Ahead of the release of Tom Walker’s debut album “What a Time to Be Alive” on the 1st of March, I had the chance to ask him a few questions which brought interesting answers and an insight on the life of an artist with growing success and fame.
So this interview is for the university newspaper, but I am also going to review your concert later!
So I should be extra nice to you!
How do you feel about singing here this evening? It’s a university campus so maybe it has a different feel to it compared to other venues you’ve performed at.
I always think the university gigs are a bit more rowdy, you know what I mean, ’cause it’s mostly students who are mostly drinking *laughs* which is always good. It’s quite funny. Last night, because we turned up on the bus yesterday, we had a day off here, going around the campus and at three in the morning there was somebody being sick in the hedge near the bus and one of the band like went out and gave her a bottle of water *laughs* I was just like, this takes me back to when I was a student! It was hilarious, it was just Dominos cars swinging in and out constantly. Yeah, it’s good, it’s nice to be back, makes me miss uni a little bit.
Where did you go to university?
I went to uni in London, but my uni was tiny. There was only kind of like eight people in my whole class so it’s like a super small uni so we didn’t have like halls… We basically didn’t have any fun but all my friends went to Sheffield uni so I spent loads of time there like every weekend and this kinds of remind me a little bit of that
Yeah, I bet, and what are your most and least favourite things about live shows?
I think the buzz of a live show is great, you can’t beat it. You never know what’s gonna happen, how the crowds are gonna react, it’s good fun doing a really good show. I think like the downside is doing festivals because you get no soundcheck time, nothing works sometimes, you kind of just get thrown up on stage and you have 25 minutes to build your whole rig and then take it down. So I think… they’re testing times, festivals. But they’re fun, really fun.
You have a few shows in the UK first before going on your European tour, but do you ever get time to visit the cities where you’re performing?
Not really no, I mean, we get to see the venue that we’re playing at, some kind of food place that’s nearby the venue, a bar that is probably nearby the venue, and that’s about it really. because we’ve been to loads of places, we’ve been to Australia and Mexico and Canada and we’ve done a US tour and all of Europe this year and I’ve been to so many amazing places and hardly seen any of them so one day I’m gonna take a break and go and visit my favourite places and actually see them properly.
You really should do that, I love Australia!
Australia is amazing. I went to see the Sydney Opera House, that’s all I got to do, unfortunately, but that was beautiful.
And I’m half Mexican so I know Mexico very well!
Oh really? Sick, I love Mexico, It’s amazing, I mean again I saw like a bit of it, but mostly just went to taquerias and ate loads of tacos and it was amazing.
So because your new album is coming out in March, are you planning to go further away like on a world tour when it comes out?
So I wouldn’t say it’s a world tour *laughs* but we’re doing a UK tour in April and then we’ll be doing a US tour and a European tour shortly after. I’m not sure what the dates are yet but the plan is to release the album and then play the album in as many places as we can.
The Youtube video of “Leave a Light On” has 75 million views.
Wow, that’s crazy.
So what does it feel like to know your music is a part of so many people’s lives?
Yeah I was thinking with the streaming numbers because I kind of grew up in the CD era and you would get a CD and got no idea how many times people would listen to it like you could research how many copies have been bought but it wasn’t really as much a numbers game back then it was more cool like I’ll buy it for the artwork and the inside sleeve and all that stuff so I think it’s amazing to know the reach but I also think it’s crazy ‘cause like I don’t know how many streams I have on Spotify now but it’s like 150 last time I saw, something crazy, it’s just hard to imagine that those many people listen to it around the world it’s a bit crazy
I imagine your songs are quite personal as well.
Yeah definitely, yeah I mean especially “Leave a Light On”, it’s about mental health and addiction and, you know, about a friend of mine. So I never really thought so many people would get it and understand it as much as they did but it seems to be much more of a universal message than I thought, which is crazy.
“LEAVE A LIGHT ON” IS ABOUT mental health and addiction
So with your last songs coming out in the next album, do you notice changes or progresses compared to your first songs?
