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Calum Scott interview

The singer talks about his viral success and his major label deal.

Calum Scott
Credit: Meeno Peluce

Calum Scott was one of the brightest hopefuls on 2015’s Britain’s Got Talent.

After sailing through to the semi-finals after being chosen as judge Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer act, Calum found his popularity quickly increase so it was a surprise when he finished in sixth place. Over the past few months, Calum has unexpectedly found himself shooting up the charts across the world with the release of his version of the Robyn track Dancing On My Own, which he sung for his Britain’s Got Talent audition.

The success of that single has seen Calum sign a record deal with Capitol Records US and he’s now working on his eagerly anticipated debut album.

I spoke to the Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter to discuss the success of Dancing On My Own, talk about his recent record deal, and to find out what we can expect from his debut album.

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Let’s start off by talking about Dancing On My Own. Why did you decide to cover that song in the first place?

To be honest with you it was half chance, as soon as I discovered it and put my own spin on it the rest of the half was a no brainer. I discovered it while I was just having a play with some songs and trying to find a song to cover. I came across this version online, which was a really nice arrangement of the song and it was stripped back. I remember loving the original song but thought this was quite cool as a slow piano ballad version of it opposed to the dance version.

I basically put a verse and a chorus down, just whatever came to mind at the time. I related to the song because I was single so it came very naturally. I did a version of it and I was quite happy with it. My mum is my biggest critic so I got her and my sister in my studio and asked them to listen to it. I played a verse and a chorus and they were in tears so I thought ‘this is the song I need to be singing’. I’d already connected to it but to see other people connect to it in the same way was what drove me to do it. It seems to have been that kind of reaction across the world so I’m glad I (recorded) it.

It’s a brave song to cover because anything Robyn does is considered quite iconic in the pop world. Did you have any reservations about choosing that song?

Robyn is from Sweden and is a megastar over there, just like she is in the UK and the US. When you take a look at her credentials and what she’s achieved, especially in Sweden, she’s absolutely massive. I knew that going in when I was covering the song. I knew that a lot of people knew that song from years ago, especially my age remember it from when it was in the charts. Some of the younger kids aren’t that familiar with Robyn and they think it’s my song. I’d love to be able to say it is but sadly it’s not. To be it’s just something I connected with straight away so it wouldn’t have mattered to me who the artist was as long as the song meant something to me and I could put my own take on it. That’s all that I was really bothered about.

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It’s obviously paid off for you. I keep hearing the song everywhere. Did you have any idea that it was going to blow up like it has?

No! We put this out and there was so much demand for it across my social networks. Me and my manager decided to give it a while because of the show and it had its time on the show (Britain’s Got Talent). For me that’s where it was going to be left. My audition had about 50 million views on YouTube which blew my mind and I thought that it had probably had its time. I concentrated on original music and I was doing a lot of live stuff that I’d got off the back of the show. I’d done a lot of writing original stuff but we decided to put it out because people kept asking for it.

It was more released for the fans rather than any project. We didn’t have anybody behind it and we weren’t going to advertise it. We didn’t put any press out or radio or TV. We basically put it out on social media and it just went crazy. The pre-orders were awesome. I had about 2-3,000 pre-orders, which is ridiculous in this day and age. It was looking optimistic but we didn’t think it would go insane. When it started jumping up the charts, I was supporting Boyce Avenue in the UK, and my manager called me up and said, ‘mate you’re number 2 on the global viral Spotify charts’. I was like, ‘nah’ and he said ‘you are, you’re number 1 on the singer-songwriter chart on iTunes’ and because I wasn’t expecting it I couldn’t take it in. As soon as we’d finished the Boyce tour, the following tour I was in America meeting with labels. It’s been an absolute whirlwind.

Calum Scott

Credit: Meeno Peluce

It was recently announced that you signed a deal with Capitol Records US. That must be a dream come true?

Yes. Oh my god yes! Last year i was working in an office as a recruitment officer so I was getting other people jobs. The year after I find myself visiting America, I’d never been before, and now I’ve been to L.A. a couple of times to meet the labels and Capitol just felt like home. The acts that are on the label like Sam Smith, Katy Perry and The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra…it’s just right up my street. I was made to feel very welcome when I was there and the team is amazing. It just feels like a massive family. When I signed my deal I didn’t think it was real and that this sort of stuff doesn’t happen to Yorkshire lads like me. I thought I was going to wake up at some point and find I was still in my job as a recruitment officer.

