Belfast Telegraph

Tom Odell says playing on stage is not daunting 'but the interest in my private life was a bit of a shock'

Tom Odell, who was discovered by Lily Allen and named songwriter of the year at the Ivor Novello Awards in 2014, reveals that he doesn't want to do stadium gigs and the pressure of stardom

By Vishal Rana

Tom Odell hit the height of fame at the same time as a lot of other young singer-songwriters. The likes of Jake Bugg, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard and had us all revelling in the sound of young male angst coupled with acoustic melodies. His debut studio album, Long Way Down, was released in June 2013 to critical acclaim, and established Odell well and truly, and deservedly so, on top of the music scene.

He is just about to go on stage at a sell-out London gig when we meet, but Odell is calm, focused and measured. He seems surprisingly composed for someone still so young. Odell (26) says: "I'm looking forward to this, very much so. The last time we did Brixton was at the beginning of the tour and I was terrified; this time we've done a few other gigs around the country so I feel a lot more oiled."

Yet there is still a young innocence about him - deer in headlights is a metaphor that wouldn't be completely out there - after all, it's only four years since he was an unknown doing circuits around small towns.

However, the boy backstage is a very different man on stage. Confident, collected and oozing charisma, it's clear that performing comes naturally to Odell. And it's no surprise Lily Allen once compared Odell's stage presence to that of a younger David Bowie. Allen went on to sign Odell after seeing him perform in London. He recalls: "I was doing lots of shows in Brighton and then started coming to London. Someone had told Lily about my music and she came and met me at the gig and signed me to her label, she had an imprint at Columbia Records."

Despite the Bowie comparisons, Brixton on this night belonged to Tom Odell in his sharp navy suit. Odell says of his second album Wrong Crowd which was released this year: "This album is closer to what I wanted to make. The first album I felt a bit naïve as it was my first time in the studio. Second time round, I felt I had a little more creative control and could be myself."

On performing the second album on tour Odell says: "It's been really incredible to be playing the songs live. It's been great coming back and doing this tour, it feels like a second date with someone, the audience and I know each other a little better, there's more of a rapport, it feels more genuine."

The relationship with the audience that he speaks of is also genuine - and it's important to the singer/songwriter who adds: "I don't want to sell out stadiums, I have no desire to chase that. I want the people who come to see me come back to a show in two years' time, that's what my ambition entails.

"I think having done the second record and being able to come back here is great, people coming back and bringing others, it's happening organically, it feels more real than anything I felt in that crazy first year. It's a contentment that fills something deeper than the instant fame. This is what I dreamed off when I was 13."

Despite the successes, overnight fame can have its drawbacks, and being thrust into the limelight at a relatively young age has proved much of a challenge time and time again. Odell says: "I went a bit weird for a few months, I'd been doing gigs for so long, so playing on stages wasn't daunting, the daunting side was the interest in my private life, it was relatively minor compared to more public figures, but it was interesting nonetheless - it was a real shock. I was a wide-eyed kid, I didn't get much sleep and it was difficult to take in."

Odell may seem wiser than his years, less likely to be swayed by the lures of fame, less likely to go down a path with a little less light, but the fact of the matter is, he loves his craft, it's a genuine passion.

He explains: "I find songwriting is the thing that makes me get up in the morning, I feel impassioned by it and spend a lot of time doing that. The whole process of the challenge of songwriting is something I feel that, regardless of what I do in my career, I will always love."

Odell won the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2014, joining artists such as George Michael, Damon Albarn and Phil Collins, adding: "I remember reading about it at 14 years old. I thought back then it would have been mind-blowing to win that, so when I did it meant a lot to me."

Despite an incredibly successful No Bad Days tour, Odell is already looking ahead, "There will be more touring in February through to April and I'm hoping do some more festivals. I also want to make another album next year. I've been writing a lot."

He closes our chat with his thoughts on the next year and his enthusiasm is genuine and contagious - this is a boy that has become a man in the public eye and he just wants to make good, honest and real music. He adds: "I'm really excited about next year, I can't wait to get back into the studio."

Odell's new Christmas EP Spending All My Christmas With You is out now on Columbia Records. For tour details visit ticketmaster.co.uk/tom-odell-tickets

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph