"This year has felt like ten years but in a really good way. I’ve just had a lot crammed in. I’ve slept the least amount of any year of my life."
It was just 18 months ago that Tom Odell was being inspired by Elton John's music; these days the legend's encouraging him over the phone or via email.
“It's completely mental,” he says from the back of a tour bus. “It's one thing to meet your hero but it's very surreal and very inspiring. Elton John is a big hero of mine. He originally called me up, we spoke, I supported him at the Roundhouse, now we talk on email quite a bit. He is really there for me, we played in LA together, he's just one of the loveliest people I have ever met. It has been a real joy meeting him.”
Just over a year ago he was recording his debut album, Long Way Down, and playing to a handful of disinterested punters. “It is amazing how quickly things happen. I was talking to the band the other day about how it was not quite a year ago we were opening for Jake Bugg to about ten people and now we're doing a tour playing to 2000 or 3000 people. This year has felt like ten years but in a really good way. I've just had a lot crammed in. I've slept the least amount of any year of my life.''
There's no doubting Odell's talent and part of that is his unique ability as a storyteller. “Music is such a magical thing. Someone bought me this David Byrne book, How Music Works; every musician I've ever met told me to read it. I started reading it and it was very insightful but I thought, 'I don't want to know.' I don't ever want to know how the magic works. I want to keep it that way.”
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What Odell can verbalise is that really raw, honest music is something he finds most challenging but that audiences seem to admire the most. “Lyrically, whenever you put down something about yourself it is difficult. The hardest thing to do is write something very honest, to actually get to a point where I just manage to get it right, for just a second I said something I really meant. It is a constant battle with yourself.”
The other constant battle in Odell's present life is touring. Before he comes to Australia in December, he has to survive a European leg of his tour. It's mid-morning in Glasgow, Scotland but from the sound of his voice it may as well be midnight. “I have a show here tonight, then at 4am tomorrow we have to go to Munich and then the next day we fly to Paris and do a show and then we fly to Manchester. At the moment all I can think about is how the fuck am I going to get through this?” He laughs. “That's the main thing.”