Tramlines 2019: Tom Grennan on Sheffield, getting lucky and living with mum and dad

Ahead of his second Tramlines appearance, one of the UK’s most popular rising artists talks career progress, his affinity for the Steel City and why moving back in with the ‘rents isn’t such a bad idea.

First of all, tell me about your musical beginnings. How did it all start?
It all started when I was about 17 or 18. I didn’t really do music then, but I found myself singing at a karaoke party and I enjoyed it. After that, some of the music guys at school asked me if I wanted to help them with an A Level music piece of theirs. At first I thought, “No way am I doing that” – but I ended up doing it and loved it. I got the bug for it, and then it all kind of went from there.
After school I moved to London and started to teach myself how to play guitar. I just went out gigging and ended up getting lucky. I got signed after gigging for a while, and then found myself in the studio recording my music.

The move down to London was when you really decided to pursue a career in music?
Yeah, definitely. I was at Uni doing acting in London, but I knew that I wanted to do music. I just didn’t really know how to go about it. I just went gigging and got lucky while I was doing it, I ended up getting recognised. I’m unsure about whether acting was ever really a possible career for me, I just liked being the centre of attention! Acting was something fun that I enjoyed doing.

When did you first realise that you were going to be successful?
I don’t know, I don’t think I am successful yet! I’m doing alright, but I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with it. When you start thinking that you’re successful, you’re done. I’m happy with where it’s going, but I’ve still got way more to do. I’m excited for the future.

On that note, what’s on the horizon for you?
I’m writing at the moment, I’ve got a new album in mind. I’m just in the studio a lot, and I’ve kind of been hibernating a bit to produce the best songs that I possibly can. I’ve moved back home to my mum and dad’s for a bit, so I’m kind of just in a happy place at the moment. Good energy, good people, and not really looking at anything else apart from trying to, hopefully, make a better record than last time. I’m focused on still having a career over the next five years.

Moving back in with your parents might not seem the most rock and roll thing to do. How’s it going for you?
Yeah, it’s nice. Good food, good energy. During creative time it’s nice to not have to worry about anything apart from just getting to the studio and coming home to relax.

You’ve got a bit of a link with Sheffield, most recently having played one of Joe Carnall’s Xmas gigs at the O2 Academy. Looking forward to coming back?
Yeah, Joe is a good friend of mine. I think Sheffield is one of my favourite cities. What do I love about Sheffield? The people, more than anything, as everyone is just really nice. It’s a very family-orientated city, and I’m just a big fan of it. The music that comes out of Sheffield is amazing; it’s all very home-grown. Everybody wants other people there to succeed.

Thanks for the kind words. What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in music?
I’d say just do it, believe in it. Just know that whatever you’re doing is cool. Believe in what you’re doing and try not to be anyone else but yourself. Try not to follow what other people are doing. I don’t know, just gig and do it.

You’ve been described as a ‘soulful songwriter’, what’s the secret for getting real emotion into songs?
That’s like asking where you get the dough from when you make a loaf of bread! I don’t really know, it comes from a place of experience, it comes from stories and being able to tell these stories. One day I will wake up and just be inspired by something, by looking at my dog sat at a window for example. Ultimately it comes from a place of storytelling, and I like storytelling.

We’ll find you on t’Other stage at Tramlines this year. What can we expect to see from your set?
Well, you can expect me to be there! But apart from that, the album. It’s going to be a good sing-a-long, so warm up your vocal chords because we’re all going to be singing for an hour.

While you’re in Sheffield for Tramlines, are you going to be seeing any other acts to put us onto or doing anything in the city?
It won’t just be a flying visit. I’m definitely going to see Reverend and the Makers, and all of that kind of stuff. I’m going to catch up with Joe [Carnall] and just chill. I’ll do the show and then have a beer and experience the festival!

See Tom on t’Other Stage at Tramlines 2019 on Sunday 21 July.

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