Endearingly referred to as the next Ed Sheeran, Tom Walker is one of the U.K.’s rising stars. Walker went from one song on Soundcloud less than two years ago to more than 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify now. He has already toured with George Ezra, Gallant, and Jake Bugg. Walker made his U.S. debut this spring, appearing on the Today Show and completed a brief radio tour. We interviewed the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist right before his first gig at Chicago’s Riviera Theater supporting The Script.
CM: So this is your second tour?
Tom Walker: So we did like a radio promo tour before which was really cool which is basically going to radio stations and like playing, so I guess it kinda technically is, but not like going to cool venues and doing shows, but it was a lot of cool radio stations and playing for them, so kind of a different vibe.
CM: So it’s your first live tour.
Tom Walker: The first live tour with the audience of whatever city we’re in, so yeah it’s been really cool
CM: How’s that been working out for you so far, like a week in?
Tom Walker: Yeah, we’re like 7 days in so we’re all a bit tired you know. I forgot my razor. I need to have a little shave. Everyone’s a bit like oh, we’re in the car for a long time but the show’s been amazing. It’s been such a delightful tour with The Script. They’ve been lovely, so yeah, it’s been really cool.
CM: So what has it been like so far comparing touring in here in the US to in Europe?
Tom Walker: Similar in some ways, different in others. People love a good shout at concerts here. Like, I love it! Every time I say I’m from Manchester there’s some guy saying “Wooooh I love Manchester!” and I’m like yeah you do. Sick. So there’s like little subtle differences I guess, but everyone’s been super lovely to us in the US is nice so.
CM: Your first Soundcloud song came out only 2 year ago. How does it feel to be able to rise to — I know you’re a big star across the pond.
Tom Walker: I wouldn’t say big star. I’d say up and coming artist.
CM: Well, maybe not big star, but one to watch out for.
Tom Walker: Yeah, it feels crazy. The Script tour is massive. We did a 6000 capacity venue in New York. Radio City. That was just like unbelievable. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. To see like it was huge, so yeah we played a gig to 400 people the day we left in London and then the next day we played to like 3000 people in like a Casino and I was just like “this is amazing,” so yeah it’s been really good.
CM: I heard that you’ve been compared to Ed Sheeran.
Tom Walker: Yeah, a few times. I’ve got a ginger beard, he’s got a ginger hair. We both play guitar and sing.
CM: How does it feel to have that comparison?
Tom Walker: He’s a wicked songwriter. I’m a massive fan of Ed Sheeran. You know I’ve definitely stolen a few things off him. Yeah he’s a big influence. He did like an EP called the Number 5 collaborations project and he had kind of like a lot of different rappers and spoken word artists on there. That was a real eye opener for me. It got me into a lot of open music in the UK. So yeah, it was wicked. Really cool.
CM: You’ve been on tour with George Ezra, Gallant, Jake Bugg… any favorites out of those so far?
Tom Walker: Jake Bugg, I didn’t actually get to meet unfortunately but he was amazing live. He was absolutely amazing. We only did one show with him and he did an acoustic thing. I didn’t realize how good he was. He’s amazing at guitar, so that was really cool. But in terms of like the nicest people I’ve met, George Ezra is an absolute sweetheart, he’s really lovely. And we did a couple shows with a band called Walking on Cars. They’re from Ireland and they were all just such a laugh. They’re really nice and they’re lovely. I’ve not played with anyone ever who I’ve been like I really don’t like him or her. Everyone’s been really lovely.
CM: So you’re a self-taught multi-instrumental musician. How did you learn to play all those instruments?
Tom Walker: Boredom with like really crap instruments. I was young and I sat in my room until it sounded okay. That was literally it. I had a couple of guitar lessons, but I bought a drum kit off my neighbor who lived down the road when I was like 13. I bought a bass a little later on when I was like 15. I already had a guitar from like 12 so I just sat in my room for days.
CM: Do you have any inspiration for some of the songs on the current EP?
Tom Walker: What’d you mean?
CM: So for example, Play Dead. It’s kind of apocalyptic. What was the inspiration behind that? What is that song actually about?
Tom Walker: Play Dead is a weird one. It actually came from the idea, like I woke up after a bit of a party and went to do a writing session and it kind of came from the idea of like what would I do if there was some sort of zombie apocalypse. I would just like play dead and get loads of snacks from the shop and just sit in my room and you know just wait til it all blows over and it’ll be fine. That was kind of the concept for the song. It would just be me and my girlfriend like in the house, like it’s cool, we’ll wait this out. Afterwards, we’ll come out and it’ll all be fine.
CM: I was wondering about that one for a while. It’s one of my favorites.
Tom Walker: Thanks!
CM: So what should we expect from the tour?
Tom Walker: Well I’ve got my band with me which is wicked. Drummer and bass player, they are tight rhythm section. Really good. We’re playing a lot of stuff that’s going to be on the album that nobody’s ever heard. You know we’ve only just started playing it in the last like month. So yeah, lots of big guitar riffs, a lot of solos, like it’s much more live than the record because if you’re going to come out and do a show, you do a show, so it sounds a bit more rocky and bit more up for it, a bit more hip hop. Yeah, it’s cool.
CM: Nice, exciting. Is there anything else that you want to let your fans know?
Tom Walker: I’ve got my new single coming out soon. It’s called “Leave a Light On.” You should go download and buy it or stream it for free on Spotify.
CM: Where can we find you on social media and online?
Tom Walker: On social media, all of my handles are just “IamTomWalker” because that’s my name.
CM: Keeping it simple.
Tom Walker: Exactly, yeah, keeping it real.