There tends to be a very small window when shows like Britain’s Got Talent finish to capitalise on the attention it gives acts. Did you think that you might not get to this point?

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I was Simon’s Golden Buzzer and that meant the world to me because it’s Simon. Any singer that gets Simon’s backing…you only have to look at One Direction. When I didn’t get picked up after the show and there were no conversations about being signed it hit me hard and I thought ‘maybe that’s it, that’s that opportunity gone’. I was already thinking about my day job which was killing me and I thought even if Simon didn’t want me, I connected with a lot of people and I can’t go back to an office now. I had that taste of connecting with people and all the messages of support I got so I just couldn’t go back to a day job.

I felt I had real purpose now so I went to my lawyer in London the day after the show and she set me up with some management and an agent. I started live working and grafted to keep my foot in the door and keep the momentum going. It’s been difficult and it’s not an easy process. There’s been The X Factor since and another season of Britain’s Got Talent. My fans have been incredibly loyal and you’ve got to keep that momentum going otherwise you become the year’s before show. If you don’t work hard and you don’t push you end up being last year’s contestant. I really wanted to stay connected with people and keep my fans engaged with me.

I did think it was the end but that’s what makes this story so amazing that after the show I didn’t get picked up by Syco. You’re never really safe in this industry and you have to keep working hard. I’m proud to say that I got an incredible manager, outside of the management I got from the show, and it’s just been an incredible adventure so far. I feel terrible saying this is my day job and that I get up in the morning then have to go to the studio, then do an interview with this person… My friends have a few choice words for me when I tell them and they say ‘well you’re not getting up at 6am to go into an office to work for seven and a half hours.’ There is a small window of opportunity and I like to think that I’m one of the few that managed to secure a future in music a year after the show. It’s all thanks to the fans, if it wasn’t for them then my track wouldn’t have shot up the charts. They’re the ones who pushed this through social media and it’s all down to them.

I bet Simon is kicking himself that he didn’t sign you…

(laughs) I would love to be able to see Simon again. I did try to after the show but the live stuff picked up for me. It was busy for me then I tried reaching out but his mother had just died. Then he was on The X Factor so that opportunity completely disappeared. I would like to meet him because he’s a massive part of where I am now. He gave me that golden recognition and it was a privileged situation to be in. I went straight through to the semis and I got Simon’s backing so the spotlight was on and it was awesome. I’ve got him to thank for it. It’d be nice to know that he’s kicking himself and he wishes he signed me up but at the end of the day everything happens for a reason. I feel like I’m with an amazing label that are really going to look after me and be like a second home for me.

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I know you’re only just starting work on your debut album. At this point do you know what direction you’re going in or is it just too early to say?

I’ve been writing for a while so I have developed my sound. I’ve been asked if I’m going to change much from my style on Britain’s Got Talent and my answer to that is that I connected with so many people in the style that I sang on the show that it seems stupid to change from that sound. I do love singing the big ballads and the emotional numbers but I do love singing the midtempo stuff and the foot to the floor kind of songs. We are developing it and looking at exciting new ways of me interpreting songs but when it comes down to it, it is about connecting to the lyrics and to the audience. I’m not saying that I’m going to sit there singing ballad after ballad after ballad but I don’t want to stray too far from what people already know of me. I’m not going to start rapping so we can tick that off the list (laughs). I haven’t tried it so maybe I’ll surprise myself.

Well maybe not on album one but who knows for album two?

(laughs) Maybe album two, I’ll do a sick little rap on it! For the time being I’m just concentrating on the songs. What I want is Dancing On My Own but for me. I want to have a track that reaches out to as many people and connects with as many people but for it to be one of my original songs. That would be incredible. The traction that Dancing On My Own has got and how universally understood it is…one of my biggest territories has been Brazil so it just shows it speaks to people all around the world. That’s the kind of music I want to make really.

Dancing On My Own is available to download now and Calum is currently working on his debut album for release later this year. Watch the video for Dancing On My Own below:

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