“Inspiration doesn’t have to be beautiful…” - hmv.com talks to Tom Odell
Over the years, plenty of artists have been so inspired by their immediate surroundings that they’ve devoted entire albums to them. The Beatles loved Abbey Road so much they named the album after it, Bob Dylan fell in love with the Nashville Skyline and Slipknot put their home state of Iowa, all the good and bad, on record in their 2001 album of the same name.
Tom Odell joins that list this week, but rather than looking up at the skyscrapers or out across the desert, he’s simply looked around the house in East London where he penned the record, a house on Jubilee Road, which gives the album its title.
The album is a 10-track collection and sees Odell writing, singing, performing and producing entirely by himself for the first time. As it arrives on shelves, we spoke to Odell about why he found Jubilee Road so inspiring...
How did you want this album to move on from Wrong Crowd? Did you have a goal about that or did you decide to write and see what would happen?
“It’s more wandering through the dark than anything else. But once I had the first song, which was Jubilee Road, I had a good idea about the way I wanted to go. I wanted the production to be much simpler on this album, more centred around the piano. I’d missed the piano being at the forefront of everything and I wanted to change that.”
You’ve largely produced yourself this time…
“I’ve worked with a guy called Ben Baptie, he co-produced with me. But I was a lot more hands on.”
Was it exciting to have much more control?
“I’ve always overseen a lot, but with this one, I’ve got that much more experience and I knew what I was doing. I didn’t feel out of my depth, I was a lot more in control and I felt like I spoke the language of the studio. I knew how I wanted the piano to sound. But Ben had a massive impact, he’s a dear friend and phenomenal engineer. The success of the record is as much down to him as it is to me.”
You’ve talked a lot about how inspiring you found the house where you wrote the album. What was it about the place that brought so much out of you?
“It was very similar in any other road in London, but it was the detail that I found so much inspiration in. It was the community. Inspiration doesn’t have to be beautiful. It just doesn’t have to be so overt or on the surface. I found beauty in little conversations, seeing the generations of family who lived there and celebrating community. It’s less about the road and more what it means to have a home and a family.”
Is this your most personal record?
“No, I don’t think so. My songs have always been inherently personal. Any songwriting is. It’s more honest. Personal is more about revealing things, this is more about wanting honesty and wanting the truth, seeking it out.”
Was there a song on the album that took a long time to get right?
“‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ took a long time. Mind you, they all took a long time to write. I’m quite a slow lyric writer. I need to write a lot, I’ll write 10 verses and whittle them down to two or three. I like to let songs grow naturally over time, I don’t like writing a song in a day.”
Has the way you’ve written changed? Are you faster or slower than you used to be?
“I’ve got a lot slower. I was much faster when I was younger. It’s less driven by a franticness. I don’t need to finish a song right then and there. I want to create something that means something. Being frantic can work, but I’ve not tried it in a while.”
You’re out on tour at the moment, how are the new songs going down?
“It’s going really well. We’re doing four or five and they’re really my favourite part of the set. People seem to be really enjoying them.”
How’s the live set coming together? You’ve got three records now...
“It’s already quite an even split across the three albums. It’s a delicate balance. You always want to see the ones you know at a gig. It’s not like I’ve got loads of hits, I’m not The Rolling Stones hitting you with loads of new ones.”
Finally, are you solidly booked for the foreseeable future?
“We’re touring pretty solidly into the middle of next year. We’re out in Europe until the end of the year and then we go back in January and February, then we’re off to America again, right up until we start the summer festivals.”