As most people approach their 30th birthday, the milestone of hitting the “big 3–0” is met with a sense of dread. But for singer-songwriter Calum Scott, there’s every reason to smile as a new decade of life waits right around the corner.
In just three years, the 29-year old Northern England native has achieved global recognition thanks to his gut-wrenchingly emotional rendition of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” which he wowed the ever-critical Simon Cowell with on Britain’s Got Talent. In March, Scott released his debut original album Only Human, which amassed a billion streams. Now, he’s joining the acapella powerhouses of Pentatonix on their nationwide summer tour, which will hit the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey, on Aug. 14.
Ahead of the show, The Times caught up with Scott to learn how he discovered his voice as both a singer and songwriter, the personal experiences that inspired his discography of honest, relatable tracks, and the whirlwind adventure that’s been his career thus far.
To see the confidently raw artistry executed by Scott today, one would never guess he spent the first eight years after graduation working in human resources.
“It was cool you know, I had a wage and I was able to get my first car and go on holidays with my friends and stuff,” he said. “But it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Still, he never viewed himself as a musician by any means. Growing up, Scott’s sister Jade was always the sibling who hungered for a break into the music industry.
“I used to go to her shows and be so proud of her and so mesmerized that she could stand in front of that many people and be so vulnerable,” he reflected.
Inspired by his sister, Scott would sing in the shelter of his bedroom, away from the judgmental ears of society. It had become something of a secret hobby … that is, until Jade overheard him one day. She knew her brother had a gift, and in 2007, took it upon herself to sign him up for a talent competition. Though getting on stage was nerve-wracking at first for the inexperienced Scott, he soon realized how at home he felt.
The following years saw Scott learn to appreciate his vocal gift rather than shy away from it. He gained enough confidence to audition for The X Factor and, after that didn’t work out, joined a Maroon 5 tribute band cleverly named Maroon 4.
“I think it was genius because it was only four of us,” he laughed.
In the midst of embracing his inner Adam Levine, Scott constructed a recording studio in the back bedroom of his mother’s house, a serious step forward in his pursuit of a professional singing career. It was in this very studio that Scott laid down the track which would one day launch him to international fame — Robyn’s 2010 hit “Dancing On My Own.” From the first time he heard the song, the lyrics resonated with Scott on a deep level.
“I’ve always been the guy in the club kind of watching other people get close and form relationships. I’ve always been the guy who’s single and desperate for love,” he said.
After recording a stripped down piano version of the song, Scott interrupted his mom mid-pot washing. He wanted her to hear what he created.
“We sat down, we pressed play and we were both in tears. So I knew that I stumbled across something very special,” he said.
When Jade signed herself and Scott up to audition for the 2015 season of Britain’s Got Talent, “Dancing On My Own” was the only obvious choice for him to sing. Though his sister was cut early from the competition, Scott advanced week after week, finishing in sixth place.
The following year, his rendition of “Dancing On My Own” was released as a single, with Scott selling more than a million copies before signing with Capitol Records. Today, he’s basking in the unprecedented success of his first full-length album Only Human, which is already celebrating a billion streams since its release in March.
“It’s been a whirlwind, you can imagine, from human resources to where I’m at now,” he said.
But when an artist sings about emotions everyone feels at one point or another, whether it’s jealousy or anxiety, people are going to latch on. Only Human is a breathtakingly beautiful glimpse into Scott’s personal journey of learning to accept rather than reject the tears, trials and tribulations that come with everyday life.
A track Scott holds particularly close to his heart is “If I Love You Wrong,” which was inspired by the stress felt over coming out to the public as gay. Though he was terrified of what people would think and whether his sexuality would negatively impact his career, Scott wanted to be honest. “If I Love You Wrong” completely changed the course of his writing, which was previously centered around parties and clubs. The song inspired a myriad of other tracks heard on Only Human such as “Only You,” “You Are The Reason,” and others that “hit people in the chest.”
“If this was my only album, I wanted to make sure that it resonated, that it was honest, that it was genuine, and something I could stand by and say, I could give no more,” he said.
As we speak, Scott is pouring his honest little heart out to nearly 15,000 fans every night on Pentatonix’s summer tour, which kicked off in July and runs through September. Just him and his piano, Scott welcomes fans both new and old into his world, sharing the life experiences that inspired each song.
“It’s been such a blast,” he said. “It allows me to tell my story really, really well and very organically and authentically.”
Scott explained how honored he is to share the bill with Pentatonix, which granted him the chance to visit places in the U.S. he wouldn’t have seen on his own.
“They’re all sweethearts. They’re all incredibly talented,” he said of the group, which consists of Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee.
Though the tour still has a ways to go, Scott is already looking toward the future. While beginning work on album №2, he’ll travel to South Africa, Australia and Asia, as well as support Jason Derulo throughout the U.K. In the midst of it all, Scott will celebrate his 30th birthday on Oct. 12 with family and friends, a milestone he’s greeting with open arms.
“It’s a really cool time. I’m approaching my 30s with a smile on my face, which I never thought would happen,” he said. ••
For more on Calum Scott and upcoming tour dates, visit calumscott.com.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com