Tom Grennan’s life is marked by massive changes. The gravely, big-voiced British singer grew up playing soccer. Music wasn’t ever really on his mind. When asked if he even sang in the shower, Grennan says, “No.” Singing wasn’t cool, wasn’t the thing to do. He was an athlete and a pretty darn good one. But as he got older and as the demands of a top-notch soccer player began to feel further from him, Grennan’s life began to change. His confidence dropped, his identity drifted through his fingertips. But then, one day at a party, the 17-year-old Grennan drunkenly took the mic of a karaoke machine and belted out a tune. He was good—really good. His friends encouraged his ability and burgeoning interest. But it wasn’t until the day as an 18-year-old that Grennan was severely assaulted that he started writing his own music.
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March 12, the artist is releasing his sophomore LP, Evering Road, and the album, which itself is rooted in a lengthy, difficult breakup, is poised to change his life again.
“Being punched,” Grennan says, “punched the creativity into me.”
After he was jumped, Grennan says, he went down a hole of depression. He had suicidal thoughts, thinking he was unloved, without worth (which he calls “bullshit” today). He had operations to insert metal plates and screws in his jaw that he can feel when it gets cold outside. As a result, he began to talk to a therapist. But, Grennan says, he still didn’t feel understood, not by the therapist and not by his friends or family.
“The only way around that was to write about it,” he says. “At first, I didn’t really realize I was writing songs. I was just writing a journal, I suppose. Then I picked up a guitar and put melody to it. I had pages and pages of different feelings and thoughts.”
It’s odd how a tragic situation can, with enough time between, seem necessary. Though the experience was awful, Grennan acknowledges a sense of surreal gratitude for it. The experience, though violent, shook him. There are similar disruptive moments throughout his life, as well, albeit less physically bruising. As a teenager, losing a connection with his love of soccer, which once seemed to hold so much promise, felt crushing in the moment. He lost his love for it, feeling, in some ways, like the game lost its love for him. But Grennan’s resilience shone through and music was there for him, like it always would be.
“I was knocked back,” Grennan says. “Told I was not good enough. That knocked my confidence, I lost the love of playing, which was okay because that’s when I found music. Music and I met really randomly, but I think it was a path I was meant to be on. The path I was meant to find.”
Later, Grennan moved from Bedford, the small British town where he’d grown up, to London for university. He’d gone to study acting, now more comfortable with indulging his creative side. But more than any play or script, the move afforded Grennan the chance to “hibernate” and write. After a year, he realized he had a plethora of songs. So, he began to perform them at open mics and small music clubs. Then, as if a reward for all he’d been through, he signed a big record contract.
“When you’re younger,” Grennan says, “if you sing, you got laughed at. It wasn’t the thing to do. But then when I found music, I went, ‘This is cool, what are people talking about?’ I loved it. It made me feel free and made me feel good.”
In a way, Grennan learned on the job. His voice continues to get better since his early days and he’s becoming more adept at recording and finding his rhythm on the tracks. While at first, he found himself imitating other singers (a favorite is Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys), Grennan has now become more of his own performer. All the while, there is a natural sense to his ability, recalling shades of another great British singer, Amy Winehouse.
“When I write,” he says, “it gets things off my chest and makes me feel better about a situation. It helps me find solutions and helps me find peace.”
Grennan’s new LP tells a story. Standout songs include the emotive, “Love Has Different Ways To Say Goodbye,” and thrilling, “Amen.” The album title is a street where Grennan used to live with a now-ex-girlfriend. But while breakup albums might be common, this one isn’t. It illuminates Grennan’s realization that he was the “toxic” one in the union and the songs he wrote about the experience aim to hold him accountable. He’s holding up his hands, saying sorry. He’s expressing the desire to be better while acknowledging that too—no one is perfect. But you have to love yourself before you can try to love anyone else.
“That’s the whole album,” he says. “It’s not a breakup album like ‘feel sorry for me.’ It’s more me saying that I’m going to own the situation and I’m going to become a better person.”
Now, as the 25-year-old Grennan looks down the proverbial road, he’s choosing happiness first. Whereas his life may have been more focused on success or external validation, partying or ambivalence, today he cares about healthy satisfaction. He’s excited for the release of the new record. He thinks people will be enthusiastic to share it and dive in. It should surprise some people, Grennan says. But no matter what or how it does, he’ll be okay.
“I’ve never been happier,” Grennan says. “I’m buzzing to keep on this path of happiness and to keep on a path of success and being a good human being. That’s what I try to do and be everyday.”