Photo credit: Steve Haddock
Tom Walker is stood by the door of indie-pop greatness. He’s received significant buzz for his booming voice and his evocative blend of rock & R&B. He’s been mentioned alongside the likes of Stefflon Don & J Hus as rising stars in British music. He’s racked up millions of plays online, and we were able to grab him for a quick chat after his packed out set at Live at Leeds.
HN: When did you get serious about being a musician?
TW: Oh god..I don’t think I ever decided to get serious about it!
HN: Well was it one moment or a longer process?
TW: I’d always loved music, I’d die for it and it’s the only thing I’ve ever excelled at. But I try not to take it too seriously.
HN: Can you remember the first time you were on stage?
TW: Oh yeah. I was maybe thirteen, and my Uncle had a covers band and I played ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ on guitar. One song, that’s all they’d give me.
HN: Well the response has been insane. ‘Leave a Light On’ has more than seventy million hits on Spotify.
TW: It’s nuts isn’t it.
HN: Imagine seventy million people in one space.
TW: Imagine if seventy million people had bought it!
HN: If only it was ten years ago…
HN: Why do you think that song really resonated with people?
TW: It talks about addiction. I think a lot of people in many walks of life have been addicted to something. It was about a mate of mine. I was trying to get through to him and he wasn’t really listening. I was getting really frustrated by it, and I wrote a song about it. I thought it’d be really personal to me and people wouldn’t really pick up on it but actually I’ve had messages from people around the world. That’s really cool.
HN: ‘Play Dead’ is my favourite tune you’ve done. That’s a pretty weird song…
TW: That song is a hypothetical about what me and my girlfriend would do if there was a zombie apocalypse. That was where the idea came from, and the rest of the lyrics I was like…what is this?! I tried to make it half-serious, but it is sort of a love song for my girlfriend. And also what we would do…stock up on rations and that.
HN: Tinned meat?
TW: Spam. All the spam.
HN: Did it go through several different iterations? It’s built around acoustic guitar but has sort of an R&B chorus.
TW: We built the song up. I did it with a guy called Craven Jay and Fiona Bevan. We built the beats on the day and then put in some of the keys and then I added some of the guitar. It picked up really naturally and came together really naturally. Same with the song, it all just kind of fell into place. It’s one of my favourite songs to play live. It’s a bit more rocky live. The drummer does loads of big fills and stops and gaps.
HN: I do love drum fills.
TW: Drum fills are always good.
HN: Who do you think your musical touchstones are? People who inspired you?
TW: I was listening to a lot of Jack Garrett last year. I’ve been following Ed Sheeran since he did Live at the Beford years ago. I’ve been following him since the beginning. He was one of the guys that made me think – if this guy can do it, then I can have a crack at it.
HN: His trajectory has been insane.
TW: He’s just crazy good. People seem to jump on the bandwagon and give him a hard time.
HN: I remember when he was getting stick for using loops…I just think some people fundamentally don’t know what a loop is.
TW: People were criticising him at Glasto like “It’s a shame he’s using a backing track” because he was live looping things! Oh my god…
HN: I saw your touring schedule at the end of last year and it was manic. How have you took to such intensive touring?
TW: I’m excited about getting a tour bus let’s put it that way. I’ve spent a lot of time in a van that looks very similar to that splitter over there. The last tour I did was a European tour and there was no days off because the day between gigs was just an eight hour drive. 16 days in a row. It’s amazing but you get tired after a while.
HN: So what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
TW: I’ve got a UK tour coming up at the end of the year, another European tour a US tour and thirty five festivals before the year ends.
TW: One down today thirty four to go!
We interviewed Tom as part of Live at Leeds. Full coverage here.