It’s been two years since Tom Odell lit up the charts with his debut album Long Way Down.
Months earlier the singer-songwriter had won the BRIT Critics’ Choice Award, a gong previously claimed by Emeli Sande, Adele and Florence and the Machine, and his album, released in June 2013, duly shot to Number 1 in the UK.
Its success took him all over the world and last Christmas the 24-year-old recorded the John Lennon song Real Love which soundtracked a memorable TV commercial for John Lewis.
Now it seems he’s ready to return with new material, some of which he’ll be airing on a special tour of the nation’s forests.
The outdoor shows, organised by the Forestry Commission, include Dalby Forest, near Pickering, North Yorkshire.
Regarding his new album, the Chichester-born singer says he can “kind of see the finishing line now”. “I’m really proud of it,” he says. “These summer shows are a great opportunity. I wanted to go out there and play some of these new songs live before the album comes out, I guess to include the audience in the process.”
The shows, Odell says, will be “about half and half” old songs and new.
He’s especially excited to have his “great friend” Andy Burrows, formerly of Razorlight and now a solo artist, with him in his band.
“He’s a brilliant drummer, he’s brought so much life to the band,” Odell enthuses. “I’ve known Andy for about five years. We met through an admiration of Elton John. We’ve always been talking about him joining the band. I’m very honoured to have him.”
If Odell felt any pressure over his new album it was artistic, rather than commercial, he says. “I learned so much on the first album. I really want this one to be incredible in terms of quality – there was a lot of pressure in that respect.”
Winning an Ivor Novello Award in 2014 for songwriter of the year was a welcome boost. “I was over the moon,” he says. “Awards are awards but an Ivor Novello is different in the respect that it’s voted by other songwriters and people I respect.”
Where broken relationships provided much of base material for songs such as Another Love on Long Way Down, Odell says today he can “find inspiration in a lot of things”.
“Certainly this album is not so centred on [failed relationships], it has a lot of different themes, though I think if life is perfect there’s often not a lot to drive you to try and make a change – and that’s the case not just in art but in so many things.”
As a Beatles fan, choosing to record Real Love for the John Lewis festive commercial that featured a boy and a penguin was straightforward. “I enjoyed it a lot,” Odell says. “I’m a big fan of John Lennon and I’ve always been a big fan of that song. It was a joy to have a go at bringing it to a slightly wider audience with John Lewis.”
Besides the Fab Four, he says he listened to “a lot of 70s music” by the likes of Harry Nilsson, Elton John and Randy Newman while growing up. “Things that were classic but always had an edge to it.
“It was about the words, the music and the melody and less about anything else.”
The success of Long Way Down allowed him to follow in the footsteps of his heroes and tour the world. Odell says there were “some amazing shows in America, the first time we played in New York I’ll never forget”.
Tom Odell plays at Dalby Forest on June 25 with Rae Morris and Alfie Connor. For tickets visit http://boxoffice.forestry.gov.uk/en-GB/shows/tom%20odell/info