There are a few things you need to know about Tom Odell. There are the basic vital statistics: heâs 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.
âIâm not usually a massive fan of singer-songwriter stuff, but when I saw him live his energy onstage reminded me of David Bowie,â the pop star wrote in the NME last October, dubbing Odell her âfavourite new artist.â âItâs not soppy and moany at all, itâs energetic and insightful,â 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. âSheâs quite adamant about not letting me hear it, actually,â Odell told Canada.com. Pity. But he says his label boss has been wonderful, otherwise. âEvery so often she tells me her experiences and sheâs great,â he says. âSheâs always said âjust enjoy it.â I think thatâs the most advice anyone can give you.â
Point No. 3: Britainâs top music critics love him.
Thatâs how Odell claimed the 2013 BRITs Criticsâ Choice Award this past December, an honour that essentially anoints a young artist as the next big thing. (As per the official definition, itâs an award âfor new British acts tipped by critics for mainstream success.â) Theyâre seldom wrong, too. A sampling of past winners: Florence + the Machine, Ellie Goulding, some singer named Adele.
Add it all up, and youâre bound to feel -- whatâs the word? -- âoverwhelmed.â
âI didnât expect anything like whatâs happened. These last few months in the UK have been a bit nuts really,â Odell told Canada.com 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. âI did my first kind of headline show in October of November of last year, it was a big deal. Iâd never done a proper sold out show, Iâd only ever supported people,â he says, contemplating the learning curve heâs experienced in a short period of time, âgetting used to performing, on radio and TV and to large amounts of people.â
âAll the awards, and like the BBC Sound poll and the BRITs thing: All that, itâs amazing, but itâs because people are into it. And thatâs what I think is incredible, is that people like it,â he says. âI didnât expect them to like it that much.â
So whatâs to âlike?â 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 â70s: 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 Odellâs voice cracking with pain; heâs struggling to start a new romance while still obsessed with the last one. The melodyâs tense, reminiscent of Elliott Smithâs Needle in the Hay; the overall arrangement blasts with Coldplay-style melodrama.
The upcoming album, which Odell largely wrote and recorded âin the past six months,â will be a bit more balanced, he hints. âItâs definitely got more of a positive feeling to it, I think,â he says. âI took a lot of care to give it continuity and give it a story. [â¦] Songs From Another Love was more about losing someone and struggling with a relationship and breaking up. This is more about the whole relationship.â
Odell co-produced the record with Dan Grech (Lana Del Rey, Dragonette, Keane), reducing an estimated 50 songs to a 10-song tracklist. âItâs quite an old-fashioned way of doing things, but I think thatâs good.â
Which brings us to Point No. 4 about Tom Odell: Being a little bit old-fashioned is what he loves about what heâs doing.
âThereâs this demand that everyone sing in tune and every beat sound the biggest and fat as it can sound. And for me, Iâm not criticizing that, but for me it doesnât do it. I want music that feels real,â he says. âRelationships always have their imperfections and people have their imperfections and life is never perfect, you know. You donât 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.â
If youâre in Toronto Saturday, Jan. 26, youâll have an opportunity to hear it in person. Odell plays his first Canadian show at the Rivoli that night. (For more info, visit Tomodell.com.)