Tom Grennan has just released new album What Ifs & Maybes (Insanity).
Unsurprisingly, expectations are big for the UK singer and songwriter, who’s amassed nine million monthly listeners on Spotify, as well as significant radio airplay and strong ticket sales.
Grennan recently played The O2 and had around 175,000 tickets in the market.
“I feel like personally, creatively, career-wise, it all has momentum,” Grennan told Music Week in his recent cover story.
It’s an album, he explained, about being spontaneous and realising that only you can push yourself to the next level.
“It’s good to have that drive,” he added. “I feel like if you’re comfortable in your surroundings, that’s a bad place to be.”
There’s a sense of frustration that his achievements are not better recognised, although that’s now changing. For John Dawkins, of Various Artists Management, it has been a long time coming.
“On every metric, we would out-index most people who were getting a lot of TV looks,” he said. “But now, bang, it does feel like we’re everywhere. Tom is becoming a household name overnight, which has taken seven years.”
He added: “We’ve had four Top 10s, three BRIT nominations, Ivor Novello nominations, a No.1 album, selling out arenas… It’s a massive story.”
Tom Grennan has strong foundations on which to build, including a No.1 result for 2021’s Evering Road (188,622 sales, according to the Official Charts Company). His 2018 debut LP, Lighting Matches, peaked at No.5 and has 143,105 sales.
We’ve had four Top 10s, three BRIT nominations, Ivor Novello nominations, a No.1 album, selling out arenas… It’s a massive story
The 2021 single Little Bit Of Love has sales of 1,205,374, while Ella Henderson collaboration Let’s Go Home Together (also 2021) is on 1,025,699
Grennan said that his debut taught him the importance of listening to himself before he listened to others.
“I listened to people who made decisions for me creatively,” he explained. “It was meant to be my album and I don’t feel like it fully was. I took that into consideration on my second album and on this record, I’ve put myself into another gear. I wanted to make an album that could translate globally.”
As well as Various Artists, Grennan has been with Insanity since the very beginning. Andy Varley, Insanity Group CEO and label president, has been a key ally.
“Andy Varley is unbelievable,” said Grennan. “Me and John had the dream and Andy knows exactly what the dream is and he’ll do anything for me to get it. It’s the teamwork, having trust in your A&R but also the A&R having trust in me, that if I make a decision, Alastair Kinross is like, ‘OK, we’ll go with you and trust your instinct.’ It’s about having a relationship.”
Kinross, head of A&R at Insanity, said What Ifs & Maybes “speaks to how comfortable Tom is in himself and as an artist”.
“He’s on top of his game as a musician and performer,” Kinross added. “In this climate, getting to album three is an achievement, but the fact Tom is very much growing as an artist proposition says everything about him, where he’s at and where he wants to be.”
Kinross added that Grennan is excellent at building a core team around him and, when it comes to the studio, trusts younger producers over established names.
“As an A&R team, myself, John and Chris Briggs spend a lot of time trying to bring young talent on to the project,” he said. “Lostboy, Andrew Wells and Ryan Linvill were very much up-and-coming producers when we started to work with them.”
Andy Varley said that Insanity knew Grennan’s success would be a slow build.
“It’s completely old-fashioned artist development,” he told Music Week. “In this digital age, it can be very tempting to chase TikTok records but it’s very difficult to take a TikTok record and turn it into a meaningful artist proposition. We’ve taken the longer route with an artist like Tom and now he’s in a place where he’s on the cusp of global domination.”
Consumption on the forthcoming record’s singles has been further ahead than for those on the two previous albums, Varley noted.
What Ifs & Maybes singles to have breached the chart so far include Remind Me (423,023 sales), All These Nights (216,362), Here (141,801) and How Does It Feel (31,037).
Various Artists’ John Dawkins thinks that the industry support Grennan gets is as much down to how personable he is as it is his music.
“He’s gone and done the work in the buildings, he’ll go above and beyond to do stuff to help BBC Introducing, for example,” he said. “There are not many artists who come into the label and know everyone’s name. He’ll come in and say thanks and when you do that, everyone wants to go through a wall for you. There are lots of artists who like to moan about being in the music industry but he loves it, he loves the hustle and bustle of coming into a label.”
We’ve taken the longer route with an artist like Tom and now he’s on the cusp of global domination
Varley believes that Grennan’s personality and his songwriting talents are a potent recipe for success.
“He’s incredibly authentic,” he said. “His songwriting has become more ambitious. David Ventura at Sony Music Publishing said to me that the challenge we’re going to have with Tom is deciding which singles to come with, because we’ve got seven or eight contenders on this album. We haven’t ever had that before.”
One of the big challenges on this campaign, according to Varley, is cutting through the noise and getting ahead of the competition.
“For an artist like Tom, there are fewer editorial routes to go down in comparison to, say, a UK rap artist,” he said. “We’re always doubling down on super-serving content to his hardcore fans, deploying every manner of different digital strategies to figure out who those fans are, where they are and how we can service them with lots of music. We leave no stone unturned. We are really focused.”
Insanity’s alignment with RCA means the label can tap into additional resources to “supercharge” their campaigns.
“One of the things that underpins the whole of the Insanity Group is the culture of collaboration, and we carry that through to our relationship with RCA,” said Varley. “Stacey Tang is one of the most impressive executives I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and we’ve had a relationship with [co-president] Glyn Aikins for a number of years now, it’s a team full of brilliant people.”
Success for Varley on What Ifs & Maybes would be another No.1 record, but also repeating that around the globe.
“We’re strong in France and Germany, Benelux is a real priority for us,” he said. “Tom has a fantastic fanbase growing in Australia and New Zealand, so we’re doubling down there as well. He’s been to the US and toured, it’s a challenging market for British artists to infiltrate but we feel that we’ve got the songs. I’m focused on consumption, and Tom’s fans are consuming his music in a more significant way with this album than with Evering Road so, in my mind, we’re already winning.
“The album is world class, so our ambition is to really break Tom globally this time around. Little Bit Of Love was a hit during the pandemic, so annoyingly Tom wasn’t able to get on a plane and promote it, but the world is open again now, and we plan to take full advantage of that. He sold out his European tour in April and we have further international promo and touring planned for later in the year.”
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