In The Middle with Tom Walker

Causing a quiet stir amongst the music blogs for over a few years now, Tom Walker’s rise into the mainstream was always going to be an exciting one and, with a sold-out UK tour kicking off in Leeds this week, writer Lucy Bradshaw hopped on the phone to chat to Tom about all things from drunken Northern crowds to Chet Faker’s confusing name change.

The Glasgow-born artist has just returned from a 3-week stint across America supporting Irish lads, The Script, playing the likes of infamous Radio City Music Hall in NYC to The Wiltern, one of the largest theatres in LA. “They are one of the kindest, most awesome bands I’ve ever toured with, proper top lads and treated us all really nicely” Tom exclaimed, and with videos arising across Twitter of Tom onstage with the boys, even chugging a beer one night whilst Danny from the Script cheered him on, it’s clear to see he’s not lying.

But it seems like the tour wasn’t the typical rose-tinted American road trip we all dream of; “we weren’t in the bus so I think we drove roughly 7000 miles in 22 days across the country, staying in the shadiest motels you’ve ever seen in your life”. However, it’s certainly made Tom excited to tour the USA in the future, “I’d love to go back and do more as we got such a wicked reaction live but it’d be good to see more of America not outside the window of a moving car”.

It’s safe to say then that his upcoming UK tour is going to be a little less hectic than his past few weeks; “driving from Leeds to Manchester is going to feel like 15 minutes, I’m really excited”. Especially as he’ll be playing sold-out shows to three home crowds “I was born in Scotland, mostly grew up in Manchester and then moved to London so [any of the] three kind of feel like home now”. As every band will know, there’s always something special the further up North you play, “the crowds are always a bit rowdier, they’ve definitely all had an extra pint and it’s always a good laugh”.

Signing to Relentless Records at the end of 2015, Tom released his first EP, Blessings, back in May of this year, but isn’t keen to put out any more; “I don’t want to spend my time doing loads of EPs, I don’t see the point” which is, ironically, making a valid point about the way we consume our music today, with the average fan choosing singles over albums. Are EPs just getting lost altogether in the ether? “I’d rather just release a couple more singles and then go straight into an album”.

So how would Tom Walker describe Tom Walker’s sound? “A mix between hip-hop and pop with a bit of blues, reggae and soul in it,” which further begs the question is genre even important anymore? Stating Paolo Nutini and Chet Faker as two of his biggest influences, it’s clear to see where Walker gets his soulful voice and style from. Neither of us could figure out why Faker now releases music under his birth name, Nick Murphy; “I found him on Spotify one day and thought fucking hell that guy sounds just like Chet Faker, then I saw the picture and thought fucking hell he looks just like Chet Faker, his voice is so unmistakable it had to be Chet Faker. But I looked at the name and it was Nick, but why the fuck is that Nick, that’s not Nick, that’s Chet Faker. It’s all a bit suspicous”.

Moving on from all that confusion, the conversation took a bit of a darker turn as we approached the subject of his latest single, ‘Leave a Light On’. As one of Walker’s most passionate, lyrically gut-wrenching songs I wanted to delve into the backstory of it; “It’s about a few different things. One of my mates had a bit of a problem with alcohol abuse and we lost him for a little bit. Then I lost a family member a couple of years back. It’s kind of just about when it all goes wrong and my mates and I team together to make sure we’re all alright.” Proving that no topic is too difficult for this songwriter to tackle, the single isn’t all doom and gloom; “I think it’s a nice sentiment that I’ve got such good friends so if somebody goes off the radar we spend a lot of time looking for them and making sure they’re okay”.

And we might not have to wait too long for an album either, with Tom stating that his debut will be out “next year, definitely”. However, Walker isn’t rushing to cash in on the hype that’s currently surrounding him and release something he isn’t proud of; “you only get one chance to do an album so I’m not going to put it out until I’m happy with it. I want to make sure it’s fucking wicked and that everyone’s into it”. In fact, he’s just about to go into the studio and resume recording with Jim Abbiss, the producer who’s worked with everyone from Arctic Monkeys to Kasabian to Adele; “I’m so excited to get back in with him and the band after being on the road for so long. It’s so satisfyingly creative to finally hone together all the songs you spend ages writing and Jim has a custom-built studio out in the countryside so it’s nice to get away from London for a bit”.

In the meantime, before we lose Tom to a creative haven in the countryside whilst we wait for his debut to be finished, you can catch him at Leeds Chapel on November 20th and his new single ‘Leave a Light On’ is out now.

Lucy Bradshaw