I will always, always love her. It’s about the realisation that I was a d**khead basically. It’s all about that.
“I hope it’s not just me in the world who has realised that they’re a bit of a twat.
“It’s an emotional album.
“It’s nothing like my first album, it’s got more of a gospel-pop vibe, bit of blues. It’s not like a guitar-driven album, it’s definitely got a soul element as well. I’ve definitely matured with my writing. My writing has definitely got better through the process of writing my second album. The songs are just way better. I think it’s a strong album so I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
Prior to his attack, Tom was a promising footballer and spent time on the books of Luton Town. He has also admitted in the past that he was close to going over to America to play.
Would he be playing football now if he had not got a break in music? “No, I would probably be on the building site with my dad. I never had a plan B. As soon as this started, I was like, ‘I’m gonna do this and this is what I’m going to do’.”
Born and raised in Bedford, Tom’s father Martin is from Ballycumber in Offaly and Tom knows where his international allegiance would lie if he had ended up playing football: “I would have played for Ireland, yeah. I would have got killed by my cousins if I didn’t.
“I’ve got the Irish blood in my heart and it’s my second home. I just love it so much.
“When I’ve achieved what I want in life, I’m going to retire there, one hundred per cent.”
Oh Please is out now.
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