We caught up with Tom Odell to discuss his new album, his inspirations and a cheetah named Serge..
It’s been three years since your last (and debut) album, what have you been up to?
I spent a lot of time touring the first album. Almost 2 years. It took the band and I on a few tours of the US and Europe and then even to places like Russia and Asia. I learnt so much from being on stage so much. All the while I was writing and getting ideas.
What inspired or pushed you to start creating ‘Wrong Crowd’?
I think I drew a lot from my experience of childhood on the Wrong Crowd. I heard the line ‘hanging round with the wrong crowd’ a lot when I was growing up. And I can still relate to the phrase now.. I think its about growing up, fitting in, finding out where you belong in this great big world.
So how have you gone about your latest album in ways that are different to your first?
The writing was very similar to the first. Most of the lyrics are drawn from scribbles in my notebooks, but I always put the songs together sat at the piano…
Have you got a favourite song in particular in the album, and can you tell us why?
I hate using that tired cliche that my songs are like my children and I can’t choose a favourite, but it’s kind of true. I like them all equally. Some days I enjoy playing some songs more than others, but I guess that depends on what mood I’m in.
Have you got a favourite moment in any of the videos and can you tell us why?
I love the moment in the ‘Wrong Crowd’ video when the lady, the boy and the cheetah are sat in the alcove. I wanted it as the album cover, but it became too tenuous to recreate for a photo. Its a powerful image that George Belfield created, its very symbolic of the album, of that juxtaposition of innocence versus hedonism, of old versus young, of nature versus perversion.
Your first album was an incredible hit, have you got any particular hopes for this one?
I’m not really sure. I mean I would be lying if I said I didn’t want it to do well. I do. But I’m not really sure what success is in the music industry any more. Is it selling records? That seems a bit antiquated now.. I think success is being able to tour and make more records. As long as people keep coming to my shows, I’m a happy man.
You even played Glastonbury the other day, how was it and how did it compare to playing at Madison Square Garden?
It was amazing! The biggest crowd we have ever played to, and more importantly a wonderful energy from them. Glastonbury just has something about, I can’t put it in to words, its just a magical place. And that weekend was bizarre, what with Brexit happening on the Friday, I felt a bit down in the dumps until I wondered through the gates of Worthy Farm.
Have you got another dream venue you’d like to play at?
There are some truly beautiful venues in Europe. The Paradiso in Amsterdam we’ve played a few times, and that place is perfect. We also played in a beautiful amphitheatre in Nimmes, France the other day, that was great. I’m not sure where my dream place is. I don’t think its really about the size of the venue, like some of my favourite gigs have been in tiny clubs. Some places just have that zing to them.
What has been one of the most surreal or amazing moments of your career?
To be honest, I think it was Glastonbury the other day. We had such a great show there in 2013, and I didn’t think we could top it, but it blew me away.
What’s the story behind the Wrong Crowd book? Can you tell us a bit about it?
I worked on the visual design of the album with a guy called Fraser Muggeridge. He’s a brilliant, inspiring designer. I started spending quite a lot of time at his office in Clerkenwell, bouncing ideas around, and he had all these amazing art books laying around. He has designed so many. And I was so drawn to the visceral quality of them. They felt real, and human, and not like any book I’d read before. So we decided to make one ourselves, one that drew you into the Wrong Crowd world. Something to stare at whilst you listen to the album.
Is the art aspect of the album (the book, the videos) chiefly driven by you? For example, how much are you involved with all the creative processes?
All the art surrounding album was conceived by myself, George Belfield and Fraser. I was very involved, but I had no idea about fonts and design, and no idea about how to direct a music video. But I have an endless well of ideas, most of them terrible but some good ones. So we made a great team, and I hope I get to work with them both for a long time.
Have you always been interested in art, and bringing it together with music?
No. It’s something that has grown over time. I think in order to make good art you have to be accepting of who you are, and I think in the process of making the first album and releasing and touring it, I moved a little closer to achieving that.
What can the world expect from you in the future?
I hope I can continue to make good art, that moves people. But most importantly challenge myself, and keep exciting myself with it. Making art is the greatest escape of them all. You lose yourself, forget your worries, and I recommend it to everybody whose heart beats.
And to round it off, can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself (or your album!)?
The cheetah that features heavily in the art and videos, was called Serge, and was very friendly.
Interview by Mamie Hamshere