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Interview: Tom Odell

- September 24, 2018

tom odell

The former Brighton BIMM student first made his mark touring the local open mic circuit. Now, he’s playing the Brighton Centre, with a new album in tow, Jubilee Road. Jeff Hemmings caught up with him.

There are some, whose lack of generosity of spirit is topped up by industrial strength bile, who simply cannot abide Tom Odell, the singer songwriter. Back in 2013, The NME notoriously awarded Odell’s debut album no stars out of ten. That’s right, ZERO. “I wish I could say there’s a place in Hell reserved for Tom Odell”, said the reviewer. “There’s not. Just loads more Brits. He’ll be all over 2013 like a virulent dose of musical syphilis”.

Harsh, and most definitely not fair. But, at least The NME was right in the sense that, once Lily Allen had ‘discovered’ him, Odell would soon become everywhere. The song ‘Another Love’ became a smash, the album went to number one, and Odell was literally everywhere for a while. Underneath the hype and spite there was an obvious talent, one whose songs resonated with millions. One who had worked for it the old fashioned way, writing prolifically, and playing anywhere that would have him.

Album number three Jubilee Road is about to be released, a tour of the UK shortly to be undertaken, and the former Brighton BIMM student sounds like he is in a good place, and his enthusiam for Brighton, music, and life shows no bounds. He’s obviously excited by the prospect of the new album being heard, and visiting Brighton again, a place where it truly came together. “Brighton is the show that all my family always go to. It’s the one where I’m probably the most nervous for. I’m always most nervous when I know people in the audience.”

Born and raised in Chichester, Odell attended Seaford College before heading to Brighton to enrol at BIMM, eventually becoming perhaps its most famous alumni. But first, there was the small matter of learning his craft… “My first ever performance in Brighton was in a pub, three days after I arrived. It was an open mic. I have to be honest, I think I did them all. I must have done 40 to 50 open mics in pubs. Anywhere that would have me, I would drag my keyboard along and play.

I learnt to perform at open mics. I can’t recommend any more highly to any young performer to do that

“It’s where I completely learnt my trade. I learnt to perform at open mics. I can’t recommend any more highly to any young performer to do that. It puts you in such good stead, whatever the venue you are playing. Some pubs would be awful, but some would be incredible. It also taught me how to write songs, and getting feedback. It’s brutal, but that’s what you want.”

Reared on Elton John records, and learning to play classical piano from age 11, music is in his blood, and there’s nothing more he likes than to perform live, be it in a pub, or in a large arena. “We never really did a gig in-between size in Brighton. We went from pubs all around Brighton to The Haunt, just before my first album came out, and then next time it was the Brighton Centre. I always pinch myself that I am playing there. I used to cycle past it and think it was completely unobtainable.”

Jubilee Road is definitely a more optimistic affair than his previous two albums, works that were littered with failed relationships and bad living. Songs such as ‘If You Want To Love Somebody’ and ‘Wedding Day’ feature his tradmark “joy tinged with melancholy”, and there is a loose concept that permeates throughout. “I wrote it all in one location, in the living room of this house, on this street. I lived there for a few years, and the characters in the songs are very inspired by the people who live in this road.”

Tom Odell, Brighton Centre, Thursday 25 October, 6.30pm, from £30.65, brightoncentre.co.uk


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