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His hit songs have us bopping away in our cars, but behind that cool persona and those unmistakable club beats, DJ Tom Zanetti is a loving and doting dad with a tragic past.
The star is the sole parent to son Deaconn, 14, after becoming a father at 17 following a chequered history of arrests and “hanging around with the wrong people”.
And while Deaconn’s mum isn’t involved in his life, the little boy’s first mother figure, Tom’s girlfriend Lizzie Pickavance, died in a car crash when he was just three years old.
There’s no denying Tom has been through a lot in his life and now Deaconn is his rock. He affectionately describes the teen as his “best mate” when we catch up with them for our Father’s Day shoot at their home in Wakefield, and it’s a joy to watch the adorable pair banter back and forth.
While the subject of Deaconn’s birth mum is off limits, it’s clear the pair are thriving on their own.
“I’m lucky enough to say I’ve never had a problem with him at all. He’s very laid-back, he’s a proper chiller and he’s really mature for his age,” Tom tells us.
Tom’s also tried his luck on reality TV, and viewers will recognise him from the recent series of Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion and his romance with Made In Chelsea star Sophie Hermann.
However, Sophie announced their split this week, following weeks of speculation – but it’s something Tom is philosophical about.
“We made memories for life,” he says of their six-month relationship, citing their “different lives” for the break-up.
Here, the 31-year-old discusses his close relationship with his son, how he coped as a young father and his reality TV dreams…
Hi Tom. This shoot is so lovely. Tell us about your relationship with Deaconn…
He’s everything to me. He’s my best mate and everything I do is based on him. He even makes decisions for me – he’s the boss!
What’s Deaconn like?
He’s polite, funny, and he’s really warm and welcoming. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve never had a problem with him at all, he’s very laid-back, he’s a proper chiller and he’s really mature for his age.
Is he mature because of what he’s been through in his life?
Definitely. He’s had to grow up quite quickly and he’s been around me all his life – I’m his best friend. He’s been everywhere with me.
At Deaconn’s age, I was drinking and doing stupid stuff I shouldn’t have been doing. But Deaconn’s been on tour with me and he’s seen people drunk and it doesn’t interest him at all. He’s really focused. He doesn’t even drink fizzy drinks!
He’s just class, to be honest.
Sounds like he’s more sensible than you!
He’s the opposite to me when I was his age.
You said before you were kicked out of school and became a father quite young. What was it like becoming a parent during those years?
I stopped doing rebellious stuff when he was born.
From the age of 13, I was involved in a lot of stuff and was getting arrested all the time. I was making a lot of money on things I shouldn’t have been doing and hanging around with the wrong people.
I was hanging around people who were 20+ and I was only 13. I was fighting, getting kicked out of school and then when I found out I was having Deaconn, I knocked it on the head – I didn’t do anything else illegal. I started working and trying to make money.
He really grounded me – he kind of saved my life.
He kept you out of prison then?
Yeah, he kept me on the straight and narrow. He changed my life. He put me on the right route, because I was on a bad one.
Did something switch the moment he was born?
Yeah, it completely changed me. I held him and he had a big cone head, because he got pulled out with forceps. He had soft skin and I loved him. I said to the doctor, “Is his head going to stay like this?” [Laughs].
Did you fall in love with him instantly?
Yeah. Leading up to him being born, I was trying to get everything ready. I didn’t know what to expect. I was only 16 when I found out I was going to be a dad.
I was trying to work every type of job to make sure I had a pram, clothes and everything ready for him. I didn’t know what to expect and I was scared.
But when he was born, that was it, I felt comfortable. I was like, “Yes, this is my boy!” That’s it.
What support have you had around you to raise Deaconn?
My mum, Deaconn’s grandma, is like his mum. If he’s not with me, he’s with her.
It’s been like that since he was a baby. Deaconn’s grandma is like a godsend and she absolutely adores him and he adores her.
Were there times you felt judged for being a young dad?
Yes. I remember when I was young I would be pushing his pram around with a tracksuit, a hat and trainers on and people would look at me like I was doing something wrong.
But I don’t get it, because I was taking care of my responsibilities – a lot of people shy away from them at that age.
Would you like more children in the future?
I’d love more children – that is the plan. I want to try and get settled. In the next three to four years I’m building businesses, but after that I’d love to get married and have kids.
What does Deaconn think about you being famous?
When he was a kid he used to think it was really cool. I used to pull up at his school with the roof down playing music.
Now I’ve got to park around the block when I drop him off.
I’m like an embarrassing dad now I think! But he’s really proud, I can tell.
Has he got a career in music ahead of him?
Me, my manager and some of my best friends say he’s like a little A and R [a talent scout].
I want to get him a work placement at a record label, because he finds so much cool music it’s unreal. He keeps me up to date and really loves it. But his passion is football, he wants to be a professional player.
What would you like him to do?
I want him to be a professional football player – that’s my retirement fund [laughs]. He’s really good at it and I’m trying to get him into an academy now. He’s really pushing himself hard, so hopefully we can get him in this year.
How do you balance your busy career with being a dad?
When I was 17, that’s when I threw my first party and I sold it out, so I knew I could make money from parties and I made a bit of a name for myself up north.
But I had a son at home, so for the majority of the time I was working at night and getting home at 6am every day. I’d wait for him to wake up and give him his breakfast and take him to school.
Literally for four months I didn’t sleep. Trying to juggle everything wasn’t easy at all. I’ve always had the worst sleeping patterns – it was very serious for a lot of years. But lockdown actually helped me remedy that.
Have you got more used to it now?
I’ve always had my mum around, she’s been my rock – she helps through everything. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to take Deaconn to so many places with me, and with work.
I’ve taken him to Thailand, New York, Mexico, and he’s even been on numerous tours with me. I’m a lucky dad!
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Was it hard to be away from him when you were filming Celebs Go Dating:The Mansion?
To be honest, at this point me and Deaconn had just done 14 weeks together in lockdown and we had a right laugh!
We were riding our bikes to places and building dens. I felt like I was a kid again.
It was a really worrying time – all my businesses went under and I struggled with a lot myself, but having that time to spend with Deaconn at home… I was blessed.
But by the time Celebs Go Dating came up, Deaconn made the decision.
I was asked to do a Zoom call, so I said to Deaconn, “See what you think!”
I’ve been asked to do shows like that every year and I’ve always said no because I’ve either been busy with work or had a girlfriend.
They said, “You’ll be in a £30 million mansion with loads of celebrities, loads of crazy characters and you’ll get paid for it and it’ll be brilliant.”
I said to Deaconn, “What do you think?” And he said, “Are you mad? Make sure you do that!” I did it and we really enjoyed it and me and Deaconn watched every episode together.
He sounds like your manager!
[Laughs] Yeah, he is at times. He makes the decisions.
Speaking of Celebs Go Dating , what happened with Sophie Hermann?
We had a great time getting to know each other and made memories for life, but we live very different lives and being so busy, we just couldn’t commit.
So is it definitely all over?
We have gone our separate ways, yes. I wish the duchess all the best though.
Was it weird watching Celebs Go Dating back?
Yeah, it gave me anxiety every night. I didn’t know how it was going to be received and it’s something I’d never done before. It’s like hearing my songs on the radio – it’s amazing but I can’t help but cringe at my own voice!
Would you do another reality show?
I’d love to do I’m A Celebrity or SAS: Who Dares Wins. I’d smash the jungle!
What about Strictly?
I don’t think I’d look good in a glitter catsuit!
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