Interview: Tom Chaplin (Part 2)

By on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Missed part 1 of my interview with Tom Chaplin? No worries, catch up on the previous half of it through here.

Tom Chaplin’s first foray into the industry as a solo artist has been a long time coming. His initial desire to write on his own was the impetus for Keane to announce their hiatus after the release of their 2012 album ‘Strangeland’. “I have a little studio in my garden at home and sort of locked myself in there. But I very quickly ran into a creative brick wall, I think, because as you say, it’s like finding a voice, isn’t it? The songs I was writing about at that point were very observational, they were about other people, other relationships. They were looking outward as opposed to inwards, which is how I ended up. That’s the story of the record now, a very much inward looking record. Yeah, it was a kind of mixture of different songs that didn’t feel particularly cohesive, as I say they were observational, and no wonder that I hit a brick wall creatively.

“Obviously my problems with drugs completely really took over my life and I stopped being creative altogether. I discovered so much about myself and who I am that I looked in such kind of minute detail at my actions and my characteristics and what makes me who I am as a human being, as well as how I developed as a person. I’d kind of almost completely lost touch with being a real human being. All I was obsessed about was getting wasted, and that’s not really a life. That’s the absence of life in a way, sort of living for a drug. It’s about as far away from the essence of being a human being as you can get. So yes, rediscovering or the discovery into who I am as a person was a painful, but at times a really interesting adventure into my inner world. As that inner voice took shape, then the songs flowed out of me. Becoming a kind of authentic individual was very, very important in finding a voice for making this record.”


Tom Chaplin performing with Keane at SXSW 2012

I asked Tom if it was difficult, either literally or figuratively, to find his voice writing ‘The Wave’, either from being the frontman of Keane or coming back from addiction. “One of the main drives in making this record was that up until now, there’s been an undiscovered part of myself that I haven’t expressed as a singer. It’s [‘The Wave’] unveiling the inner voice, behind the outer voice that everyone’s been hearing for a very long time. With Keane songs, I was always interpreting someone else’s world and someone else’s feelings. Obviously, while Tim [Rice-Oxley, Chaplin’s bandmate and primary songwriter of Keane] all the time wrote with me in mind in terms of singing it, nevertheless they were always going to be his personal view and perspective on the world and his experience with life. It feels very difficult to compare the two.”

Chaplin begins a UK tour next week, playing far smaller venues that us Keane fans have been accustomed to seeing their heroes on in recent memory. “I feel like these songs are telling a direct story, very personal story. I’m inclined to think that there won’t be as much a posturing rock show as it would have been with Keane in a way. I think it’ll be much more about focusing on telling the story. I’m sure it’ll suit the small venues really well, in that sense of getting a really intimate story, with everyone being close up. I’m really excited to play these songs in that context.”

A brand new experience for Chaplin, one he grabbed onto with both hands, was putting together a live band for this upcoming tour. “I spent the summer assembling these new musicians around me. That itself has been very, very interesting. Obviously with Keane, our roles were defined very early on and have remained more or less the same for many years. To work with new people, and the album is obviously quite textured and layered and requires lots of different instruments, so figuring out that puzzle has been really fun, actually. Watching how other musicians interpret the songs and how they their parts, and being part of something so brand new for me as a musician has been really cool. So I’m really looking forward to see it working out onstage.

“I’m very excited and I really hope that the story of the record and the sense of going from this very dark place towards finding some sort of sense of resolution is something that is manifested in the live show as well. We will see!” I’d gotten the impression that as the primary songwriter in Keane, Rice-Oxley called the shots. So hearing how creatively inspired Tom became in putting together his own band and how excited he is about having full artistic control suggests to me this is the start of a wonderful new chapter in the career of Tom Chaplin the artist. There is no mistaking his laughter and genuine happiness on the other end of our conversation, from a man who has thankfully found peace from his demons through continuing treatment and is now “rooted in an authentic and real life”.

Tom Chaplin The Wave big version of cover

I want to ask him about what ‘The Wave’ has become to mean to him. Tom says, “As soon as I wrote it [the song], it always felt like it was going to be the finale [for the album]. It’s a song about finding a sense of resolution, I think the thing for me was that I always felt like I was in sort of opposition to life, always wanting to change how I feel. For example, for when I felt pain or sadness, it was about ‘how do I stop myself from feeling like this?’ And my go-to method was to take drugs. If I felt happy, and actually, this was a common problem for me, if I felt happy and elated and high, and good things were happening, I wanted to extend that. So I thought, ‘how do I keep this going?’ So I’d get good news, and my wife would say to me, ‘I’m worried for you because things are going well’. Seems kind of paradoxical, but truth was, I would then see that as a green light to again go out and take drugs and feel like I deserved a good time.

“[There was] the sense that I was always trying to control how I felt, and I think ‘The Wave’ is a song about developing a sense of going through life with good grace. You are going to experience ups and downs, and you cannot control that stuff, it’s what life visits upon you. I feel like I’ve learnt to acknowledge that stuff. If I feel down, that’s just the way it goes. And if I feel good, then [I’ll] enjoy it, but it’s not going to last forever. The song is really about looking back and acknowledging that stuff and using that as an ethos going forwards. It feels like a great note to end the record on, as that’s sort of my mantra for my life as it stands. And you know, by extension, it seems like a good way of describing the process and the place where the record has taken me to.”

Tom Chaplin photo from FB

As far as Chaplin has come in this journey, he recognises he’s still a work in progress. “I do still need to force myself a little bit to go spend time with friends, or go on family holidays or get off my backside and play golf, or play football, or whatever it is. But I am aware now that as soon as I do those things, they bring me a real sense of fulfillment and happiness. You know, at the end of the day I suppose, that’s what we’re all looking for from life, it’s what makes it bearable. So those are the vital things that I am now fiercely protective of.”

The days are brighter for Tom Chaplin now, and it’s heartwarming to hear he’s reached a place of more peace, epitomised best by the lyrics “time will sweep these things away / and I’ll be carried by the wave”. Beyond the joy he brought to so many as a member of Keane, that he’s chosen to use the harrowing life experiences he’s been through and put them into song to help others will be an even bigger feat.

Tom Chaplin’s debut album ‘The Wave’ will be released this Friday, the 14th of October, on Island Records. My review of the LP will post today at noon. Chaplin has a series of intimate UK gigs lined up for this month, starting on the 22nd of October at the beautiful St. George’s Church in Brighton, one of the most unique venues used during The Great Escape festival. All dates are now sold out at the time of this writing. The UK dates are followed by a series of larger shows in Belgium and Holland; for a full listing of all his live dates announced so far for this year, visit his official Web site.

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