Tom Odell is playing for keeps
Tom Odell is a hard one to pin down – the newest pop kid on the block, with an Ivor Novello award in his back pocket and the musical world at his feet but with little interest in the impending stardom. Ahead of his Dublin gig, the Songwriter of the Year talks Elton John, Lily Allen and Leo Tolstoy
“I read a bit [at school], but I was always rebelling,” he explains. “I was a typical kind of kid: I didn’t really like being told what to do and I think that led me away from books. I didn’t go to university, so I just had this great desire to educate myself through literature. I really like the idea of working through books that have been key over the past 200 years – so I’m reading Tolstoy at the moment, which is quite intense. I have this weird sort of desire to get through every classic book that’s ever been written. Just in case that I don’t know something that everything else knows about.”
He says that his songwriting has “absolutely” been informed by his newfound love of literature.
“My one piece of advice for a songwriter would be to read. It’s incredibly overlooked as a tool to use for your songwriting,” he says. “I’ve met some songwriters that I really admire, and they all read as well. It makes you think of new words and gets that whole part of your brain working. I can only really write songs when I’m reading; I can only really be creative when that part of my brain is engaged.”
If the songs on Long Way Down are anything to go by, he spent a lot of the years preceding 2013 reading love and romance novels: the track titles – Hold Me, Another Love, Grow Old With Me – are a dead giveaway of his intentions. Isn’t he wary of being written off as just another lovelorn balladeer?
“It’s funny; I look back to something I wrote four years ago, before Long Way Down, and they weren’t really love songs at all – and then I listen to Long Way Down and it’s just packed full of them,” he says. “I think love songs tend to make great songs, and you tend to feel very impassioned, but I’m writing a lot of songs about different things at the moment. So I’m very excited about that.”
Work on album number two is continuing apace since he began writing during a stint in New York earlier this year. “I got an apartment in January and just sat there for three weeks and went through what I had,” he reveals. “I record everything on a Dictaphone and my phone; I had a thousand ideas on there, or something. I went through them all and ended up coming out with a load of songs in about two weeks. We’re halfway through at the moment and we’re working with some really cool people, and working really hard. I’ve learned so much about songwriting over the last two years, and about performing. I listen to so much more music, and I feel more inspired than I’ve ever been, so I’m really excited about making this next record. I’m looking forward to moving on.” yyy Tom Odell plays support for Paul Weller at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June 24th, and the Belsonic Festival, Dublin, on August 18th