A Conversation with Singer-Songwriter Tom Wardle

Singer-songwriter Tom Wardle visited ‘Jake’s Take.’ (Photo courtesy of Tom Wardle)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a pleasure to welcome singer-songwriter Tom Wardle to Jake’s Take.

Tom’s music has caught the attention of several high profile music outlets such as All Access Music, B-Sides & Badlands, and Rolling Stone. The latter also named one of his singles, “Jacqueline,” a ‘Song You Need to Know.’  He also received impeccable opportunities that range from performing alongside Bryan Adams and Michael Bolton to performing at Donna Karan’s private New Years’ Eve party.

In this edition of A Conversation, Tom talked about why he prefers gigs over going on talent competition shows such as American Idol and The X Factor UK, what it meant to be featured in  Rolling Stone, and why he spent his summer performing gigs at the Hamptons.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion evolve into the desire of pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?

Tom Wardle: I have been playing the guitar since I was seven-years-old. I was bought a guitar for Christmas because I showed interest and as young kid, I wanted to be in Oasis. They were the biggest band in England in the mid-nineties, and I wanted to be just like Noel Gallagher as a young lad, so that inspired me a lot.  When I was 15-years-old,  I joined my first band at school. The first gig we played was in the school hall to the year above us and the cheers we got as we came on stage was like nothing I’d never experienced before. I thought, “Well this is probably the job for me”. What a rush! I left school at 18 and that has been my living ever since – and what an interesting life it has given me so far! The 9 to 5 will have to wait for another day.

Jacob Elyachar: Can you describe your songwriting process to my readers?

Tom Wardle: I tend to write really upbeat and happy pop songs, but with melancholic words which are often about relationships, but my music it is positive. it is upbeat and it should make you feel happy. There is a definite sense of longing in my writing. There’s always things you wish you had or you want to have and that’s very much me. That’s where my personality comes into it, that desire. I always write lyrics and music separately and usually it’s the lyrics at first. I try and write it like a poem and then I’ll put that to music later on and think well this is the mood it should take. You know, do I have any riffs that might fit that and I kind of marry them together afterwards.

I keep notes of great phrases I see or hear, and the same with potential song titles, and them refer to them when I need inspiration. I nearly always write the lyrics first, as a poem, and then I find a chord pattern or melody that I’ve had and try to pair them up. Sometimes, as with my song Jacqueline, the first few lines will come into my head from absolutely nowhere, and then I have to go away and work out where that idea is going to go.

I try to write upbeat and positive music, and to counter that my lyrics are often reflective and have a sense of romantic longing – the chance I never took, or the girl I should have treated better that’s now doing great with someone else! Real life stuff, that hopefully people can relate to. But that’s where the real me lies, in that sense of longing and wanting what you can’t have.

Jacob Elyachar: I have noticed that a lot of singer-songwriters in both the United States and the United Kingdom preferably like to audition and go on performance-based Reality TV shows such as Got Talent, Idol, The Voice, and X Factor UK. Have you thought about auditioning for the shows? Why or why not have you considered it?

Tom Wardle: I have been asked this question ever since I was gigging over ten years ago. People used to come up to me and say, “You should go on the X Factor” or  “You should go on Britain’s Got Talent.” Those shows are full of attention seekers and I can’t stand them. Everyone seems to have a sob story and that’s not me. Even if I had one I’m not going to go on national TV and tell it to everyone!  I can appreciate that it’s excellent exposure nowadays, but for me, music has always been something I have done regardless or who’s watching me or not.  I’ve always gone out there with my guitar and done it and put the work in the old fashioned way. I have done my 10,000 hours, that’s for sure!

Rolling Stone named Tom Wardle’s “Jacqueline” as a “Song You Need to Know” earlier this year. (Video property of Tom Wardle)

Jacob Elyachar: I love your EP: Jacqueline. One of my favorite songs that I constantly listen to is “Don’t Give Up on Me Just Yet.”

