Interview: Tom A. Smith | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sunderland music supremo Tom A. Smith drops his latest collection of tunes, entitled EP3. The EP, produced by Larry Hibbit, features recent singles Little Bits and Like You Do (which was co-written with Miles Kane and co-produced by Miles Kane, Oscar Robertson and Dave Bardon), a cover of Swedish House Mafia’s, Don’t You Worry Child, and the demo track, Me, which is the original version of what became Like You Do, before Miles Kane got involved and helped Tom take it in a new and exciting direction. 

Tom, who has just returned from performing at Glastonbury Festival on the Left Field, recently announced a UK Tour, which sees him finishing off at Empire, Middlesbrough on 7th December and The Fire Station, Sunderland on the 8th and 9th of December.

We caught up with Tom to chat a bit about him and his new EP…

When did you start learning an instrument and when did you know that you wanted to write and perform music as a career?
First lesson was guitar from Chris McCourtie and Drums from Dale Knight both from a band called Detroit Social Club. I only ever remember wanting to do this as a career. I hope I can!

You’ve been writing songs from a young age. How do you look back on some of the songs written in your early years? Which is the oldest song that still makes it on setlists today?
Dragonfly is the oldest song I still play which I wrote when I was 13. Most of them are decent songs really. I was getting lessons from Barry from The Futureheads by then and was really aware of structure.

What’s your opinion of the Sunderland music scene and how it’s evolved over your time being a part of it?
I think overall it’s healthy but I do know it’s difficult for the newer bands to get gigs outside of the North East. I like initiatives like We Make Culture who are trying to produce the next generation of musicians and I think they will but there was probably a ten-year spell where not a lot was successfully coming out of the city.

Sunderland has a history of producing successful indie artists over the years, why do you think that is? Who should we be keeping an eye out for in the future?
I think we had a really prolific ten years a while back and a lot of them are involved in the area’s regeneration now. Because I’ve been really busy over the last 2 years and only played a handful of gigs in the north east I haven’t really seen many of the new artists coming through although there is a young band called Ultraviolet who’ve really impressed me but there’s a long way to go for them. Docksuns seem to be great too.

Tell us more about EP3. You say you don’t set out to have a certain theme or style and that you just concentrate on writing ‘bangers’. How do you keep it sounding cohesive?
I don’t really care if it’s cohesive or not. I think good songs are good songs. Everything sounds like me so that’s the cohesion I need. It’s more about trying to choose a good track listing to let it flow. I listen to all different types of music and have influences from everywhere so if I like it it’s going in.

It’s produced by Larry Hibbitt, what did he bring to the EP?
I think we work really well together. I turn up with a fully finished demo and piece by piece we recreate that but with his ear for sonic excellence. He keeps everything fun, we try to make as many weird sounds as we can. On The Worst Is Still To Come we created a wonderful distorted/feedback sound by micing up a 1980’s speaker. He’s done some great stuff over the Three EPs including recording through a mutated dictaphone.

How did the collaboration with Miles Kane come about?
I supported him on tour and the first time he watched me live he asked if I’d like to record with him. He’s a genius, he’s made me look at songwriting and song arrangement in a completely different way. I’ve written and recorded with one of The Last Shadow Puppets. Just wanted to put that in writing. We’ve written and recorded another tune which will come out at the right time. He’s so supportive of me.

You cover Don’t You Worry Child (by Swedish House Mafia) on this EP. Your covers in the past have brought praise from the likes of Morrisey and Iman. What is it about the songs you have covered that has drawn you to them and what makes a good cover song?
I was a bit hesitant about doing it in reality because I’ve never released one and the ones you refer to were when I was 12 years old. It’s been something I’ve done to get some interest on social media. The difference with this one was the reaction when we played it live. It allows the indie kids to bring out their inner appreciation of childhood dance bangers

You’ve announced an extensive UK tour throughout November and December. With such a busy schedule how do you keep yourself well and in good spirits for each show?
Keep off the drink during the tour, it ruins my voice. We never fall out as a band, they are all brilliant and loving it as much as I am. I don’t know why you would bother if it made you unhappy so keeping high spirits is easy. We’ve probably only had one bad gig and even then that was more our opinion than the audience’s. We are gradually on the up at the moment so things are great. Seeing the first night at The Firestation sell out so soon and now the second night flying out is a real incentive to keep going.

What can someone expect from a Tom A. Smith show?
100% energy and effort. We are sonically huge and try and have enough of a catalogue of songs to mix it up a bit. The more we play the better we get. I know I feel like I’ve improved a lot even in the last year. We just love to entertain so try to not be too self-indulgent. I think you’d see that we love playing.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far? And what else do you hope to achieve?
I’ve had loads, being a guest on Sunday Brunch was mind-blowing because I’ve watched it since I was a kid but supporting Elton John was pretty cool if I had to choose one. He’s an icon in every way so when you ask about what I hope to achieve I’d say if I was as successful as him I think I’d be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious but I’ll probably need to write a few more bangers first. There’s plenty of time.

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