Tom Speight is making up for lost time. Laid low by illness, beset by problems both personal and professional, the songwriter returned to what he does best: writing songs.
Using his convalescence as a musical break, Tom found that music simply tumbled forth, a torrent of ideas, a flood of melody. “I wanted to do it,” he says. “I came out of a big relationship – four or five years – and then I was pretty low. I’d just come out of two major operations, so it was a good, cathartic way of getting on with things.”
“You have to live life, don’t you? Get your heart broken, meet someone and start something new. Experience things.”
Armed with some of his finest songs to date, when Tom Speight finally decided to push the button he did so in remarkable style. Four Eps were released across 12 months, racking up more than 12 million Spotify plays, earning support from Radio 2 and a high profile session on Jo Whiley’s show. Desperate to play live, he chalked up more than 80 shows in less than 12 months, from London to Poland, from the Scottish Highlands to the continent.
“It’s amazing, yeah,” he admits with a smile. “We went to number one in Brazil. We were number seven in the global viral chart, and number one in their viral chart. Nothing’s changed, really. I always thought the songs were good, otherwise I wouldn’t have put them out there.”
Supremely confident in his own work, Tom has developed a close relationship to producer Chris Bond. Working at Bond’s barnyard studio - “No phone signal, no internet… there’s not even running water!” - the pair focus purely on music, getting as close to the songs as they possibly can.
“We did all the foundations live,” he explains. “And then strings, cello, and piano we’d put over it afterwards as overdubs. I think you can hear it in the songs, that it’s not polished. It’s a human thing, which I think is missing in music.”
“I could give him a dozen songs and he knew pretty much exactly what he was going to do with them. And that was a great feeling, as well. He had a real vision for them.”
As a kid, Tom Speight listened endlessly to those early Leonard Cohen albums, even going as far as to borrow his older sister’s classical guitar. That element of simplicity remains in his music, but his recent work feels more inclined towards Ryan Adams’ Autumnal romanticism, or even the simple yet affecting Celtic soul of Damian Rice, where each note has its own place driven by a deeply personal connection to the music.
That connection is something that fans feel, too. An entirely organic success story, Tom Speight has returned from the brink to find success in the only way he knows how – great songwriting, delivered on each and every gig. “Fans call me ‘friend’ - they think I’m their friend!” he exclaims. “I write messages for them when they buy the deluxe CD. You feel like you get to know people. I know what some of them do for jobs or how their wife is or something like that. It’s that nice feeling of having personal interactions with the fans. It’s important.”
With four more Eps planned for 2017 – and countless international shows on the books – Tom Speight is able to relax a little, to breathe a little easier. “I think there’s been months where I haven’t written a song,” he shrugs. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though. I don’t think you should force them out.”
Wholly natural and completely organic, Tom Speight is able to find success at his own pace. Time to get caught up.
Sunday 6th August 2017 @ 21:15 - 21:45
Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0QW