“As a songwriter you’re always the outsider..” - hmv.com talks to Tom Odell
When Tom Odell unveiled his debut album Long Way Down back in 2013 it was with a heavy weight of expectation. He’d been signed by Lily Allen, been awarded the BRITs' Critics' Choice Award and was expected to go supersonic. He did pretty well, the album sold handsomely and he finished the tour that followed in pretty big venues.
After a break he’s now back with second LP Wrong Crowd and we called him up to find out all about how he made it…
When did you start work on the album? Did you take much of a break after you finished touring Long Way Down?
“I never really stopped writing, it’s a constant thing with me, but I take a bit of time out. I went to New York in 2014 for a while and just I was messing around with a few songs and waiting for inspiration to really hit. I knew I’d need to stop touring to really get things together.”
How did the writing go? Did you find the songs easy to come by?
“I knew it was important not to write for the sake of writing, I wanted to be inspired. The first song I wrote for the album was ‘Daddy’ and that took a while, but after that I wrote a lot of songs. It took a while to all come together, but I didn’t want to rush it. I didn’t want to make an album that was anything less than brilliant, so it took longer than I thought it was going to, but then I get to sit here now and be really proud of it.”
You worked with Jim Abbiss on the album, why did you decide to go with him?
“I remember when I was making the first album I heard Peace’s ‘California Daze’ and I just loved the production so I looked up who had produced it and it was Jim Abbiss, so he’d been in the back of my mind for a while. I’d been demoing for a while, working with my band and we had all these half-formed productions. I knew I needed someone with experience to come in and guide them through to the end and he was the first guy I thought of.”
What was he like? He’s worked with some big bands, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys etc..
“He was so brilliant. We worked on a few of the demos, but we did two or three months all in. I knew what I wanted the album to be, but I needed help to get there. We had Andy Burrows (Ex-Razorlight) drumming and the three of us really worked on all the songs. Jim just had experience of working on so many records and knowing how to push you when you need it.”
How did you want the album to move on from Long Way Down? You’ve been quoted as saying you wanted a bigger, more epic album...
“I’ve never been one to consciously make plans, but I do think it’s gone that way. It’s more one thing leads to another. We finished the title track and I loved it and then that influenced what came after. It was more not getting in the way.”
“On the first album I gave myself the rule that I would only record with the band in a room, this time I was more open-minded and more guilt free. I wanted to have big Phil Spector esque moments, it was all a bit more ‘F**k it! Let’s do it! I was far more involved in that aspect this time, I co-produced the record with Jim and we were so detail orientated, every bassline, every drumbeat, there was so much more to work on and to do, nothing was rushed.”
Can you sum up the album lyrically? Does it a theme that unites it?
“There’s definitely a theme. It’s a yearning for innocence and a yearning for nature. A lot of it was inspired by New York, I was a complete tourist in that town, I was just able to sit in cafes and restaurants and just write. That city was an endless pit of inspiration, it was incredibly giving to my creativity. I also wrote a bit in LA and some of it in London, there a lot of big cities on this album.”
Are you writing constantly? Or do you have to sit down and force yourself to get the lyrics together?
“I try to write something every day, just in my notebook, little lines here and there, whether that’s a line from a book or some random thought. What I love about songwriting is hearing something and then taking that one line and it making you go somewhere completely different. I’m constantly searching for that one line.”
Why did you decide on the title of Wrong Crowd?
“It wasn’t always the title. I didn’t name the album until I finished it. It was symbolic of a kind of darkness. I’m not sure what the title track is about, but I do think it’s symbolic of the fact that as a songwriter you’re always the outsider, you’re always outside looking in, which is how I constantly feel, the isolation and trying to find somewhere to belong. This album is about that, accepting that you’ll never really belong.”
Finally, what are your plans to take it out live?
“We’re going to be touring hard all autumn and lots of summer festivals. I’ve got a great band, I’ve been building it over the last four years, so often singers get a new band for every album, but this is my band, they recorded the album with me and I want to keep us together. So we’ll be playing out lots.”
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