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Interview: Calum Scott opens up about ‘Biblical’ and the journey to his second album

The singer-songwriter talks about the pressures of following up his debut album.

Calum Scott
Credit: Tom Cockram

Calum Scott rose to fame when he auditioned for “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2015 with a cover of Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’.

Scott impressed Simon Cowell so much, that he was sent straight through to the semi-final and following his time on the show, he signed to Capitol Records and had a huge hit with ‘Dancing On My Own’. Since then Scott released his debut album ‘Only Human‘ in 2018 and enjoyed another global smash with ‘You Are The Reason’.

After touring the world and seeing the impact his music has had, Scott has been hard at work on his second album and recently he debuted the lead single ‘Biblical’, a song that has already resonated strongly with his fanbase. He recently performed it on ‘The Today Show‘ in the US.

I spoke to Calum earlier this week to discuss the incredible success he’s experienced, talk about why ‘Biblical’ was the natural lead single from the new album, and to find out about his journey to writing and recording his second album…

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I can’t believe it’s been five years since we last chatted. At that time ‘Dancing On My Own’ was blowing up and we hadn’t had the ‘Only Human’ album yet. Since then things have sky rocketed for you. What have those years been like for you?

It’s just been the most amazing experience. Like I’ve said to you before during our first interview, I went from working in human resources in Hull, a small city in the corner of East Yorkshire, and then all of a sudden I had, more or less, the world at my doorstep. It was something that I could never have even imagined, just from me relating so much to Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’. Then doing my own version and putting my emotion on it and thinking, ‘this is my voice. I think this is where I can see my music going’ but not having any real certainty in it. It just felt right and then that paved the way for the ‘Only Human’ album and releasing ‘You Are the Reason’ and watching that transcend across the world. The album, for me, was was one of my proudest moments so far in my career and touring that and seeing that music resonate with people and soundtrack their lives. I’ve seen it on wedding videos, I’ve seen it being used in really emotional, poignant moments and that’s a real honor. The second album was me taking a look at that and being like, ‘OK, well, now I have a responsibility to create music like I did on the first album to continue being a soundtrack for people’s lives’.

You have a tendency to release songs that have a long shelf-life too, which is rare for an artist. ‘Dancing On My Own’ is still played a lot and I hear ‘You Are The Reason’ frequently. It must feel good to know your songs are having longevity?

Yeah, I feel incredibly lucky that my music doesn’t seem to have a best before date. The thing with me is, I knew pretty early on what kind of music that I resonated with and that my heart lent into. It was all from my mum’s music tastes when we were growing up. When she would take us to school or to swimming lessons, or to see family and friends or whatever, she would put her CDs on like, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson… these big massive voices, where even when you play those songs, now, you’re like, ‘that’s still a cracking song’. (Those are) songs that are going to stick around forever. That found its way into the roots of my musical tastes. When I was trying to find my own voice, I was in a Maroon 5 tribute band called Maroon 4, we were touring up and down and I was playing all these pop songs. Although I enjoy that energy and that pop music, it still wasn’t where I felt my heart beat for it. I sang my own version of ‘Dancing On My Own’ by Robyn, put it on YouTube, and started getting a little bit of a fan base going. I very vividly remember my first 1,000 views on my YouTube, by the way, and it blew my mind so seeing the YouTube views now is crazy. I sang and performed that at the audition (for Britain’s Got Talent), and then during the competition I did ‘We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off’ and Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ also in a ballad style. Coming out of that and into original material, my heart was always leaning into ballads.

When you make an album you want tempo and you want rhythm and you want something to excite people, as well as having all the balads, I still felt like every time I sang (a ballad) that I really meant it. ‘You Are The Reason’ is a song that I sing like it’s my last time every time and I think that’s why people relate to it because you can hear that emotion and you can hear that sincerity. Plus it’s timeless, beautiful music that hopefully will stand the test of time because it’s just those raw ingredients; emotion passion, a beautiful lyric and beautiful instrumentation around it.

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Calum Scott - Biblical
Credit: Capitol Records

The ballads are where you really soar. Did the success of those help to inform your second album?

