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

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Photo Jodie Canwell

Stockton’s alt-folk songsmith Tom Joshua releases his latest single Undergrowth, taken from his forthcoming debut EP of the same name (out 9th October). It was produced by Cam Blackwood (George Ezra, Billie Marten, British Sea Power), recorded at London’s Voltaire Studio and comes accompanied by a video shot around Teesside by Jodie Canwell

The track (which was inspired by a dream and conceived whilst out walking the dog) is a kittenish offering, with it’s tempo changes and varied dynamics, but with a mature sound reminiscent of Northern folk icons such as Richard Dawson and Lindisfarne and a chorus filled with the uplifting euphoria of early seventies American folk-rock.

We catch up with Tom to find out more… 

How are you and how have you been keeping busy over lockdown?
Hi, I’m doing ok. The last few months have been terrifically weird, I don’t think anybody’s been particularly optimistic watching the world dismantle itself. I wasn’t.

And after being given the gift of months of spare time I appear to have nothing to show for it creatively. I have however got class mates, we cut my hair, watched helicopters fly in the middle of the night, watched loads of true crime and fake crime and made a lot of dinners of quality that no-one is ever going to be able to certify high class because we finished them.

Have you made any new music discoveries as of late?
I’ve been enjoying some Arthur Russell my friend sent me his Love Is Overtaking Me album and I’ve had it on loads over lockdown. It’s very easy and cool. The instrumentation and composition of it all is class. He plays the cello too and you get automatic points for that in my book.

What’s your new single Undergrowth about? How would you describe its sound?
It’s never easy to describe what my songs are about if you wanted a nice rounded story. I normally write meandering from a visual idea whilst stumbling over another. Then try and understand it after I’m finished but you might have a better idea than I do?

I started writing the song after having this dream of waking up in my estate in Eaglescliffe, walking around on some sort of pilgrimage with a drum on my back. I proceeded to set up on this village green to play and skeletons and folk gathered round to watch this modern day spooky Chaucer character play. Pretty daft really but seemed like an interesting starting point for some lyrics when I didn’t have any.

Sound wise, I don’t know it’s all over the shop… I wanted it to feel sleepy and playful then urgent because drums be waking the neighbours. I remember saying to myself the chorus has to be catchy and loud so I just remember shouting nonsense and yawping over this guitar loop. It sounded like someone who can’t sing in the crowd of a vampire weekend or a Police gig. It’s still on my voice notes so if you meet me ask to hear it and we can laugh at me together.

What was it like working with Cam Blackwood? What did he bring to your music?
Cams just lovely as. I recall him swinging around in his computer chair surrounded by wires shouting ideas and grabbing instruments and putting them on my lap and getting properly excited, doing little rocking dances in his chair looking like a boss.

I feel like I could have went to him with anything or suggested any idea and he’d have been game to give it a go. Him and the team he has in the studio were all super encouraging and kind, I think that comfortability ultimately cultivates a creative environment so it undeniably brought loads to the music. We just figured the songs out together and it was great.

Can you tell us more about the video that accompanies the track?
Pure madness really. I knew I wanted to do a video but I didn’t know if we could actually take the idea from the dream and do that.

I met Jodie Canwell (videographer) for a coffee and we decided just to go for it. We’d walk around Eaglescliffe in the middle of the night and make a low budget weird nightmare of a goofy music video. 

I bought some torches and some bug removal smoke pellets, cut my backpack up and tied the straps to a floor tom, asked my mates twin sisters if they wanted to be skeletons at which they agreed. There’s also a man with a bag on his head but we just found him in the park.

What can we expect from your upcoming EP?
One more song. I have three of four out at the minute so just one more to close it. The EP is about home really all the songs are rooted in a location somewhere in the towns I grew up in; The cinema, a place above the shops down the road, the alleyway behind where I work and other spots about Eaglescliffe.

Incredibly boring premises I’m aware but I was trying to explore how mundane things ground and keep you and trying to figure out things about me in them and seeing how much life I could breathe into them. Like a good photo of a bad banana skin.

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