Tom Odell: "The person I am on stage is an exaggerated version of myself"
Fotomontaje: Javier Jábega

Tom Odell has just started his summer festivals season that will take him all around Europe and the United Kingdom, accounting a total of 27 concerts. We had the chance to talk to him for a little while just before he jumped into the stage at the Porta Hoch3 Festival in Trier, Germany, for the soundcheck and he told us so many things! Keep reading so you don’t miss anything!  

Q: You only released “Jubilee Road” about eight months ago. Did the album do what you wanted it to do?

A: I mean what do you want an album to do? I don’t know. It’s difficult to say, isn’t it? I guess some people want an album to be big hits and then other people make albums for more mysterious reasons. I count myself in the latter group. But what did I want it to do? I don’t know. It feels like… I don’t know. You just sort of make it and then I guess you hope people like it. I feel people like it, but it’s very difficult to gage. I don’t chase reaction. I am sure if I would chase reaction I would find, you know, a mixture of reactions from it. But I myself like the songs and I am proud of the album actually still.

Q: Is there any song that you never thought was going to do really good and then the audience really loved it? Like the reaction actually surprised you?

A: I think “Go Tell Her Now” was a song that I always felt... I’m always like, the more sort of upbeat joyous songs, I’m never that into. Because I don’t listen to that much upbeat, joyous music. But it was important in the album, that song, and I would say that that was proved to be a nice song to have for live. You know, since I last saw you, all we have really done is tour so that’s been the sort of predominant activity we’ve got up to. So the best reaction I guess it’s from the audience and that song has always gone down quite well.

Q: Since January you have played some new songs during concerts. Do you have many more written down already?

A: Yeah, I do. I’ve been doing lots of writing, yeah. That’s been really enjoyable, I mean I love writing. I’ve been writing a lot recently. And yeah, it is so nice to write.

Q: Do you usually go first for lyrics or for music?

A: Both.

Q: So there is a fourth album kind of planned in the horizon?

A: Yeah, definitely, yeah. I am excited about it. It is my favourite sort of bit of the process I think. I’ve got to work you know, I’ve got to go to work. (Laughs) It’s the bit when I actually have to do some real hard labour.

Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheimer
Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheimer

Q: How many songs do you usually write for an album?

A: It’s been different for each one. Like for the second album I wrote loads of songs for it, like nearly a hundred I think. The last album I probably wrote 15 songs and you know there was ten or eleven of them, I can’t really remember how many there were but there was very little that wasn’t used. But I am very excited about this next one, I feel like I am in a good place musically at the moment and I am excited to be getting it on paper.

Q: But there is no date yet right?

Not yet, no. It will be a little while I think. I hope to have an album out by next year.

Q: What’s the song you’ve written that feel proudest of?

A: If you speak to most songwriters, they will always say their most recent one and I would say my most recent songs I’m most proud of. There is one in particular I am very fond of. Of the old songs, I don’t know, I mean I really like “Half as Good as You.” I really like it as a song, because I feel like it goes somewhere, like emotionally. It’s a quite basic song but musically I like the way it flows. So I enjoy playing it on the set. But I don’t know which one I am prouder of writing. A lot of people know, “Another Love” and it kind of still blows my mind that so many people know that song and still people like it, so I guess in some ways I feel proud of writing that one. There is a song called “Somehow” on the second album that I always think when I play that live it feels very sort of like we transcend into a different place, it feels quite meaningful and it has a lot of depth to it. And “Heal” as well. I don’t even remember writing that one but I remember “Heal” sorts of gets into a deep, deep place.

Q: In most of your songs you talk about personal situations and some of them are not about very happy memories. Does it sometimes get hard to play them over and over again and kind of remember those moments?

A: No, because I think ultimately I am not usually, sometimes I am, but not usually thinking about specific time when I am singing them. There’s been times when that’s been difficult,  you know like I am not, I mean I can be an emotional mess, but I am relatively together. I think like mid tour when you are very tired and you are sort of quite emotional, you’re constantly sort of missing home. I think those times when you can actually be very cathartic playing songs gets out a lot of those emotions. I think that’s not a very good answer. You are trying to reach this depth when I am on stage, I am trying to find this depth emotionally and I usually do find it. I think after a tour I come back very emotionally drained because I have given so much at the shows, given so much emotion each night and when you are actually on the tour you don’t really realize how much you are giving away and it is sort afterwards that you do.

Q: Festival season is just getting started and it goes all Summer for you. Excited about it?

A: Yes, I am excited, we are doing 27 shows.

Q: And you’re also playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury next weekend.

A: Yeah, next Friday, in a week.

Q: Are you excited?

A: Yes.

Q: You usually wear suits for concerts and more casual clothes for festivals. Which one do you prefer?

A: I like wearing suits on stage. It’s just nice. It makes me feel like...I think what it does is having an outfit for stage, uhm, it’s great because I just sort means I have something to put on before stage and sort of take off at the end of it. And it takes a certain like...the person I am on stage is not completely the person I am off stage. It’s like an exaggerated version of myself. And it is important for me to be able to take that off.

Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheime
Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheime

Q: What would you want people to take away from your music?

A: I don't think I want people to walk away with any particular feeling. I guess I just sort of want, like the idea of music for me is a moment to escape and be transported somewhere else like any sort of great story. You want that music to be rich and full of depth so that you really transport somewhere out of a place. Somewhere perhaps a little bit deeper. But to specify what that feeling is, I don’t know, because over the course of an album you are trying to do lots of different types of things, you want a variety ultimately, a variety of feelings.

Q: There was an announcement the other day from the BBC about “Around the Piano with Tom Odell”. What can you tell us about it?

A: Well, I am very excited about that. It’s something I have been working on for a little while and doing this short series about the history of the piano. I’m still slowly putting it together and I’ve interviewed some really amazing people for it. It’s been a really nice sort of side project to be doing whilst I’ve been touring and whilst I’ve been writing. I've got to listen to a hell of a lot of music and interviewed some really great people and it’s been really exciting. I’m excited for people to hear; I think it’s going to be quite good.

Q: Last time we met you told me you wanted to visit more Spain and you’ve been South Spain and the Balearic Islands not so long ago. How did you like it?

A: Yeah! I went last week on a little break to Mallorca in this little village called, Deia. I completely loved it, beautiful. I’ve been so busy for like six months or maybe longer, it’s the first time I got a break but yeah, I really really enjoyed it.

Q: Looking forward to go back and visit more places in Spain?

A: Yeah, definitely.

Q: Which is the best concert you’ve ever been to?

A: As a guest? To watch? I was never quite good at these. It’s difficult to say. I mean I’ve been to lots of concerts. I honestly don’t know. For me personally I like watching Elton or I saw Bruce Springsteen, he’s another one of my heroes, that was incredible. Billy Joel, I supported him in Madison Square Garden 2014. I don’t think I quite realized even then how significant those shows were to me. But there’s a hell of a lot of younger bands that I’ve seen that also have blown me away. I’m trying to think who; I mean I haven’t been to that many concerts recently because I have been touring myself. I am not sure.

Q: Your most treasured item?

A: I’d say my most treasured item is my notebook, always. That’s the thing I am most concerned about losing all the time, it’s got all the songs on it. And actually in some ways my phone as well because that’s got all my musical ideas in there. I’ve got like thousands of musical ideas in there. I need to back it up so I don't lose it.

Q: The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

A: Drink a cup of tea (laughs) I also like to do yoga, so I do a bit of yoga usually or I go for a run. Getting older so i have to do some exercise. 

Q: If you could live anywhere else other than London, where would it be?

A: I really do like London. But Europe is just so wonderful and there are so many places, most cities in Europe, I feel like I could live in. There is such a lovely charm to all of it. I’ve been so lucky to have spent the past six or seven years spending so much of my time traveling around Europe and seen so much of it. I think we’ve been to almost every European country by now. But yeah most places I feel like I could live in or at least spend a lot of time at. I think I’m going to do a little stint in LA later in the year. I do quite like it there as well. I like sort of, you know, spending my time when I’m not touring, kind of hiding away. I like to go somewhere where no one will know who I am and also I can sort of fit into a little community, that is really important to me. I don’t like to be too much around the industry so to speak. My sort of close knit friends are very important to me. Uhm, yeah.

Q: What place would you like to visit?

A: I’d like to see more of South America and actually the West Coast of Africa I’d like to do. Or the East Coast of Africa, one of the sides of Africa. I’d like to go to Africa more. And I’d like to go to South America. I went to Brazil last year or the year before and I loved Brazil. But I’d like to do more South America, to go to Colombia, Argentina, Mexico as well as Central America. Yes, at some point I really want to do that.

Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheime
Foto: TV/Julia Nemesheime

Q: Your guiltiest pleasure?

A: Smoking. I gave up, I started again.

Q: Which is the book that changed your life?

A: Probably something like “A Farewell to Arms” by Hemingway but also those kind of books that I read when I was 19 or 20 that made me realize the power of words. But also like I remember, “The Little Prince”, that is a book I always come back to, it’s a beautifully written book. I like simple books, that have a very simple but strong message.

Q: Do you ever check social media after your gigs to see what people are posting or saying?

A: No.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

A: It sort of changes, I find it quite nauseating when people pick, as if those things define who you are. I don’t think those things do define who you are. I can be both, when I am not touring I quite like waking up early. When I am on tour you know, I often end up sleeping quite late. So it depends.

Q: How has being an uncle for the first time changed you?

A: (Giggles) I don’t know if it has changed me, but it’s certainly made me realize I really want to have kids one day. And also, it probably showed me a little bit of the power of family. It’s very important and that sort of physical nature of it. You know one generation sort of gets to the end and a new one begins and I like that. At some point I would like to dedicate my life to something else other than music and I think that something else would be nice to bring a little person into the world.