Tom Odell: Taylor Swift, Lily Rose Cooper think there's something about this Brit

Crédit photo: Sony Music Tom Odell: Taylor Swift, Lily Rose Cooper think there's something about this Brit

There are a few things you need to know about Tom Odell. There are the basic vital statistics: he’s a 22-year-old singer-songwriter from London, for instance, one whose debut album, Long Way Down, is set to arrive April 15 and whose rushing first single, Another Love, has already sound-tracked a Burberry campaign, BBC commercials and the lives of whoever picked up his melancholic EP, Songs From Another Love, last October.

But on to the more salient trivia.

Point No. 1: Taylor Swift loves him.

She's a "superfan," in her own words, after all. And after Odell covered Swift's I Knew You Were Trouble for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge this week, her thank-you Tweet went viral. "So I was already a @tompeterodell superfan... Now I'm just floored. This is so good," she wrote. And that, kids, is how an unassuming singer-songwriter gets tossed into a love triangle with Harry Styles in 140 characters or less. (Please see gossip reported in Hollywood Life.)

Point No. 2: Lily Rose Cooper (you know her as Lily Allen) also loves him. 

“I’m not usually a massive fan of singer-songwriter stuff, but when I saw him live his energy onstage reminded me of David Bowie,” the pop star wrote in the NME last October, dubbing Odell her “favourite new artist.” “It’s not soppy and moany at all, it’s energetic and insightful,” she continued. And Cooper hearts Odell so much she signed him to her imprint, In the Name Of, after she caught an intimate gig in London. While Odell was recording his forthcoming album last year, he says Cooper was working on material of her own next door. “She’s quite adamant about not letting me hear it, actually,” Odell told Pity. But he says his label boss has been wonderful, otherwise. “Every so often she tells me her experiences and she’s great,” he says. “She’s always said ‘just enjoy it.’ I think that’s the most advice anyone can give you.”

Point No. 3: Britain’s top music critics love him.

That’s how Odell claimed the 2013 BRITs Critics’ Choice Award this past December, an honour that essentially anoints a young artist as the next big thing. (As per the official definition, it’s an award “for new British acts tipped by critics for mainstream success.”) They’re seldom wrong, too. A sampling of past winners: Florence + the Machine, Ellie Goulding, some singer named Adele.

Add it all up, and you’re bound to feel -- what’s the word?  -- “overwhelmed.”

“I didn’t expect anything like what’s happened. These last few months in the UK have been a bit nuts really,” Odell told Tuesday -- which was before Swift discovered his Trouble cover, so who knows how his flaxen mushroom cut is spinning now.

This time last year, the former music student (Brighton Institute of Modern Music) says he was in a humbler situation -- he was going to start work on an album, he was playing small gigs around London. “I did my first kind of headline show in October of November of last year, it was a big deal. I’d never done a proper sold out show, I’d only ever supported people,” he says, contemplating the learning curve he’s experienced in a short period of time, “getting used to performing, on radio and TV and to large amounts of people.”

“All the awards, and like the BBC Sound poll and the BRITs thing: All that, it’s amazing, but it’s because people are into it. And that’s what I think is incredible, is that people like it,” he says. “I didn’t expect them to like it that much.”

So what’s to “like?” Odell, like a handful of other unlikely exports from England (please see Grammy nominee Ed Sheeran) is a mild-mannered singer-songwriter by trade. Piano is his instrument of choice; he grew up taking lessons, like so many children, but was inspired to start writing his own music after discovering the Piano Men of the ‘70s: Elton John, Leon Russell, Billy Joel.  The EP, Songs From Another Love, poured from a rawer nerve than, say, Benny and the Jets, though.  The titular tune, for instance, find Odell’s voice cracking with pain; he’s struggling to start a new romance while still obsessed with the last one. The melody’s tense, reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s Needle in the Hay; the overall arrangement blasts with Coldplay-style melodrama.

The upcoming album, which Odell largely wrote and recorded “in the past six months,” will be a bit more balanced, he hints. “It’s definitely got more of a positive feeling to it, I think,” he says. “I took a lot of care to give it continuity and give it a story. […] Songs From Another Love was more about losing someone and struggling with a relationship and breaking up. This is more about the whole relationship.”

Odell co-produced the record with Dan Grech (Lana Del Rey, Dragonette, Keane), reducing an estimated 50 songs to a 10-song tracklist. “It’s quite an old-fashioned way of doing things, but I think that’s good.”

Which brings us to Point No. 4 about Tom Odell: Being a little bit old-fashioned is what he loves about what he’s doing.

“There’s this demand that everyone sing in tune and every beat sound the biggest and fat as it can sound. And for me, I’m not criticizing that, but for me it doesn’t do it. I want music that feels real,” he says. “Relationships always have their imperfections and people have their imperfections and life is never perfect, you know. You don’t live like a robot or a computer. Things go wrong and you have feelings. And for me, in my music, I really wanted people to hear that.”

If you’re in Toronto Saturday, Jan. 26, you’ll have an opportunity to hear it in person. Odell plays his first Canadian show at the Rivoli that night. (For more info, visit

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