Back in 2018, DMA’s wowed crowds at Liverpool’s Camp and Furnace as a headline act of that year’s Sound City festival. Not, however, before dropping by Goodison Park to take a look around the Grand Old Lady and explain to evertonfc.com how lead singer Tommy O’Dell convinced the rest of the band to follow his lead and follow the Toffees.
On Friday night, O’Dell was headlining again – this time for Everton as he took part in the Club’s first virtual music event, Lockdown Sessions 2020, to help raise vital funds for the Blue Family campaign. Read on to learn about O’Dell’s affinity for Everton, his Blues heroes and how his dad once played in the same Toffees team as Joe Royle.
You meet a twenty-something Australian Evertonian and it’s the obvious assumption to make. Tim Cahill, right?
Few imports from the country can boast of having had as profound an impact on a single Premier League club, after all.
However, to leap to such conclusions when it comes to DMA’s frontman and boyhood blue Tommy O’Dell would be wide of the mark.
O’Dell’s Everton roots not only stem from family born, raised and still residing in Liverpool - “My auntie lives here, one of my cousins, and some extended family, too” - but go as deep as having a father, Ron, who played in the same Toffees academy side as a certain Joe Royle way back in the mid-1960s.
“I had dad’s apprentice signing on form. It was framed and he was really proud of it,” says Tommy as we stand pitchside at Goodison. He has brought his bandmates along to show off the Grand Old Lady hours before they are due on stage at Liverpool venue Camp and Furnace to headline the 2018 Sound City festival. They are still flying high from Liam Gallagher emphatically endorsing their second album, For Now, describing it as “biblical” in a tweet posted earlier that year.
“My dad always said that Joe Royle was lovely,” continues Tommy. “He got to train with him. He only has fond memories of that time.
“I still have the form.
“I didn’t really have much of a choice to be honest but that always made me want to support Everton.”
While Royle went on to break into the first team, become the Club’s then youngest ever player and ultimately form a key part of Harry Catterick’s much-revered title winning side of 1969/70 (he scored 23 goals that campaign), Ron O’Dell was told his services would no longer be required and his Everton aspirations were regretfully snubbed out.
He moved to Australia aged 21 and later started a family, but his love for Everton remained.
That affinity would eventually pass on to his young son. But it wasn’t until 1995 and an FA Cup run inspired by a familiar face that it blossomed into a full blown love affair.
“I have always been a strong Evertonian,” Tommy says, picking up the story. “But when they won the FA Cup in ‘95 with Joe Royle as manager, I think that is when my true Evertonian blood came out.”
Daniel Amokachi’s match-clinching brace against Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final of that competition - when he famously misunderstood an instruction to get warmed up, ran on the pitch and duly sparked what Royle describes as “the greatest substitution I never made” - led to the Nigerian’s name being the first Tommy had printed on the back of his beloved Everton home shirt.
Understandably, ‘O’Dell’, was also a frequent choice as the years went by.
But it was another forward of that era who truly earned the youngster’s admiration and further fuelled his infatuation for a club 10,500 miles from his Sydney home.
“Duncan Ferguson was my hero growing up,” says Tommy. “When I got a bit older it was Tim Cahill - he helped Everton become bigger in Australia, for sure. And there have been so many great players that I loved who have played for Everton, like Tommy Gravesen and Steven Pienaar.
“I have an app on my phone so I can watch all the games now. I haven’t missed a game this season.”
“He is always on his phone, screaming!” chips in acoustic guitarist and bandmate Johnny Took, overhearing our interview and stepping out from the shadows cast by the Main Stand into the glorious sunshine drenching the Goodison turf.
“He doesn’t shut up about Everton,” adds lead guitarist Matt Mason. “It is good though. He has converted us both into Blues as well!”
In fact, there is an in-joke among the crew supporting the trio that Tommy is trying to persuade each and every one of them – not just his bandmates - into becoming Evertonians.
And while it’s mission accomplished as far as Johnny and Matt are concerned, their tour manager and sound engineer conveniently required no convincing at all.
“By complete coincidence they are Evertonians, too,” says Tommy. “It came out fairly early on when we had our first chat about football. We all got on a lot better from there!”
For Tommy, touring has become a way of life since the band released its debut single "Delete" in February 2014.
Yet, it could all have been very different.
His early dream had echos of his father’s four decades before - until the day came when the choice between football and music had to be made.
“I actually played until I was about 18 and I took football more seriously than music, it was important for me,” he recalls.
“I was okay. I played in midfield - like Pienaar!
“But I always had a love for music. I started playing drums in a band and it went from there. I stopped playing football and started focusing on that."
Gallagher’s glowing praise – the band later supported the Oasis frontman on his 2019 UK and Ireland solo tour - would suggest he made the right choice, the Mancunian’s approval of their work meaning all the more coming from someone whose music partly inspired their own direction.
Just heard the new DMA'S record 1 world BIBLICAL as you were LG x— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) April 19, 2018
“That [tweet] from Liam was great,” says a beaming Tommy. “It is always nice to get positive feedback from other musicians. We have a British-style mixed with other stuff as well. I guess that comes from my English background, so it is good for him to say that.”
“When anyone from a guitar band gives you a thumbs up, it’s cool,” adds Johnny. “But when it’s from someone like that, it’s especially nice. When you get a good reaction, it’s great.”
The last word, though, goes to our surroundings. Even empty, Goodison has an aura the three want to drink down in gulps.
“I’ve been to Goodison before - I always try to get to a game when we’re over here - but it’s always been my dream to get down on the pitch,” says Tommy, gazing left to right, taking in all four stands.
“I like the size of it. It looks amazing from down here. I feel like a player doing this interview!
“When you are watching on TV, you can’t capture the speed of it. When it is live, it is amazing and one of the biggest things about the Premier League... it is so much faster than you think.
“It must be brilliant to play football here. Absolutely brilliant.”
To watch Tommy’s performance on the Lockdown Sessions 2020 or to donate, click here.
Tommy O’Dell, The Wombats and Kieran Shudall of Circa Waves were among a host of top artists who performed during Everton's first virtual music event - Lockdown Sessions 2020 - on Friday night.
The Club and Everton in the Community worked alongside music industry specialists Shoot Music to bring together a host of acts - many of them Evertonians - to record session tracks from home in support of the Club’s ‘Blue Family’ campaign.
To find out more or to watch on demand, click here.