Q&A: Tom Odell
By Andy Malt | Published on Wednesday 6 March 2013
Having once fronted the band Tom & The Tides, it’s since London-based Tom Odell went solo that he’s been ticking so many ‘ones to watch’ boxes, getting a name-check in the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll and taking the BRITs hack-voted Critics’ Choice Award.
Raised in Chichester to love classic literature (Hemingway, Fitzgerald), alternative film (Allen, Anderson) and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’-era Elton John, Odell moved to London several years back, signing to Lily Allen’s Sony/Columbia imprint In The Name Of to release his first EP, ‘Songs From Another Love’, last October.
Following all the buzzy buzz from late last year, Odell will now capitalise on all that interest with his first full-length release, ‘Long Way Down’, coming your way via Columbia on 15 Apr, alongside a plethora of festival appearances, not least at the good old Great Escape in May.
Ahead of all that, CMU’s Andy Malt took advantage of one of Tom’s rare spare moments to talk a while.
AM: Hello there. You’re at that tricky stage right now of being ‘the guy who won the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award’. What’s a more distinguishing fact about you that you’d like attached to your name in people’s heads?
TO: I’m gonna make the piano cool again.
AM: How did it feel to win that award though, and do you feel pressure to meet expectations now?
TO: I haven’t really had a chance to think about it, because I’ve kinda had my head in finishing the album. But yes, I do feel the pressure, and I guess it is kinda scary.
AM: Other than being scary, what’s it like being a highly-tipped new artist in 2013?
TO: I do feel like people really care about new music at the moment. Whether it’s awards like the Critics Choice or BBC Sound Of, I think a lot of people really do take an active interest in new music. Things like YouTube help; anyone can find whatever music they like whenever they want, and in that world it feels like the music and the songs still speak more than everything else. And people don’t have to like anything they don’t want to, because there is so much more choice.
AM: You were signed by Lily Allen. How involved has she been with the development of your career since then?
TO: When I met Lily for the first time, she told me she was a big fan of my music and wanted to help me release it. And that’s kind of exactly what she’s done. In terms of making the music, she’s just let me get on with it. I see her every couple of months and we chat about our favourite artists for an hour, but apart from that, it’s very relaxed. I think she’s the coolest label boss anyone could have.
AM: Why did you choose to work with her label and Columbia?
TO: All my favourite artists are on Columbia, so when I heard that the imprint Lily had was on Columbia, it made it all the more better. I still can’t get over the fact I’m on the same label as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
AM: Tell us about the recording of the new album. And when were the songs written – had you been sitting on them for a while, or did you create them with this specific record in mind?
TO: The main bulk of recording was done in just over a month, but then I went back and re-recorded a few songs. I guess a huge part of your first album is actually just learning how to record, it’s a whole other art. Most of the songs were written within a year of recording them. The most recent one I wrote was ‘Hold Me’, which is the next single.
AM: How personal are your lyrics to you? Are you comfortable laying out your feelings to the public or do you try to keep some separation?
TO: I have tried writing songs that have no emotional connection to me, but they always end up being shit. I just find it so much easier to write songs that are autobiographical, so I tend to do that. But it comes at a price, people you know work out when songs are about them!
AM: You’ve supported Jake Bugg recently. What were those tours like and are you looking forward to playing your own headline shows?
TO: Supporting Jake was the first tour I’ve ever done, it was so much fun and I’ll always remember it. Jake’s an incredible musician and it was cool to be on the road with someone doing so well. But I am looking forward to my tour, and to playing to people that have heard some of the songs already.
AM: I know it’s still early days, but do you have any particular goals or ambitions for your career?
TO: I love songs, and the art of songwriting, and I’d love to write songs that become timeless, and last for a long time. Also to be able to wake up each day and just make music, I don’t take that for granted, and I hope I’m able to do that for a while.
AM: And finally, we’ve talked about you being tipped for success in 2013, but who are you most excited about this year?
TO: I think Haim are cool, plus another new band on Columbia, Peace, I think they are pretty exciting.