Tom Wardle: Thanks! That’s a popular one. Nice and upbeat and rocking. When I was producing that I just wanted three minutes of power pop stacked with as much as I could in there. Blow the speakers away kind of thing! It’s got about ten different guitar tracks on there and five different players.  I initially recorded that back in London with Chris Difford from Squeeze producing, and when I did the vocals for it he said “Tom, come out here a minute and look at this, I’ve changed a few lines, I hope you don’t mind?” – and this guy is one of my favourite lyricists ever. So every time I sing the line or two that he put in I always think of him, because I’d have never written those lines he did.

Jacob Elyachar: Your single, “Jacqueline,” also received praise from Rolling Stone. What did  their coverage meant to you as an musician?

Tom Wardle: It felt fantastic.  It felt like all my work over all these years was justified in some way. I could have never imagined being in England and being named someone you need to know in Rolling Stone, which is why moving over here to the US has been a great move for me. Really, it’s my first bit of critical acclaim I’ve ever had in my career, so for it to come from Rolling Stone in America certainly feels good.  It is something I want to build on now for the next record I make. I know the exposure has gotten more people around the world listening to my music, that’s for sure.

Jacob Elyachar: Awesome, Tom. Speaking of music, have you thought about your dream songwriters, recording artists, or producers that would you collaborate with? How would they enhance their sound?

Tom Wardle:  Wow. Great question. Well, in a way, I have already had that. My musical partner, Scott Bennett, who I did this record with, produced one of my favorite albums ten years ago (That Lucky Old Sun by Brian Wilson) and it was the album that inspired me to move to California, when I was living in my hometown of Nottingham, England and it was pissing down with rain.  I used to listen to it thinking, “Wow, such as slick production. I wish whoever did this album would one day do my album”.  And you know what, my wish manifested itself (I am a big believer in that kind of stuff.)  I ended up meeting Scott  in L.A. when I’d just moved there and became best mates with him. Together we worked on finishing my EP that’d I’d begun in London, and he brought out the best in me and made me believe in myself. It was the first time I’d felt respected as a musician, so I’m grateful for that.  I’m going to be working with Scott to form an excellent production team, and in fact, we’ve already written and produced another EP for a singer called Alexandra Rae (Power To Me) which has just been released and is getting some nice reviews.  I would love to work with some great lyricists,  and I’ve been fortunate enough to be acquainted with two of the world’s finest – Chris Difford of Squeeze and Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys). Now, if I could perhaps somehow manage to write with either of those, then I would be a happy man.

Jacob Elyachar: It does. This summer, you spent a majority of it performing at various venues across the Hamptons. What attracted you to the popular vacation spot?

Tom Wardle: I visited Montauk on holiday three years ago and saw that there were lots of gigs going off and a great scene out there. I thought to myself, “Well, these are just like the gigs I’m doing at home except these are in the sunshine, next to the beach and it’s a one summer-long party”.  So I got myself out there. I went through the whole US Visa process and moved straight out with no looking back. The day I landed in New York I had a big three-page spread about me featured in Hamptons Magazine and it was surreal like my life had changed overnight. I’ve been booked out for the last three summers working almost every night from June to September it’s been a blast. People just want to have a good time and I love playing to them – even if they do mistake my accent for Australian most of the time! The Hamptons attracts lots of characters, interesting people, and I love immersing myself in it all.

Living and working here has given me the exposure and opportunities I wouldn’t have had back home. My next step is to get more gigs booked in NYC when I return to live there in September, and also work on venues across the US. I’ve got my eye on doing some Nashville shows and I would love to do some festivals next year too.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring singer-songwriters who want advance their career in the recording industry, what advice would you share with them?

Tom Wardle: Just get your music out there. I have made the mistake of holding it back until I think the time is right, but really the time is never right. You are always going to want better artwork, or a have a more polished music vieo, or sing the track you’ve recorded better,  but these things will come as you get further up the ladder in your career. Just do the best you can with what resources you have at the time, and with any luck people will see the raw potential in you and want to help you along the way. Remember that not everyone is criticizing you the same way you do yourself! Believe and things will happen.

For more information about Tom, visit his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar