[EXCLUSIVE] Tom Walker On His Newest Album And Getting Personal In His Songs
If 2020 were an album, Tom Walker‘s What a Time to Be Alive says it all! It covers all kinds of life’s rich tapestry — the ups, the downs, the good and the bad. Rifle through the tracks and you’ll find him getting down to heavy topics like love, breakups, drug abuse and hopelessness.
His music can get dark sometimes, but Tom always makes sure to leave a window open for hope to shine in. Perhaps, it’s his soulful voice or the raw, honest lyrics that quickly reels us in. Nevertheless, one thing’s for sure — his tracks are one emotional roller coaster ride we don’t mind riding.
Born in Scotland and bred in Manchester, the singer-songwriter almost didn’t set foot into the music world. He had the passion and the talent, but six years back the London College freshie had a hard time connecting with music labels and almost settled for a job as an operator. It wasn’t until one of his university teachers sent his demo to a management agency when his life turned 180. In just a short few years, Tom shot to stardom with his hit single “Leave The Light On”, and he bagged himself an award for best breakthrough act at the 2019 BRIT Awards (aka British Grammy). To get to know Tom as a person and artiste a little more, we sat down for a quick chat with him.
What does music mean to you? And what made you so sure that you wanted a career out of it?
I think it’s a bit of a release for me – an escape, a way to kind of feel better about life. It’s just something I really love, something that interested me and captivated me. I really love to write music and I’ve always found it so fascinating of the whole concept of doing it as a job ‘cause it didn’t look like work to me, it looked like loads of fun. So yeah, I wanted to do it my whole life.
What is your creative process of making music?
It’s really different every time. I feel like for some they have a process for what they do. For me, I feel like I wait until I’ve got something to write about, something that’s real. And I guess I just get kind of started on the lyrics and melody. Sometimes it takes a day to write, sometimes it takes months.
Ed Sheeran is a big influence for you. What do you think attracts you to his music?
I think studying is just good for anything you’re doing, like if you really want help in any aspect of your career. It helped me massively in a lot of ways. I think some of it wasn’t for help, it was more of what I was interested in, like writing Shakespearean sonnets that kind of thing didn’t particularly help me in my kind of music. But it was all definitely a kind of experience I enjoyed.
The name of your album What A Time To Be Alive is really iconic. How did you come up with this name and what were you thinking at that time?
There were some things going on in the world at that time and I really like the title but it’s funny ‘cause some people are like “God, it’s such a depressing title. Why’d you name a title like that?” and then there are those who are like “Wow, this title is so positive!” I just find it really funny that it can be interpreted completely differently from man to man.
“Leave A Light On” is about your friend who was struggling with substance abuse. How do you feel about putting your whole life story out there, and has anyone said anything about the song being about them?
Few times where I’ve written very personal songs about friends and stuff, and they’re not being too happy about it but I guess that’s kind of the risk you take being friends with a songwriter – they might write a song about you. But I try to keep things as personal as I can and not be too specific on who it is. I’m not trying to embarrass anybody in any way but doing what I’m doing.
Which song did you have the most trouble writing?
There’s a song on my album called “Fade Away” which is about a really bad breakup I had when I was really young and it was my first proper relationship, and I got dumped and I was really upset so I wrote it kind of angry.
What kind of message do you hope people will take away from the album?
I guess just kind of have them thinking more about making their choices. You make everyday life, you know what I mean. I want people to take away whatever they wanna take away from the album. I want them to just lose themselves in the music and kind of not worry about the everyday things that they will think about.
How do you think your music has affected other people’s lives?
I think probably even in negative ways as well, it’s affected so many people. Not everybody’s gonna like the music, but I know people that have taken really positive things from my music. A lot of my personal songs have helped a lot of people, so yeah I think there are both negative and positive effects.
What’s the best advice you can give to a budding artiste?
I find this question really difficult, ‘cause everybody is so different. But for me, I was just about to give up on music and start a job as an operator but then I caught my big break. So I’d say to everybody to just keep going and keep trying and keep giving it your all ‘cause the more time you put into it, the more it’s going to happen. You just gotta be patient.