Well definitely with “Leave a Light On” there’s like a huge shift in what we were doing ’cause the song did so well in so many different places that we all of a sudden got to visit those places, which is cool I mean that’s kind of been the whole of last year I think we put “Leave a Light On” out almost a year to the day. I think it’s like a year and fifteen days ago or something like that and off the back of that from January to December we’ve done 150 gigs all over the world including 35 festivals so it’s been very busy off the back of that song. Well, you see progress every song. It’s really nice to see people at the gigs this time around and they’re still singing all the new songs, which is really good.
Some of your most recent songs have such different styles – for example, if you compare “Leave a Light On” and “Just You and I”. How do you explain this variety in your music?
I just don’t really like to sit in one lane, I think it’s boring, you know. Like there are so many amazing genres and styles of music, and I love hip hop beats, and I love different styles of production and different producers to work with. I just think that sticking to one thing is a bit boring so like the whole album is pretty diverse but we’ve put it in an order that makes sense, if you listen to it from start to finish it’s like a proper journey.
IF YOU LISTEN TO IT FROM START TO FINISH IT’S LIKE A JOURNEY
For “Leave a Light On” especially, there’s the acoustic version of the song, and then so many remixes. So what does it feel like to listen to so many versions of your own work?
Some of them are amazing, some of them are… Questionable. If you know what I mean. I always just think it’s cool to listen to remixes cause I find some of my favourite songs through the remix of that song, like there’s a songs called “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner and it’s like the Seeb remix that got really famous but then through that remix I discovered him and his music and his album which is much more “acoustic-y”. And his lyrics are fantastic, so I always think it’s a really cool way to find new music and a really cool way for fans of other genres to be brought to your genre or whatever you’re doing so I think it’s kinda cool.
How did it all start? What was it that drew you to music in the first place and what motivated you to write songs?
I think what drew me to music was like, I went to an ACDC concert with my dad in Paris when I was 9 years old and saw Angus Young playing guitar, and I just thought he was an amazing guitarist. It looked like he was having the time of his life and I thought “I want to do that”. And if you fast forward like five years, right when Arctic Monkeys released their first album, and all the stories on that just seemed basically like they were writing about my life at the time. Obviously, they were writing about theirs, but it seemed so personal to me and it was the first album that I listened to that I felt I could really connect with and after that, I started writing my own songs.
Has it ever been difficult to find inspiration to write songs and if so, how did you overcome it?
I think inspiration is everywhere, and it’s writing it down at the time that it’s happening that is difficult and also I think it is really difficult to write songs when all you do is music all the time. I used to find it much easier to write songs when all I was doing was chilling with my mates, and going out every weekend. And then I’d go and see my family and friends. When you’re on the road you can’t write a song about touring because who’d want to f**king hear about that? And you can’t write a song about writing a song. It is tricky sometimes but I’m looking forward to Christmas. I’ve got 20 days off at home with my family and I can catch up with all my friends. I know once I do that I’ll have a whole set of experiences to use for the rest of the year which will be cool.
it was easier to write songs when all I did was chill with my mates
You already cited ACDC and Arctic Monkeys as inspirations, but who else would you consider influences, and why?
I love Paolo Nutini, another guy from Scotland, he’s just got an amazing voice and I think three really different albums, all of which are just amazing and he seems to just go away and do his thing for like five years and then he comes back with another album and it’s amazing, so I really really like him. I really like Adele and George Ezra and Ed Sheeran, like all three of those I feel like were massive English artists who wrote really fantastic songs. I really liked Jack Garratt when he came out because of all the production stuff he was doing it was great and I went to see him live and he was this crazy one-man band playing drums while he’s playing guitar while he’s playing base like the guy with eight arms, I thought it was pretty cool. I guess those are like my top seven or whatever I’ve just said.
So you’re from Scotland originally but you moved near Manchester.
Yeah, I moved to a place called Chelford when I was like three and a half years old, which is like on the outskirts of Manchester.
So do you identify yourself as from Scotland or from England?
I feel like I’m from London, Scotland, and Manchester, do you know what I mean? Because I’ve lived in all three of those places for like a good amount of time and it’s really funny, I think people get really p*ssed off when I say that sometimes, like my Scottish relatives will get annoyed that I say I’m from Manchester, or people from Manchester get annoyed if I say I’m from Scotland or, you know, if you mention London people get annoyed. I don’t know, it’s like people who never leave one place get annoyed that you say you’re not from that place.
Thank you so much for your time.