Unlike many singers these days, Calum Scott had a very standard childhood. Growing up in Hull, England, Scott developed his love for balladic music thanks to his mom, who would play artists like Meatloaf, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston in the car. But beyond family jam sessions, Scott never really thought anything about making music a career — until his younger sister, Jade, overheard him singing.
Jade had always been the singer in the family, Scott tells Billboard, which inspired him to try it himself. She invested in some speakers and a microphone when Scott was already a few years into his big-boy desk job, and one afternoon when he thought everyone was out of the house, “I thought I’d try and see what I sound like.”
He recalls singing his heart out to a karaoke track of Paolo Nutini’s “Last Request,” passionate air grabs and all (“I’m an all or nothing kind of guy, so I gave it everything,” he says with a smirk). The following week, Scott found himself entered a karaoke competition thanks to Jade, who happened to be home during Scott’s private singing test run.
Instead of backing out, though, he gave it a shot — despite being a bit of a nervous wreck. “I was sweating, I had to pee a hundred times. But as soon as I sang that song [‘Last Request’], and the reaction I got, I was completely in love with it. I just caught the bug completely.” He adds, “And I kind of like being nervous, because it reminds me of how much I want this.”
What may have been a bit of a sibling prank turned into bragging rights for Scott, as he came in second and Jade came in third (“This is what happens when you mess with your big brother,” Scott jokes). Ironically, the same thing happened when the two auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent about eight years later: Jade was turned down by the judges, and Scott earned a Golden Buzzer from lead judge Simon Cowell.
Although he didn’t end up winning the competition — he came in sixth place — his audition song, a slower rendition of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” resonated with fans. But even after getting suggestions that he release the song as a single, he knew he needed to come with his own material if he wanted to continue his success.
“It was quite hard for me to come to terms with the support I got so quickly after the audition. I’m a lad from Northeast England, this sort of stuff doesn’t happen,” he says. “So I wasn’t really accustomed to it — I wasn’t looking for popularity or money, but I knew I couldn’t go back to my day job [after BGT]. I just wanted to sing, to get my voice heard. I knew I had to do everything possible to stay in the industry.”
Almost exactly one year after his BGT audition, Scott decided to release “Dancing On My Own” as a single — and with 150 million Spotify streams (and counting) as of Feb. 8, it’s safe to say he made the right move.
Despite being a cover, Scott admits that the song has, in a way, started to feel like his own. “I always give kudos to Robyn because without her and without having written the song — unbeknownst to her at the time — she’s completely changed my life. I’m very proud to go around the world singing that song. And I hope she’s happy to see that song come back to life again.”
He continues, “In this context, you can’t dance to it, so you have to listen to it… I get told a lot that I make people cry, I’ve got a bit of a complex [laughs].”
But as “Dancing On My Own” continues to fill radio airwaves, Scott is hoping to focus more on originals — starting with his first single, “Rhythm Inside,” which brings a little more happiness to his catalog.
“It’s the polar opposite of ‘Dancing On My Own.’ You’re not in the corner anymore, you’re right in the action,” he says of the track. “There are a lot of songs about love and how it starts, whether that’s realizing it yourself or coming to find it later on — but no sort of talk about the actual feelings that are created from love and passion. I wanted to go a little bit deeper into the internal side of it. Like, the beat of your heart, your hair is standing on end, and the adrenaline. I wanted to capture that. It’s a hopeful song and it’s more positive. And it doesn’t make people cry, which is a massive tick in the box [laughs].”
Although “Rhythm Inside” is more upbeat than his “Dancing On My Own” cover, Scott admits that he was concerned his music may not be “cool” enough. After one of his buddies reminded him that Adele — a “huge idol” of his — doesn’t necessarily make “cool” music, he realized that being “cool” wasn’t his goal as an artist.
“[Adele’s] music is consistent. So that’s what I want to work towards, to be real with my music, be myself. If you’re real, you’ve never got anything to hide away from. You’re not trying to fake anything, you’re not trying to have this other persona — you’re just yourself. And if I could be myself for as long as possible, I will,” he declares. “I’d like to think I’m a versatile artist without straying too far from who I am.”
Scott had the chance to perform “Rhythm Inside,” along with other originals, on his first headlining tour, which hit several U.S. cities in the fall. Gushing that hearing his lyrics sung back to him by crowds “makes my face tingle,” he adds that it also makes him eager to release his debut album. Fortunately for Calum Scott fans, the wait could be over as soon as spring/early summer.
The album will consist of the same kind of balladic tunes fans have already heard from Scott, he says, since people have seemingly “fallen in love” with that style. And once the album is out, Scott hopes to meet as many fans as possible around the world — but most importantly, he hopes his music continues to connect.
“Kind of like ‘Dancing On My Own,’ I want to make sure every song relates,” he says. “Because I think those are the kind of songs that stick around.”
Check out a behind-the-scenes clip from the filming of Scott’s video, exclusively on Billboard, below.