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Tom Figgins – interview

We chat to the lovely Tom Figgins. Get listening to his songs, if you haven’t already, we think that you’re going to like them.. a lot!

Have you heard of Tom Figgins? If you haven’t, we have a strong feeling that you soon will. We caught his set at the Troubadour two weeks ago and we were very impressed, in fact we loved the gig so much, that we have been telling everyone we know to get down to the Troubadour and try and catch one of his live shows, where he currently has a residency. We took some time out to chat to Tom, to coincide with the release of his brilliant new single – Let Your Roots Grow which is out this week and found him to be a genuine and likeable person. We hope everyone will get behind Tom, because we think he is brilliant and his music deserves to be heard!

Let Your Roots Grow is out this week, how would you describe the song to someone who may not have heard it yet?

I was going through a bit of a transition at the time of writing the song and it was about trusting your influences and sticking to your guns and finding solace in what you are doing. No matter that if the seasons change and time changes, that this is always going to be there and you have to believe in yourself and be true to yourself.

Did you have fun making the video to Let Your Roots Grow?

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Yes! The video was a bit stressful. We wanted to make the video in Berlin, as we were going on holiday there. I think we were there for two days and we’d been doing rehearsals for show that we’re going to be taking to Edinburgh and I think we slept for the best part of a day and a half and I think we only got 6 minutes of footage in total. Immediately after that we went to do a drama festival in Scarborough and we actually finished it there. So there are a couple of shots of Berlin thrown in there, but the majority is in Scarborough.

You’ve got a residency at The Troubadour at the moment, can you tell us a bit about this?

I’ve got a gig at the Troubadour every month for the next few months, even though June was meant to be the last one! I chatted to the owner John, asking if there was any chance of more gigs and he said why don’t we extend it until Christmas, because it’s working. The gigs have been amazing, I love the venue – it is steeped in history and so many people have played there.

What music did you grow up listening to?

My Dad kept me on a strict diet of The Doors, Eric Clapton, Sting and the Police. We had Talking Heads on cassette and we had this compilation tape with Blue Oyster Cult and all of these classic songs which was my bread and butter. I used to be in choirs when I was young, so I got quite a classically trained. When I first started doing this and doing my own singing, I had to learn to deconstruct the way in which I had been taught to sing in a way, to try to make me find my own voice. I tried to emulate people that I loved, I wanted to play guitar like John Mayer and sound like John Mayer.

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What was the first instrument you played?

I got my first guitar when I was about 14 I think and back then it was all about Green Day, jumping around the room, growing my hair long and playing rock shows. I was in a band but we weren’t great, I must admit! Actually, before I had my first guitar, I think I borrowed one of someone, my best friend across the road to me in Fulham had a guitar and I think at the time and it was so out of tune but I just kept on tuning it and tuning it and tuning it, I played so many instruments at the time too. I played the trumpet, saxophone and the drums.

Will we be hearing any of these instruments being played by you on your future records?

Hmm, I’m not sure. I play the drums when there’s a lull in rehearsals, which is fun and some of my piano playing has been put on some of my songs, but I think I’ll mostly be sticking to the guitar.

Who is your guitar hero?

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I feel like there are two sides of the same coin to this. John Mayer is the reason that I started and what made me realise that i wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I listed to to his album Continuum and in particular the song Gravity, I heard that album and it blew me away. It made me want to do my own stuff and be a better guitar player. My Dad asked me a while ago what it was that I thought I was trying to aim for and what did I define as ‘making it’, I told him if Eric Clapton came up to me and said ‘nice show’, that would be pretty awesome. He did a gig in Montreal that I was watching on DVD and Phil Collins is on the drums and there’s this amazing moment where Phil comes in at the wrong moment in the song ‘In the Air Tonight’ and Clapton just looks at him like what are you doing! So either those really, or David Bowie.

You’ve been signed by Nick Stuart & associates, a man who famously signed U2 to Island Records, how do you feel about that?

It’s pretty amazing you know, I went and saw Nick when I first did my first EP and we sat down and listened to it and he basically said that there was a lot to work on. I took that away and went straight in to a record shop and I bought Kings Go Fourth and Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Jeff Buckley’s Grace album was the catalyst for what I’m doing now. He became my biggest influence and my biggest idol. He makes me want to write amazing music and I’m still obsessed with the album, I probably listen to it at least once a day. It’s so intricate and his writing has so many influences which is very alien to what I do. He went out and he had loads of Eastern influences in his music and there’s even a song that he sings in a different language.

How would you say that your sound has changed since your first EP, to the songs you are creating now?

Back then, I wanted to be a blues guitar player with solo bits in every song and I was kind of pushing that. Now, I’ve sort of found this folk element, which is so much more truer to me, because I’ve spent so much time going to different parts of the world and travelling to different places and I always felt like a travelling Troubadour. I used to live in Leeds, but come down to London all the time to do gigs, my flatmates at the time would never see me. My second EP Wake Up was kind of a stepping stone between the first EP and my work now and I feel like it’s all been like a big folk story for me, in that it’s been a massive journey and musically, I feel like I’m in the right space.

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Do you have an ultimate goal that you’d like to achieve?

I think getting played on Radio 1 would be pretty awesome. If anyone from Radio 1 is reading, hello there!

What do you prefer, writing or performing?

Performing is always a real pleasure. I find it difficult to write and perform at the same time. What I mean by that it, if you’ve been gigging a set for a month at a time, it becomes very hard to work out what’s going to be replaced and you have to detach yourself and say right, the next song in the set is going to be this one and this song is going to be struck off.

What goes through your mind before you go on stage?

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I don’t really have any rituals or say any prayers or anything like that before I go on stage, I normally warm up before going on, that’s a sensible way to stay on track, because I gig a lot. I usually have two minutes of staring at myself in the mirror, almost psyching myself up and I like to go on so I almost feel disconnected, so I can find my space before I go on stage. I like to go on there, see everyone and that works for me. Being nervous before going on is a good thing, it makes it feel special.

What would you say has been the best gig that you’ve performed to date?

I supported an artist called Matt Corby at one of his secret party gigs in London and prior to that, he’d been going around Australia performing at secret garden parties. There were 200 people crammed in to a garden in Stoke Newington and there was planes going over head and dogs barking and it was electric.

What does the rest of the year have in store for you, have you got any set plans?

I’m just taking it in my stride really. I’m planning on releasing a couple of more singles and it means that I can have a really nice progressing creatively and as far as keeping an audience interested in concerned.

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