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How’s the tour going? You’ve been to a few places already…
Yeah, we started off in Sheffield, which was really good, it was our first gig in Sheffield. Then London the next day, which was mad.
How was it playing KOKO [in London] – that’s quite a big venue, isn’t it?
We actually played KOKO two years ago, on Christmas Eve-Eve with Bombay Bicycle Club for a charity event. It was only the bottom floor that they opened but obviously you still had the feeling of being in the whole venue, it was an amazing feeling. Then two years have absolutely flown by and now we’ve headlined it.
Did it feel weird comparing your experience recently in KOKO to two years ago?
Yeah, it was an incredibly emotional gig… probably the first time that’s happened to me. I think it was for the rest of the boys as well. I didn’t realise that Jacob, my keyboard player, who’s been with me for just over two years, his first gig was that gig on Christmas Eve-Eve in KOKO. The first track we played was ‘From Nowhere’ and then they all went mad for ‘From Nowhere’ this time, and I kind of just looked across at Jacob and was like “woah”. It was beyond words.
Are there any other songs that you like playing live specifically that are your favourites?
I think it was ‘Home’ we played at KOKO, when we ended before the encore, and I just started playing it and was ready to go onto the mic and sing the first bit and [the crowd] just started and sang all on their own ’til about half way through. I felt I couldn’t let them sing the whole thing (even though they would’ve); I thought “I’ve got to sing at some point!”. It was a weird sensation. It’s far more exciting now to play live because there’s these people who know your words and their reactions are far greater than years ago. I think as my favourite songs to play I kind of like the heavier ones – ‘Can You Hear Me’ is one of my favourites.
Touching briefly on the fact you were a keen rugby player: was rugby something you’d always focused on and did music become a real passion after you had your accident, or was music always at the forefront of your life?
Maybe not the forefront of my life, but it’s always been in my life. I think when I had the injury at like 17, I had a full-leg, old-school cast from my toes to my groin and was in bed for most of the year. I took in a huge amount of music during that year and so suddenly I was surrounded by my sister’s piano, my mum’s records and CDs, the computer, all kinds of bits and bobs, and I think that was the point when I realised that “oh, these people have got a career, this is what they do”. I’d always thought it wasn’t tangible, it was just something I would only ever listen to, but that was the point where it just kind of clicked and I thought “yeah, maybe I’ll give it a go”.
So was it around then that you thought about studying music?
It was. I withdrew my UCAS form, knocked all the rugby ones off, and put in for LIPA, which is where I attended. Mum was stressing out cause I couldn’t do anything else so she was like ‘if he doesn’t get this he’s fucked!’
Would you say that studying at LIPA has shaped how you are as a musician, or do you feel you could’ve tried going straight into working your way through the industry without studying first?
So many insane musicians have never studied music… You don’t need to, that’s the thing, but I chose to because I saw how collaboration key – it’s all about meeting people. When I entered LIPA I was this teenager writing over-emotional, anxiety-ridden music, and then I was thinking “I’m gonna study a music course for three years and I’m gonna try every bit of music”, I just went a little bit mad really… The guys in the band were all in my class and they’ve introduced me to a world of music; I’m so grateful to them. The course was good, it taught you the business side of it and stuff, but mainly the experience was down to the people I shared a class with.
You’re writing at the moment for the second album, are you finding it quite challenging trying to live up to the success of the debut album?
It’s horrible – absolutely horrible. [laughs] It’s one of the biggest challenges. You just go through all kinds of emotions really trying to write a second album. I had about five years to write my first album and now I’ve only got the odd week in between touring and stuff. I know I’m experiencing things with the boys on the road and stuff but it’s not the things that I experienced that the first album was written about. It’s so tough, but I think there’s a lot of good stuff that’s coming. I’m slowly getting there. Still trying to aim to have it done for Christmas so we can release early next year, but it’s tough. You wanna work fast but you want that quality as well.
Do you have any little nuggets of wisdom for students who aspire to a career in music?
Erm… wash your laundry? I think what my mum always kind of drilled into me was that not everything happens straight away, nothing happens first time. It’s a bit of a negative one when you hear it just like that, but it applies to any kind of career really. It’s tough when you get a knock in the music industry, it’s a really tough place. You’re writing songs that are so emotional to you with close connections, it could be love or loss or something like that, so when someone says it’s not good or not good enough for radio or you’re not going to make it with that sound, ignore that, it’s you and it might not come this week or this year, but it could come at any other time so just keep going with it really.