Tom Odell is a long way up from a Long Way Down

By YP cadet Yasmin Subba

The pianist and singer talks about what it's like to have his fingers on the keys to success

By YP cadet Yasmin Subba |

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Fans are expecting big things from Tom Odell next year, with a follow-up album in the works.

Dressed in combat boots and slick black sunglasses, Tom Odell looked every inch the up-and-coming star for his interview with Young Post.

Since being discovered by pop star Lily Allen in 2012, the 24-year-old has released a chart-topping album, and been hailed as the next big "piano-playing heartthrob" by the music publication NME.

But Odell's journey to success has not been an easy one. He was rejected from music school and spent several years as a struggling musician. The soft-spoken British singer-songwriter tells us his story as he leans back on the leather sofa.

Odell started playing the piano at seven and began writing his own songs at 13, but initially kept his music to himself.

"At the music department in my school there was a little room with a piano in it," Odell recalls. "I used to go in there and just sing to my heart's content."

It was not until one of the teachers heard him performing that Odell decided to share his music. "He was a very inspiring man," says Odell. "He helped me build up my confidence and got me to start performing."

After graduating from secondary school, Odell applied to the University of Liverpool's music college only to be turned down. Unfazed, the singer moved to Brighton, a seaside city 85km from London, to pursue his career.

"I've always been quite thick-skinned, and I think that's one of the requirements to do this job," Odell explains. "You have to be prepared not to take too much to heart."

Indeed, Odell had to remain tough. His first years playing in Brighton included facing unfriendly audiences, and forming bands only to have them break up the next day. To play at the best music venues, he had to make the two-hour drive to London.

But success was closer than he thought.

Everything changed when Allen turned up at one of Odell's shows in a West End jazz club, Ronnie Scott's.

"I'll always remember that day," recounts Odell happily. "I'd never met a musician who was remotely famous. For me, it was a big deal to meet [Allen]. It was a moment that I'd worked a lot to get to."

Allen was impressed and signed Odell onto her record label, In The Name Of. In 2013, Odell released his debut album, the soulful, piano-heavy Long Way Down.

Now, Odell is fast making a name for himself. His song Another Love, a gentle ballad, already has more than 44 million views on YouTube. And last month, he released a new video, a cover of The Beatles' Real Love.

Odell's international popularity is also on the rise, having been invited to perform at a private concert in Hong Kong earlier this month.

"A lot more opportunities [have] come up to make music that I never thought I'd be able to do," reflects the singer. "Really, this profession has very [few] negatives - not just because we get to travel around, but also because being an artist is very soul-fulfilling and we get to express ourselves a lot."

The secret to succeeding at anything, Odell believes, is hard work and grit.

"With any job there's a rite of passage. It's simply that you're not good enough when you first start out. You've got to get rejected a lot first and work really hard to get where you want."

Keep an eye out for this rising star, as plans to release Odell's second album next year are already underway.