That really did give me the direction on my second album, because having written the first (album) and having seen ‘You Are The Reason’ and ‘Dancing On My Own’  perform really well – and ‘No Matter What’ as well to be honest – seeing how those relate to people and how people would send me messages daily saying, ‘my God, this has changed my life. This has helped me quite to my family. This is the song we’re using as our first dance song. This is the song we played at my nan’s funeral’, all of these really emotional, poignant moments, did heavily impact the music I wanted to make. For the second album, I had all of 2019 and the pandemic as well to think about what I wanted to say now and what I wanted to talk about. I’ve talked about my coming out journey, I’ve talked about heartbreak and everything that’s happened to me so far. What do I want to say now? I had to dig pretty deep. I thought that ‘No Matter What’ was the most personal song I’ve ever written, seems like that’s not the case. There’s an even more poignant song on the second album, which is me pulling my heart out and giving it to people. Something I would never thought I would have shared with the public. Even close friends and family have never really heard that story. I’ve put it in music and it’s going to be out there for the world to hear when the album is released. I have to do that, I have to be honest, and I have to give my truths because that’s the foundations on which I’ve built my relationship with my fans and my audience.

You’ve really come out of the gates swinging with ‘Biblical’. It’s a natural progression from the first album but vocally I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing like this. Was it an obvious choice for the lead single?

For me, yeah. It ticks all the boxes of what a Calum Scott song is. This is the first time that I’ve returned with new music so the only thing that was on my mind was I need to come out with music that is truly Calum Scott. What I want to do is solidify my footprint in the music industry, and I think that comes with solidifying your identity and the kind of messages that you want to put out there. ‘Biblical’ came during the lockdown and I was being a bit destructive with my mental health at that point. I was looking across all the songs that I’d done for the album and I was being a bit destructive. I didn’t have that support network around me. I thrive very much on support and reassurance because I still feel that I need that reassuring hug and arm around my shoulder. I was doubting myself and questioning my music when ‘Biblical’ came along. There was so much emotion that I was feeling that I basically just embued the song with that emotion. That’s one of the beauties of music is that it allows me to release emotion onto a song, but then it also enables the audience to absorb that and then enable them to release how they feel or to be able to relate to it. It is a beautiful 360.

I sang my heart out on that song. We actually got to record the vocals in Abbey Road when the restrictions have lifted enough that we could travel again, and that was the first time that I’d left my city in months. Going to Abbey Road and recording in ‘Biblical’ was just perfect. I was beaming all day at just getting to go to Abbey Road. The legends that have walked through those corridors and sang into those microphones was in my mind already and I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to be on my best behavior. I’ve got to be on point today’ (laughs). Not only that, but being able to record this song and knowing that this was going to be the first song I’d come back with. It was really special. It’s as close to magic as I think you can ever get. I felt so strongly about it, that I wanted it to be the first thing people heard. It’s tempting to do tempo and something feel-good but I think I’ve got all that to come. I just wanted to establish myself and come back and be like this undeniably Calum Scott again. The message about unquantifiable love and immeasurable love at a time when we’ve been separated from for so long, just seems very apt at this time in the world.

I commend you for sticking to your guns about big ballads because they are a dying art. It sounds like our mums had very similar music taste as I was brought up on those powerhouse singers too, and there just aren’t many people making songs like that these days…

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That’s where my heart leans into. My idol is Adele. I look at the music that Adele’s made and she is unmistakable. When Adele comes back with a song, you know it’s going to be this big massive love song where everybody can hear the pain she’s been through and relate to it. Because of the musical upbringing from my mum, I feel that that’s just the most natural thing for me to do. Don’t get me wrong the performance and the lyric writing can be quite emotionally draining because I put everything into it every time, but to release it and have people messaging me saying it was their wedding song, it just makes all that blood, sweat and tears worth every single moment. It just excites me for the rest of the record, because there’s some other really poignant moments as well as ‘Biblical’. The album, I feel, is the best I’ve ever made. It’s the best representation of me right now and it’s the most confident I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt more Calum Scott than I do now. It just excites me to think that there’s so much more to come as well as ‘Biblical’, which seems already to be resonating with people.

I went to my friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. I’d sent him the demo (of ‘Bibilical’) before we put it out and he was like, ‘mate, this has got to be the wedding song’. He’d been searching for (a song) for ages with his fiancee and he was like, ‘it’s got to be this song!’ He didn’t want me to perform it, he wanted me to be there and to just take in. I watched them dance to it and I was just in tears, because it was an amazing feeling to stand there and watch two of my really good friends singing, ‘I want to have it all with you’ to each other. I’m stuck for words. It’s the most incredible feeling and to know that other people all around the world have had my music as their first dance song fills me with pride. It’s the best feeling ever.

