TOM ODELL chats Monsters, music and his love for Montreal

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Tom Odell is hungover. When we catch up via Zoom, the British singer-songwriter is still recovering from a heavy night out after playing a charity show. He is however in good spirits and is clearly in a better place in life than when he began writing new album, Monsters.

“I’m in a lot better place. When I was writing the album, I was really letting my struggle with chronic anxiety and constant panic attacks, it was getting the better of me. I think for a lot of people, that lead up to the pandemic felt very tense. I always find when something monumental happens, it’s difficult to remember the months before it. It felt like an elastic band being pulled tighter and wider and wider and wider. And then the pandemic happened and we’ve just had the most monumental defining moment in of our generation, you know. And, you know, I, I wrote the album and recorded it all during this time. And it’s no wonder it’s not a particularly joyful record. It reflects how I’ve been feeling.

And, you know, it’s not all depressing. It’s quite chaotic, I’d say, but I really wanted to make an album that reflects how I feel because that’s my duty as an artist. It feels great to do that as well. I feel like this record, I’ve learned so much from making it… about myself, about the world, about music, but I’ve learned what I also want to be.”

The new album represents a shift in sound for Odell. There are more electronic elements and a slightly more experimental approach to songwriting.

“I used to bang on interviews when I was younger, about making music that is timeless. You know, I was always obsessed with this thing, having music that’s timeless, and I sort of stopped that in a way and actually found it quite liberating. I now feel the opposite. I want my music to totally represent a period of time. Maybe it’s just my own perception of it.”

Despite the new electronic sounds that have made their way into the mix, Odell says Monsters is actually not a more complex record.

“I’d say there’s less actual instrumentation on this record than any record I’ve made. In a way, I’d say it’s the most stripped-back record I’ve made but the way we produce the tracks and the way they’ve been mixed is that the bottom ends may be a bit heavier. And the vocal is so present. It’s almost like you’re being spoken to, you know, someone right next to you.”

The 2012 song Another Love helped Tom Odell reach a huge audience very early in his career. At the time of writing, the video for the song has been viewed over 300 million times on YouTube. How does he feel about the song almost a decade later?

It’s just remarkable it’s still going. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Obviously, I feel good about it. It pays the bills, right? It allows me to keep doing this job. It allows me to make art that I want to make. I’m totally grateful for it and I’ve got to a point in my career where I’m not really massively interested in being like the biggest artist in the world, you know, like I’m interested in the art and I’m interested in what gets me excited (like) when I hear a song and someone doing something new or good, really good, you know? One thing I can say from experience is I’m beginning to notice that time rewards quality, like in a big way. My advice to young musicians is just, don’t chase the now, chase the quality because you might not immediately get rewarded for it, but over time, those are the artists that tend to have careers, you know, and they’re still around.”

You can see the full interview below:

Four albums into his career and Tom Odell has made a record that feels free of expectation. Free of other people’s perceptions of who he is as an artist. While it was darkness that inspired him he’s managed to transform that into a multi-layered, genre-bending pop album full of light, and hope, even in the strangest of times. Monsters also represents the start of chapter two in Odell’s ongoing musical journey. 

“I feel like I’ll be doing this for as long as I can,” Odell smiles. “I also feel like I do it for the right reasons – because I love making music.” He’s confident, too, after a difficult few years lost in the wilderness. “I feel like I’ve got shit to say and I’m good at what I’m doing now.” 

Tom Odell will play Montreal’s L’Astral on 15 April 2022. Tickets available HERE.

Monsters is out now on Columbia Records

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