Hometown: Chichester, England
Songs that put him on the map: "Another Love" and "Sense"
Big win: He took home the 2013 Brit Critics' Choice Award (following in the footsteps of Adele, Emeli Sandé, and Jessie J)—and he didn't even have a record out.
New album: Long Way Down
Marie Claire: Tell us about your first gig.
Tom Odell: I played at an open mike night at a pub in Brighton, England, when I was 18. It was terrible. No one was in the pub. There were, like, four blokes in the back drinking beer. But I did a lot of those shows. It helped me learn how to perform.
MC: Playing in empty bars didn't make you think, I don't want to be a singer?
TO: No, I found it exciting. I was blind to what I was doing. When you suddenly become aware of the pitfalls, it can be an interesting drop. That's why my new album is called Long Way Down.
MC: Your music is so emotional. What do you pull from—a lot of heartache?
TO: It is all from experience. The strongest feelings I've had in my life are when love has gone right and when love has gone bad. And I think strong feelings make good songs.
MC: You seem very sentimental. It comes across in your music.
TO: I want people to hear the honesty in my singing, and that I'm not hiding behind anything. It's raw. It's not for any arrogance or ego. It's just pure feelings.
MC: Do you think this is your perfect first record?
TO: This album has flaws—and I wanted it to have the flaws that you have in your everyday life. Things never really go right. Life is never perfect. @tompeterodell