Calum Scott
Credit: Tom Cockram

That must be absolutely mind-blowing. I can’t even begin to fathom what that must have felt like for you…

It was magical! What bigger privilege and a massive honor for them to feel so strongly about something that you’ve created, that they want that to be in their memory for the rest of their lives together? You forever become a part of that huge moment for them. It was very emotional (laughs).

How far along is the album? Have you completed it now or are you still going the finishing touches?

We have the album and we are finalising the details of the tracklist. We have the album title. I’m so desperate to share information (laughs) but I’m bound to secrecy. We’ve selected what we want to use for the rest of the campaign. I think that it’s such a strong album. It was a little bit of a journey because the first album was written in the chaos of being plucked out of this life and thrown into the music industry. I was chasing ‘Dancing On My Own’ and having all these amazing moments with it all over the world traveling and touring. I got to support Emeli Sande and I was doing arenas, then back and finishing the album up. Then I was over to LA and Nashville. It was just very, very crazy. 2018 was my whole touring year. I toured the UK and Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand… everywhere. I supported Pentatonix for two months in America and I supported Jason Derulo in arenas. I had a massive live year, and it was the best year of my life so far.

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Then 2019 came and me and the label were like, ‘this is the time! Let’s write the album’.  For a few months I was like, ‘this is amazing. It’s nice and tranquil. I’ve got me and my thoughts’ and then two months in I was like, ‘this is really hard’ (laughs). I’d had my whole life to write the first album, all the experiences I’d been through but with the second album, it was very much like somebody had come to and said, ‘right, what do you want to say now?’ It forced me outside of my comfort zone because suddenly I was questioning what I wanted to write. It had became a lot more specific, but within that it made me grow and develop. I felt like for the first time I was a songwriter, writing songs for my own project and going into the (songwriting) room with purpose. Finding all those amazing people from the first record that I loved working with like Fraser T Smith and Jon McGuire and Corey Sanders, who I wrote ‘You Are The Reason’ with, Dave Gibson in America… all these incredible writers and producers that I was honing in on and narrowing my gaze to be very specific.

That was difficult but I feel like I’ve got my best stuff now from doing that process. The idea of knowing there’s so much more to come is just so exciting. Then the idea of touring that as well… I will tour every single day when we’re open, if that’s what it takes, because I have just missed so badly seeing how the music translates live. Music lovers who go to these gigs, you can see that they’re just ready to just absorb all of this music and all of these moments. I just can’t wait to be back touring this second album.

I think you deserve a lot of credit too for being able to follow up a hugely successful debut single that was a cover. That’s a near impossible feat to achieve, yet you managed to do it…

Thank you Pip. When I released ‘Dancing On My Own’ I had no expectation of what the industry was or how it operates so I just went with it. As I’ve gone through my career, I definitely came to a point after the success of ‘Dancing On My Own’ where I needed to find the next song because I don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder and I didn’t want to be the guy from ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. I felt like I had so much more to give and so much more to say. I did panic that maybe ‘Dancing On My Own’ was going to be the only song that I had success and the only thing I’m going to be remembered for. It was amazing go around and singing ‘Dancing On My Own’ by Robyn and talking about her and the way that she wrote the song, because I did get a bit of insight with that, but it felt measurable talking about my own stuff and talking about stuff that I’d written. I’m so glad that I had that moment with Dancing On My Own’ and I’m forever grateful to it and Robyn, but coming out of that was incredibly stressful. I did panic, and I did worry, but then having ‘You Are The Reason’, and watching it transcend all over the world, it just reaffirmed to me that I believed in the music and I believed in what I was saying. Other people could see that and that’s what carried the momentum.

Coming back with a new single from a new album, it starts again. I did go through that process again – what if people don’t listen to it? What if people don’t relate to it? What if I’ve made a mistake? It was live and die by the sword. I knew that there would be a huge core fan base that would absolutely love this song and I thought this is something that I can stand behind for the rest of my career and be proud of having written and recorded. Hence why ‘Biblical’ was the first out of the gate. It is scary but it’s a roll of the dice with the music industry sometimes. All I can do is be true to who I am, be true to what I love and true to the people who have helped keep me in this position. I’m forever grateful to all those fans.

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Calum Scott’s single ‘Biblical’ is available to stream and download now. Watch the video for the song below:

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