Tom Walker: ‘The Realer The Song, The More Powerful It Is’
The Scottish singer-songwriter on his next single ‘Better Half of Me,’ writing from personal experience, playing at Glastonbury and more
It is morning in Sydney, Australia and Scottish singer-songwriter Tom Walker is prepping for his show at the Metro Theatre. It’s been quite the year. Earlier in February, the Kilsyth native took home the prize for the Best Breakthrough Act at the 2019 Brit Awards. This was a month before he rereleased his 2017 single “Just You And I,” a pop take on the original acoustic version, which achieved platinum status in the U.K. and Italy, hit gold in Australia and charted in 16 countries. Ask Walker which version he likes better and he picks the acoustic release. After all, it was the first one.
The first time Tom Walker ever played the song was in 2016 when he serenaded his now fiancée Annie on a call. She was on a northbound train to Sheffield, chugging ahead and onward, away from the Square Mile. He had just finished penning “Just You And I” in his London basement. “We were doing a long distance relationship at the time and the song was about that. It’s about the kind of time that we got to spend together. It wasn’t that much but we made the most of every minute,” Walker says. And Annie, how did she take the song? “I think she was quite upset in the good way; she was quite teary,” he says.
He’s been on tour since March, promoting his debut folk pop/rock studio album What A Time To Be Alive. Between sold out shows in the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands, Walker also played six sets at the Glastonbury Festival in June, performing at the Rabbit Hole and on the John Peel stage to the biggest crowd he’s ever played for. “All my friends were there watching. People who’ve been at my gigs when there were three people there and then saw me playing for 1500 at the John Peel stage in Glastonbury. It was an incredible, incredible experience,” he says.
Walker is a singer-songwriter shaped by experience and this reflects particularly in tracks such as “Leave a Light On,” a track he wrote for his friend who was struggling with drug addiction, “Angels,” which was about everyday heroes and the heartbreak ballad “Fade Away.” Like a hot knife through butter, he slips into those hard to describe emotions and situations with ease, writing about the facets and happenings of his life. “I find the realer the song, the more powerful it is and the more likely it is to connect with fans. It’s the songs like ‘Leave a Light On’ and ‘Just You and I,’ that have been super personal for me, that seem to connect with other people,” he says. Walker treasures this connection, calling it special. I glean that he “adores” his job, feeling very lucky and blessed to be in the position that he is. “It’s important to write stuff from the heart and keep it as personal as you can and try and relate to the everyday person,” he says.
Vulnerability opens the dam, letting in comfort and humor. Nothing too bad though; Walker shares the best of the worst with a chuckle, “I think people got sick of hearing ‘Leave a Light On’ on the radio a lot and some guy tweeted about it. I guess the funniest thing is just people constantly making jokes about electricity bills and stuff like that.”
Walker isn’t exactly pulling close to the finish line. Four new songs are in the pipeline; to be released before the end of 2019. He lets me in on the first of these releases, a single he’s particularly excited about; to be dropped this month. “‘Better Half of Me’ is about me and my fiancée Annie and our experiences over the last couple years. I know this sounds crazy but believe me, it’s more of a wedding song than ‘Just You and I.’ I can’t wait for you to hear that and see what you think,” he says. He further teases that listeners can expect a bunch of different stuff. Mostly, he’s looking forward to what the fans will have to say post-release.
India is on the singer-songwriter’s mind; it’s just a matter of the right place and time. “You know what we’ve not got any plans at the moment, but we talked about coming out to India and doing some gigs. We’re working on it,” he says. Walker has never been to the country and has always wanted to visit. “I promise we’ll be there at some point,” he says.