It’s a song that shouldn’t have to exist. But rising star Tom Grennan says he was ‘honoured’ when he was asked to take part in the recording of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the charity single in aid of those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
At least 80 people are now presumed dead in the fire which consumed the high-rise earlier this month.
More than 50 stars from the music world, from Robbie Williams to Rita Ora and Roger Daltrey, took part in the hastily arranged recording of the song, which shot to number one, becoming the fastest selling single of the decade.
The London-based singer-songwriter, who was heavily tipped as one to watch in 2017 by several polls, recalls: ‘I got called up and asked if I wanted to sing on it, so obviously I said yes, and I just went in and sung the song.
‘It was very emotional and hard-hitting.
‘I didn’t see any of the others who were on it, it was just in and out, but it’s humbling to be part of – it’s an honour to be part of something that’s still so fresh and shocking. It shouldn’t have happened, this single, but to be asked to do it...’ he trails off.
Aside from the single though, Grennan has got a busy summer lined up. He’s slated to appear at 19 festivals, including Blissfields next week and Victorious in Portsmouth this August, as well as Reading, Latitude and Number 6 Festival. Then he’s off on a solo tour in the autumn.
‘I’ve got a very busy summer,’ he chuckles, ‘I can’t wait though, it’s going to be wicked.’
With his soulful rasp of a voice, newcomer Grennan has established himself as a charismatic performer, selling out his UK tour earlier this year. At the end of 2016 he appeared on the BBC Sound poll, MTV Names of 2017 and was joint second in The Guardian’s Poll of Polls. How did he react to all that attention?
‘I thought it was wicked, mate, I didn’t really take much notice of it at the time, though, because I didn’t want it to get me puffed up. But obviously to be recognised on that level was crazy and I will always be thankful for that, but at the time I kept saying to myself that I had to keep my head down, keep my head focussed and not let it all come in and unfocus me, basically.’
His growing confidence as a performer is typified by the powerful song Praying, the lead track on his recent second EP, Release The Brakes.
However, things could have turned out differently – as a teenager, he had a promising football career, playing for Luton Town, Northampton Town, Aston Villa and Stevenage.
‘I just wasn’t good enough for football, to say it bluntly. I played all right for being 14 or 15, but it’s every little boys dream to become a footballer, isn’t it? I was going to go and play in America for a while, but I didn’t want to do that.
‘I was at a party one night and got drunk, and from there music was what I did. This song came on and I jumped on the mic, and it came out. My mates asked if I wanted it join a band, so I did that for a bit for the experience.’
Had he done any singing before that fateful night?
‘Not really, no, I wouldn’t have ever sung. You just get drunk and you do weird things, don’t you?’ he laughs.
He’s also had a big leg-up from dance music heavy-hitters Chase and Status, who featured him on their 2016 single, All Goes Wrong. Its striking video saw Grennan singing from inside a coffin apparently at his own funeral.
Tom explains how he got involved with the duo: ‘I signed a publishing deal and they’re published by the same people – they showed Chase and Status my music, and they said they wanted to work with me. Chase and Status like to put unknown people into their world – they give you the shot and they’ve proper helped me out, man.’
And that video?
‘It was cool, man, It scared my mum a little bit. I just took it in my stride, and said to myself, I want to be in the world with all of this sort of stuff. I was thrown in the deep end so I might as well go for it.’
The track led to an appearance on the BBC’s flagship music show, Later With Jools Holland
‘I remember it was crazy. They do the pre-recorded show first, and when they came to me, I missed my cue, because I was too busy looking at everything else going on, so they had to stop the show and do it again,
‘But Jools was cool and really nice to us. It was like a big blur.’
He’s now working towards his debut album – after speaking with The Guide he was off to a session with songwriter and frontman of indie band Athlete, Joel Pott.
‘I’m working with a load of different producers. It’s in the early stages at the moment. There’s still more to be written on it.
‘I like working with people – two brains, or three brains are better than one. I’m still learning.’
* Blissfields takes place at Vicarage Farm, near Winchester from July 6-8.
This year’s festival has the theme, The Bizarre, and has headline sets from the Cinematic Orchestra and Metronomy.
Tickets are £20 for Thursday, £55 for Friday and £65 for Saturday. Children aged nine and under go free.
Adult weekend tickets are £110, children 10-16 are £90, and nine and under are £15. Go to blissfields.co.uk