Romantically-challenged ivory-lover breaks down the walls of heartache
When Tom Odell approaches the bar at an old-school South London boozer, he is greeted with suspicion.
“Can I see some ID, please?”
His Chelsea boots and charity shop duffle coat may reflect the bohemian flat-sharing 22-year-old he is, but his barely stubble-troubled young face could just as easily pass for a 15-year-old’s.
By rights, the Chichester songwriter’s newly-acquired Critics’ Choice Brit Award should have earned him a drink on the house, but let him enjoy his anonymity while he can; his forthcoming debut album showcase a voice full of wounded soul behind the blond boy-band looks, singing startlingly immediate love-and-loss songs that recall Chris Martin at his most nakedly emotive.
“Someone once said, ‘All good things that have been done in the world are off the back of being dumped.’ He smiles, as he sips lemonade through a straw and fiddles twitchily with his iphone. “And if I hadn’t been painfully in love, then dumped, when I was 17, I’m not sure I’d be sitting here now.”
Thise scars are certainly visible within the EP’s titular track Another Love, a slow-building piano confessional that admits “All my tears have been used up on another love”.
No such girl trouble when he began writing songs in order to avoid practising classical piano scales at age 13, while immersing himself in ivory-tinkling pop from Elton to Cat Power. “I LOVE piano,” he insists, with the same imploring passion he gives his performances. “It’s not seen as sexy like strutting about with a guitar. But I want to make piano cool again.” He smirks mischievously and adds: “Roll over, Elton.”
He certainly seems to have luck on his side. After only a handful of gigs, a friend of Lily (nee Allen) Cooper saw him and recommended him for her Columbia imprint In The Name Of.
He’s as skilled with slow-building midnight confessionals such as Can’t Pretend as he is with upbeat, yearning soul-stirrers like forthcoming single Hold Me. And meanwhile, the songwriting fuel keeps coming…
“I had another brutal break-up recently,” he says. “And ironically, she implied that Another Love was about the fact that I loved music too much and didn’t have any emotions left for her. That was harsh.”
He’s unashamed about being autobiographical, insisting, “I want to write songs people can relate to. I want people to cry, or be in ecstasy. So it has to be real.” And therein lies his appeal – tapping into the lesser-documented minutiae of human relationships to touch highly resonant heart strings. No need to tell Mr. John the news just yet, but it’s a fine ‘how d’you do’.
In A Nutshell:
Chichester singer-songwriter channelling relationship traumas into timeless piano pop
You might like Tom Odell if you like: Coldplay, Ben Folds, James Blake
Get This Track: Another Love (iTunes)
More info: tomodell.com