After attending a AC/DC concert at age nine, Tom Walker knew he wanted to be a performer. Outfitted with a gifted guitar from his Father, Walker set out to develop his recognizable soulful sound and honest lyrics. Eighteen years later, Walker has released a successful debut album, won the coveted BRIT Awards 2019 “British Breakthrough Act,” and set out on a world tour with all U.K. stops sold out!
ECHO caught up with Walker at the beginning of his World Tour in Boston, MA. Check out what he had to say about touring, music, and his BRIT Award win.
How are you doing?
Yeah, all good. Just started the Canada/US tour. Did the Osheaga Festival yesterday; which was wicked. So yeah, all good – happy.
What are you most looking forward to on tour?
Last time, we were in Boston we played a tiny little bar. I think we played to like 200 people. I can’t remember the name of the bar. So this is the first proper big venue we’re doing here; which is exciting. I’m looking forward to the gig. Then, we’ve got two other days in New York. Then we’re going back to the UK. It’s like a little bit of a short run this time. I’m looking forward to it. I always like going to New York – the hustle and bustle. It’s kind of like an American version of London. You know what I mean? I always like going there.
You’ve played a lot of festivals lately. What is it like playing to such a large audience?
I don’t know – it’s different. The next gig we’re doing in the UK is 5,000 and then we’re doing 500 in America and some of the festivals have been – I don’t know – 10,0000 people. The variety is quite cool. It’s nice to play really big festival crowds, but then it’s nice to be in more intimate venues where you can really see the crowd properly and interact with them and be on the same wavelength as them.
A lot of your songs are very honest and vulnerable. Why do you think it is so important to be so open in your songwriting?
I think the more honest the songs are, the more people seem to connect with them. Not in every case because I mean, there’s a lot of popular songs about buying a Lamborghini and I don’t know – having loads of diamonds and stuff; which I personally can’t connect with ‘cause I ain’t got a Lamborghini or any diamonds. I just think stuff that an everyday person can relate to is the stuff that I relate to and that is what people seem to like in the tunes.
You just released your debut album in March. How are your feeling about how successful it has become?
It’s been pretty crazy. It went to number one in the UK; which is nuts. It’s something you don’t expect. When I kind of started doing music I was happy enough with just playing a few festivals to a couple of hundred people, but now it’s gotten to this massive point where we sold out the whole UK tour a couple of months in advance. The album was super well received in the UK and elsewhere as well. I think it’s just really mad to actually achieve something you set out to do when you were a kid. It’s not like everyday that happens. It’s an indescribable feeling I would say. It’s a bit weird and awesome at the same time.
As a kid, were you really into music? Did you always dream of being a musician?
Yeah. I’ve always wanted to be a guitarist and then I got up to the age of sixteen and started writing songs. But I started off wanting to be in a band. I went to see AC/DC when I was like nine years old with my Dad. I saw Angus Young on the stage running around like a crazy demented chicken man dressed in a school boy uniform. I just thought that looks like an awesome job. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do this.
What was the concept behind the cover of the album?
There’s a guy called Craig Allen who painted it from scratch over six weeks. I sent him somewhere between 200 and 300 pictures of my family, my friends and everybody who’d been working on the album like the label and the team that was involved. The whole idea was my friends and family and the people that helped me write and create the album all coming together to make this bigger thing; which was a picture of my face, but obviously it’s the album that is the main theme behind it – all those people and all the stories coming together to make the album.
If you were able to create the perfect listening environment for someone listening to your album, what would it be?
That’s a really good question. I’m not sure. I think maybe driving. I always love listening to albums when I’m driving; so maybe in the car. When you’re listening at home sometimes you get distracted, but when your driving you kind of – you’re so focused on what you’re doing but subconsciously you’re into the music. It’s my favorite place to listen to music. That’s a bit of a niche place to sing.
You collaborated with Zara Larsson. How did you get connected with her and what was the recording process like?
I actually wrote a song with a guy called Steve Mac and he’s the same guy that I wrote one of my other tunes “Leave A Light On” with. We wrote this duet with a girl called Chelcee Grimes. It kind of sat there for a year and a half. We weren’t sure what to do with it. Then one day Zara heard it and she really liked it and she decided to put a vocal on it. Steve sent it over to me. I hadn’t even met her at that point. We’ve met on several occasions now and worked on a bunch of different stuff for the song for promo and stuff. I just thought it was a really cool collaboration. Her voice sounds so sick on the record. It seemed like a no brainer to me.
Congrats on your BRIT Award. Do you feel any pressure based on who has won the award in the past?
Not really. If anything, winning it made my life a lot easier. Loads of opportunities open for us. I think that’s why the album was as successful as it was because the BRIT was a massive contributor to that. I think it took a lot of pressure off for a little bit. Obviously, I’m trying to be the best artist that I can be, but I’m not trying to be like Adele or Ed Sheeran or any of those people. I’m just trying to be like me.
Having been born in Scotland, what was it like being added to the steps at King Tut’s with artists like MUSE, Snow Patrol and Paolo Nutini?
They didn’t even tell me, you know. I was just walking in one day and it was just there on the steps. I couldn’t believe it ‘cause it’s one of my favorite venues. I think I’ve played that one four times and they’ve been really good to us. At some point I want to do a residency of a couple of nights in a row there just because it’s King Tut’s, you know? They’re a venue, even if you do a gig and you’ve only sold 80 tickets and the venue doesn’t look as busy as it should they still give you a hot meal and treat you like a proper person. That’s really important because at the beginning new artists aren’t going to sell out every night. Some venues are like, ‘no, we’re only going to get it for the artists who bring in the crowds because we want to make money,’ but that’s a sh*t way to look at things. I know people have got to run businesses, but you’ve got to let new talent and new artists come through otherwise they’re never going to get the chance. You’re only pandering to the people who are super popular all time.
Are there any challenges you’ve faced so far in your career and how did you overcome them?
I think at the start, a lot of people don’t take you seriously as a new artist. It’s really hard to convince people that just because you don’t have a bunch of instagram followers that your music is still good – I think that’s one of those things in this technological age. Music is music. Now you need all this social media and this personality behind it to push your music. I found that really difficult to start. I didn’t even have twitter when I started the record deal. I didn’t even know what twitter was. That was a big adjustment for me because getting people to take you seriously just because of the songs is really difficult sometimes.
We’re touring pretty much until the end of the year. We’re doing this US tour the next couple of days and then were back to the UK for a couple of days. Then we’re going to Australia to do a tour there- then New Zealand, Japan and Singapore. Then we get back and there’s a European tour. Then there’s a UK tour and then I’m going to take a month off for Christmas because this year had been f*cking mental.
Is there a piece of advice that you’d like to ECHO out to the World and your fans?
I think – it’s nice to be nice. Somebody told me that a long time ago. I’ve tried to stick by it as much as I can.