Tom Povey aka Intensi-T is about to make his mark. The 21-year-old beatboxer, rapper, singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Norwich is the first credible act to assemble a whole album of potential pop songs using just the voice: the instrumental parts, the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums - the works.
He discovered music at an early age via his dad’s CD collection (music is in his genes: his great-granddad was lead trombonist in the BBC symphony orchestra, the first band on TV). He remembers a wide variety of sounds from brit-pop to grunge, such as Blur and Nirvana. The first band he truly got into was Blink 182 and then Oasis.
While studying for a Foundation Degree in Music Business and Production at Westminster University, he honed his beatboxing skills busking on the streets of London. He would earn up to £200 for stints in Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Fellow buskers were envious at his burgeoning popularity; he even appeared on a Channel 4 programme called Blackout.
It was through the dextrous use of the loop pedal that Tom was able to construct full songs, by looping and layering all of the individual sounds. When the busking laws got tougher, Intensi-T decided to change tack. He began inundating promoters for bookings. His persistence reaped dividends: not only did he get booked for Latitude Festival, but he also secured a number of slots on the London club and open-mic circuits. It was at one of these nights that Intensi-T was spotted by Megaman of So Solid fame who was blown away by his beatboxing skills, declaring, "There's nobody out there like him. No one even comes close.”.
One such gig, at the end of 2009, involved Intensi-T and another rising, fair-skinned, ginger-haired musician by the name of Ed Sheeran. Not that Sheeran was quite as big a draw back then - apparently, five people turned up to watch Tom and Ed play their sets. In 2010, he entered a beatboxing competition, having sneaked into Plan B, a club in Brixton. He came second. “They were in awe of me because I was so young, which was cool,” he says. “I was just a kid from Norwich."
The following year he got a major break after Nicola Roberts saw him perform at London’s Queen of Hoxton. So impressed was the Girls Aloud star that she invited him to perform with her at T4 On The Beach in front of 50,000 revellers.
Increasingly confident live, he set about honing his studio techniques.
Songs about “life and love”, exuberant and melodic, with powerful hooks and irresistible beats. They're all the more impressive considering how they were made.
In fact, so good is Intensi-T at what he does that he - together with female beatbox supremo Bellatrix - recently became the subject of forensic scrutiny by a university neuroscience department keen to examine his God-given gift.
“They had an MRI machine to scan our brains when we were beatboxing,” he explains. “They realised that you use the same part of the brain - the motor cortex - as you do when you’re driving. That’s how second-nature it is.”
Intensi-T is a man on a mission: to make beatboxing credible, and universally appealing.
“People used to see it as a novelty,” he says, “but I want them to see it’s a proper way to make music.”
With the respect of garage legends (Wiley, Dizzee) and pop royalty (Sheeran, Pixie Lott), Intensi-T doesn’t need to do much more convincing. Meet your new vocal hero.