Tom Chaplin opens up about his festive LP Twelve Tales Of Christmas and the future of Keane...
After launching his solo career last year with The Wave, Keane singer Tom Chaplin’s second LP is a very different proposition, as you can probably tell by its title, Twelves Tales Of Christmas.
The album sees Chaplin covering festive classics from East 17, The Pretenders, Howard Blake and Joni Mitchell as well as penning eight of his own Yuletide originals.
We spoke to the singer about where the idea to get Christmassy came from, how he found writing Christmas songs in the middle of summer and why the future looks pretty bleak for Keane...
Where did the genesis for this come from? Was it your idea or was it suggested to you?
“You know, I honestly can’t remember. It’s an idea that’s been floating around for quite a while, certainly between me and my management, but I couldn’t tell you who had the idea first. I’ve always known that I had a good voice for Christmas.”
This might seem like an odd question, but do you like Christmas?
“I do. I love Christmas, I love the nostalgia and the magic of it. I had an inkling that doing the album would be fun, but I actually initially only intended it to be an EP, certainly when I started writing it. But, as I started writing, I felt so inspired that I kept writing and we realised we had enough for an album.”
There are four covers on there. East 17, The Pretenders, Howard Blake and Joni Mitchell. How did you decide which ones to do?
“Among the more sentimental and cliched Christmas songs, there are a lot of brilliant tunes and it was actually quite hard to pick out four. Me and David Kosten (producer) went through and tried to figure out which songs would work in context with the originals and we had a lot to choose from. I wanted to find songs that would fit with the vibe of the album and songs that have one definitive version so I’d have something to work with. ‘Walking In The Air’ probably only comes to mind as part of The Snowman for most people, so to take on a song like that felt like a great challenge.”
How easy did you find writing with Christmas in mind? Normally when you sit down to write you’ve got complete freedom to write about whatever you like…
“Well it was summer, so that was a bit tricky. I was in my little studio in the countryside and it’s got these huge windows that open out on this huge cornfield, so it all felt very warm! It’s a mindset. What I discovered is how inspirational it is to write with Christmas framing everything. You can write about lots of different things, there are some straightforward love songs, one of the songs is about wandering the streets of London with my wife, the other is about being out on the road all year and finally being able to collapse into the arms of your family.”
What other viewpoints did you take?
“There are three songs with more of a worldview. Christmas is a very rare time. We’re forced to stop and reflect and it’s a time of year about community. In some ways, I’d like that feeling to last all year. Then there are some very miserable, melancholic songs, like ‘We Remember You This Christmas’, those are songs about death and remembering the people you’ve lost along the way. I didn’t want to show this straightforward rosy picture, Christmas brings out all sorts of emotions.”
Were there any other albums you take inspiration from?
“Not really. I listened to a few Christmas albums to get some references, but I didn’t get the sense that there are many records like this. This feels more like a record framed by Christmas, rather than a Christmas album. I wanted to avoid sounding overly cliched at all costs, you just end up repeating the same ideas over and over again.”
What’s the plan for next year? Are you looking towards your next album already?
“One of the benefits of doing a Christmas album is that you’ve quite a small window to promote it. I put a record out this time last year and I know how much that can make you a stranger to your family, this one I know I can knock on the head come Christmas Day. That said, I do hope I can bring this back again next year. I’d be very happy to resurrect it and take it to other countries. But, immediately, the plan is for some quiet time with my family.”
“That said, I want to get cracking on the next thing. I feel very energised, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so driven with my music, given that I wasted a few very good years on drug addiction, I do feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I want to make that count. I’m not sure what it’ll be I do, I’ve got lots of ideas and irons in the fire, but part of the fun of being a solo artist is the complete freedom. I can explore any avenue I like, so it’ll be another voyage of exploration.”
Finally, it’s been a little while since we’ve heard anything from Keane, is that all still on the backburner and no plans in the offing?
“There are no plans. The thing about Keane is it was a place where we did some great things, but there were also big problems, some big problems that were never really resolved. Having gone on now to do a solo career and branched out I feel more excited now and quite daunted about the idea of going back to do Keane. If it does happen it’ll take a huge leap of faith and some really hard-talking to figure out how we could make it. I’m hopeful that could happen in the future, but it won’t be anytime soon.”