Until now, Tom Bertram was probably best known for turning to music after a heart attack when he was just 17.
The pop-rock singer-songwriter from Havant had heart surgery as a teen after a cocaine binge.
Now, at 20, he’s turned his life around and it’s his music that people are talking about after a series of high profile events brought it to a wider audience.
He performed for the author, cast and crew of Twilight at a special event in Italy. He toured America. And he appeared on the BBC, Sky, Channel 5 and GMTV.
Most recently, Noel Gallagher asked Tom to perform at the aftershow party for his gig at The O2 next month.
All this before he’s even released an album.
In fact, he’s launching his debut long player, Brighter Days, with a sell-out show at The Cellars at Eastney tonight.
Looking back on how it could all so easily never have happened, Tom says: ‘I was at the hospital today and as I sat in the waiting area, I was thinking “if none of that stuff [his heart attack] happened, I’d probably be a labourer”.
‘But I believe everything happens for a reason. That [the heart attack] happened and it changed everything. It put me on the straight road, with a clear head on life.
‘It makes you think about how long you have and what you want to do with that time.
‘I want to make music and fortunately I’ve got a really good following. I’ve got 20,000 fans online already and things are going full steam at the moment.’
Tom, who taught himself to play guitar, sold more than 1,500 copies of his first EP, Wasting Time, in six months, with more than 100,000 plays on MySpace too.
Much of Tom’s support has come from America. On his successful tour in the states, he was introduced to American stars such as Justin Bieber.
‘I got introduced to him in Dallas,’ remembers Tom. ‘He’s a nice genuine normal lad and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. A lot of people don’t know that he was busking at the age of 11 to put food on the table for his mum and little sister.
‘People might not like that he’s a manufactured teen pop star, but you can’t take it away from him that he’s talented. I’m not a huge fan of his music, but if you see him sing with an acoustic guitar, he is really good.’
Having hung out with Bieber and the cast of Twilight, Tom’s no stranger to celebrity circles, but still he is nervous about meeting one of his idols, Noel Gallagher, next month when he plays at the star’s aftershow party.
He says: ‘If there was a band that could sum-up my family and childhood, it would be Oasis.
‘Everyone’s said “if you meet him, just be yourself” but I’m not sure he’d appreciate me screaming and kissing his feet.
‘It’s going to be a great show. His older brother Paul Gallagher is DJing and The Rifles are playing too,’ adds Tom.
He is in talks to appear at major festivals this summer and he’s got 30 other gigs scheduled in the next four months, with a host of local shows including his first ever show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on February 23.
On top of the Wedge and O2 gigs, he’ll also be playing at prestigious London venues including The Troubadour and Proud Camden next month. (The last time he played at Proud, fans flew over all the way from Italy to catch his 30-minute set.)
Then, from late June to August, he’ll be touring America again.
Says Tom: ‘It’s all happened really fast. It’s snowballed.’
His album launch show tonight at The Cellars at Eastney sold out in a couple of weeks, but organisers are trying to increase the capacity to allow more fans to get tickets.
Tom continues: ‘I was amazed it sold out because it’s the first show and the album’s not out yet.
‘I still have that worried feeling, ‘Is anyone going to be there?’. I had a dream that I went out on stage and The Cellars was empty.’
But Tom can rest easy because his fans won’t miss this highly anticipated show.
Tickets to The Cellars show coast £7 on the door or £6 in advance. Check availability with the venue on (023) 9282 6249.
You can see Tom Bertram at:
The Cellars at Eastney tonight,
The RMA Tavern in Eastney on March 1,
Drift Bar in Southsea on March 4,
The Birdcage in Southsea on March 16,
The RMA Tavern in Eastney on April 5,
Drift Bar in Southsea on April 8,
The Brook in Southampton on May 6,
The Old House At Home in Milton on May 19,
The RMA Tavern in Eastney on May 24,
The Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations on Knowle Village Fields on June 2,
Little Johnny Russell’s in Southsea on June 12.