It’s been a whirlwind few months for Tom Odell. One minute he was living at home in Chichester, the next his face was plastered all over the media, who declared him pop’s big hope for 2013.
Bagging the BRITS Critics’ Choice Award (whose previous winners include Emeli Sandé, Ellie Goulding, Florence And The Machine and Adele) was the icing on top of a remarkable six months for the 22-year-old whose rise to fame has involved more than a dash of good luck.
After moving to London to seek his fortune, Odell was playing one of his first ever gigs to handful of people at the Queen of Hoxton pub, when one of the audience members took a shine to him and told a friend of a friend all about him. That friend just happened to be a certain Lily Rose Cooper, who just so happened to have set up her own record label – an imprint of Columbia Records.
A series of industry showcases followed, as did a tour with Jake Bugg and an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland, while his single Another Love soundtracked every TV and fashion show worth its salt. But is he worth the hype?
Put simply, yes. His rousing piano ballads don’t break any moulds, but his heart-aching vulnerability could send a shiver down the stoniest of spines. He’s been writing music since he was 13, is classically trained and hammers the keys with a passion that belies his pop tendencies; flitting between snarly, short tempered and angst-ridden, tender and mournful. Channelling the likes of Jeff Buckley and Ed Harcourt, he could be the antidote to the cluttered female singer-songwriter market.
His album, Long Way Down, is due out later this year, and his first headline tour kicks off in March. In the midst of all the hype and chaos, he answered a few of the questions we were itching to ask…
musicOMH: Your name’s cropping up in a countless lists of acts predicted to do well in 2013 – how does that feel? Does it add to the pressure of your first tour?
Tom Odell: Feels pretty good. I mean, end of year tips are pretty strange because I guess it’s all critics – just speculation – but it’s nice that people have been enjoying the EP. I put a lot of work in to it. Pressure… maybe?! I think most artists put a considerable amount of pressure on themselves regardless, I know I do. I get pretty nervous before most shows – still working on getting that under control.
OMH: What’ve been the highlights of the last few months?
TO: I’ve been religiously watching Later with Jools for years so it was incredible and very surreal to be on that show. Still can’t quite believe it. Touring with Jake Bugg was a lot of fun as well; I’ve always loved travelling, and to be able to do that and play music, I can’t think of anything better to do.
OMH: Going back to the beginning, what inspired you to first start writing music?
TO: I’ve always been obsessed with music ever since I can remember, but I remember my dad gave me a copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John when I was about 11 or 12. It got me interested in writing melodies. Lyrics came a little later. And I started singing because I needed a way of getting my songs out there.
OMH: You’ve been compared to the likes to Ed Harcourt and Jeff Buckley – are they the sort of artists you listen to?
TO: Yes, I actually met up with Ed to write a song with him last year. I love his music, but I think we were too similar so didn’t really manage to come up with anything. Jeff Buckley goes without saying, he was incredible. Grace is an incredible album. I also love Randy Newman, I Think It’s Going To Rain Today is one of my favourite songs, I did a cover of it yesterday.
OMH: How did you come to be signed to Lily Allen’s label? Has she given you any advice on breaking into ‘the biz’?
TO: A friend of a friend of hers happened to be at one of my shows when I first starting coming up to London. Then she came down to a show and a few weeks later she took me down to Columbia Records to meet them. She’s great, and it’s amazing to be on an imprint like In The Name Of because I get that additional care that a lot of major label artists don’t get.
OMH: What can we expect from your first album?
TO: It’s got quite a live feel. I wanted it to sound quite raw; just piano, bass drums bit of guitar. I always want it to be about the songs, the lyrics and the melody.
OMH: With everyone singling you out as the big thing for 2013, do you have any tips for 2013 yourself?
TO: I love Haim, but then so does everyone else. I like that band Wolf Alice, they’ve got a few tracks online and seem pretty cool.
Tom Odell’s new single Hold Me is released on 1 April 2013, with his debut album following in June through In The Name Of/Columbia.