Calum Scott's interview on his debut album and life after Britain’s Got Talent
As I arrived at the conference room of Carlton Hotel, eagerly awaiting a one-on-one interview with Calum Scott, I was jolted by the 29-year-old singer's powerful vibrato of a voice belting the chorus to Maroon 5's 'This Love'. Finally, it was my turn, and what greeted me was a warm smile that followed a deep Yorkshire accent with just the right amount of charm to make anyone swoon. Decked out in a flannel shirt and jeans, he immediately apologised for our interview time being shortened to 10 minutes. But no matter.
Most of us would recognise Scott from the ninth season of Britain's Got Talent back in 2015. Famous for covering 'Dancing On My Own' by Robyn, his audition was viewed on YouTube over 150 million times. His vocals received a standing ovation from everyone, which even prompted the ever-indifferent Simon Cowell to press the Golden Buzzer that sent Scott straight to the live shows in the semi-finals. He may not have won the competition, but it definitely skyrocketed his music career from then on.
Three years have since passed, with Scott releasing four singles: 'Dancing on My Own', 'Rhythm Inside', 'Transformar (Change)' and 'You Are The Reason', with 'Dancing on My Own' being nominated for Brit Awards' British Single of the Year last year. He's collaborated with British powerhouse Leona Lewis for 'You Are The Reason' as a duet, with this tearjerker of a ballad about doing anything for love peaking in the 49th position in the UK Singles chart. We chat with this rising star before his debut album, Only Human, was scheduled to drop just three days after his visit to Singapore.
You’ve mentioned that your latest song, 'What I Miss Most', is about your hometown in Kingston upon Hull. What's the music scene like there?
I've had a very musical upbringing. My mother took us to a lot of places while we were young in the car and she would always play Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Prince — all these huge singers — and I think that's what inspired my musical taste which is singing and writing ballads.
It's not a huge city, but the music scene in Hull is definitely bubbling away. There's a lot of talent coming from my town now. You can be noticed a lot easier.
It's been almost three years since you appeared on Britain's Got Talent. How has your experience there shaped you as an artist today?
It was one of the best and worst days of my life because I got through and my sister didn't. We went there to see what would happen and she came away with a not-so-great experience and I came home with one of the best experiences ever. It was a bittersweet day but it's one that snowballed the rest of my career. With the audition, it was so emotional and it really showcased who I am as a a person as well as an artist. I am very emotional, I wear my heart on my sleeve with my music and with my personality and I think people can see that. I don't have a game plan, so I just sing and feel, and I want to experience and share that with my fans.
I've developed beyond what I thought I would. I consider myself a music artist now, not just a singer. I've written 70 songs for this album so I've definitely excelled as an artist. I'm developing all the time working with other artists and producers such as Naughty Boy and Jonas Blue, so I'm branching out from what I knew to what I thought could ever do. I've even written songs for other people instead of just for myself, so I'm developing more and more each day.
You mentioned in an interview that the meaning behind your album title, Only Human, is about being okay with how one feels about his or herself. Do share more on that.
The whole principle behind the album is to try and inspire people to be confident about themselves and who they love. We're only human, we only feel the way we feel and we're not programmed to feel a certain way. I was always writing songs about how things were making me feel, like feeling annoyed or upset with the fact that I've fallen in love with somebody or I had my heart broken. We're bound to feel all these feelings and we're supposed to celebrate that. I tried to put the songs that reflect me best on the album, and the ones that hopefully are going to inspire people as well.
Which song from Only Human hits you the most on a personal level?
That's like asking me to pick my favourite child (laughs)! 'You Are The Reason' is a song that spreads the message that love conquers all and that's a tribute to my late grandmother, so that's a really special one. I've written a song about missing home, 'What I Miss Most'. I have a song dedicated to my sister called 'Won't Let You Down', which is about me being the big brother and saying that I am always going to be there for her.
The top of the album, 'If Our Love Is Wrong', is about me talking very openly about my sexuality to the rest of the world and it's a really special one because I overcame so much with that song. There are songs in there that mean different things to me, but 'You Are The Reason' is probably the most special one for me on the album because there's such a positive message that love can conquer anything.
What was the best advice you received from your close friend, Sam Smith?
The best advice he has given me was when we were in Nashville. I asked him how he copes with everything, with him being pulled from country to country and not having much time to spend at home.
He told me to just try and bring a piece of home with me wherever I go, because it can be quite lonely. I get to do what I love but there's an element of it where I miss the people that I've grown up with or I miss the people that have raised me. He said to try and bring your family out with you or try and bring a memento from home. Just try and remain as grounded and as close to those people in your life as you can — which has done wonders.
I've brought my family and friends out to gigs and it's so amazing to see their faces in the audience or to know that they're backstage as soon as you leave the stage.
How were your dynamics with Leona Lewis when you made 'You Are The Reason'? What did she bring to the table and what do you admire most about her?
We met over email, and we just hit it off straightaway. She sent me some of her music while I sent her some of mine, and she sent me back a version of 'You Are The Reason' with her on it and I was in absolute awe. I was so amazed that somebody like Leona Lewis — this global superstar — had featured on a song that I've written myself and it was actually really overwhelming. When we met, I felt like we were separated at birth.
She brings a lot of emotion and magic to the table. She is very powerful with her voice. She sings from the same place as me, from the heart. Leona's got an incredible voice and I never thought about this song being a duet. When Leona was on there, it just became this incredible song. I can't imagine anybody else that I would want to sing this song with now.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2018?
This year is really the year I release everything — my album that I've been working so hard on, my headline tour that I'm about to embark on in April — to the world. I have also been featured on other people's tracks like Don Diablo and all these amazing artists so I'm very excited to start working on album two already.
Listen to Calum Scott's new album, Only Human, on Spotify.
Presented by AEG Presents & Collective Minds, Calum Scott will perform live in Singapore on 31 October, 8pm at Capitol Theatre. Tickets out on 28 June.
This interview was first published on 13 March.