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Tom Odell gets it right with Wrong Crowd

AAP logoAAP 27/07/2016 Danielle McGrane

Ivor Novello award-winning songwriter Tom Odell had a profound experience while visiting a refugee camp in Calais, France earlier this year.

The 25-year-old English songwriter went to the Jungle camp in Calais in February to draw attention to the plight of the refugees and was clearly moved by his experience there.

"It was one of the most harrowing things I've ever seen," Odell told AAP in Sydney.

"It was full of these camps and the living conditions were horrendous, you wouldn't let your pet live in these conditions."

Within the camp was a theatre where refugees came, huddling for warmth, and where Odell performed for them.

"It was full of so much hope and love and I've never seen human beings being so nice to each other," he said.

"While being a harrowing day, it was also the most life-affirming in a strange way."

These life-affirming and profound experiences have been coming thick and fast in the two years since Odell won the Ivor Novello award for Songwriter of the Year for his first album Long Way Down.

He counts Elton John as a friend and musical adviser and he's toured with Billy Joel, mining the piano man for information.

"When I toured with Billy Joel, he told me that almost every song he'd ever written he'd put on an album, so there was no song left over which blew my mind," he said.

But it's those real, more grounded moments, such as connecting with the refugee camp, that are still the most important to Odell.

"Knowing how much a pint of milk is, is important," he said.

As he releases his second album, Wrong Crowd, it's clear Odell's sound has become bigger and more cinematic.

Songs are anchored by his steady piano-line, Chris Martin-esque vocals but with some sweeping strings or the addition of some dancey drum beats.

But the music comes from the same place it always has.

"When I sat down to write this album, it was exactly the same as when I wrote something when I was 13, and it was important I got myself to a place like that that never changes," he said.

"You have to have that naive approach to songwriting that purely relates to how you feel."

*Wrong Crowd is out now

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