Exclusive Interview: Tom Walker on being BRIT-nominated and the success of Leave A Light On

"Three years ago I was driving around in a Volkswagen Fox asking friends to come to my gigs."

We caught up with 27-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter, Tom Walker, on a quiet day in January - a month before he finds out if he will be the recipient of not one, but two BRIT Awards, British Breakthrough Act and Best Single for platinum-selling ‘Leave a Light On’.

The news still hasn’t sunk in yet and he can’t believe that he’ll always be able to say he was BRIT nominated now.

“It’s been mental,” he said.

Tom has been on a whirlwind journey, going from driving himself around and persuading his friends to come to his shows just over three years ago, to selling out London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire and getting stopped on the street for selfies wherever he goes.

“I went from driving myself around in my Volkswagen Fox and asking my mates to come to my gigs just over three years ago. Now I’m touring all across the world playing sold out shows and fans are actually singing the lyrics back to me.

“I still don’t think the whole BRIT nominations thing has properly sunk in yet, for the rest of my life I’m now going to be able to say I was BRIT nominated - that’s next level.”

But he remains unaffected by the attention and spotlight.

“It was only initially in Europe where I’d get recognised, but last year it was here in the UK too.

“Everyone has been super nice and they just want a photo and to say hello, which I totally get, so I’m cool with that.”

One person who has been with Tom throughout his career and who keeps him grounded is his fiancée Annie - who it was revealed he had got engaged to in September last year – and who was with him way before he launched his music career.

Tom hasn’t yet decided how he plans to celebrate if he becomes a BRIT winner on February 20th, but revealed his wife-to-be has already created a space in the home they share together to show off his gold discs.

Asked where he would keep his statuette, he admitted: “I haven’t really thought that far ahead but I’m sure it will be the biggest celebration of my life! My fiancée has started a section for my gold discs and awards in our living room so I’m sure she’d love to add to that.” 

Tom - who has been hailed as the next Ed Sheeran - won the hearts of the nation with emotional ballad ‘Leave a Light On’, which was written about his friend’s battle with addiction, and he’s had many people message him to tell him how the song has helped them or their friends going through their own problems.

The hit song was his way of telling friends and family that he will be there for them no matter what, but was also cathartic for him to process how he was feeling at the time.

“I think it’s important for everyone to help those going through a hard time and we should all be there for someone that is struggling with something,” he explained. “That’s what ‘Leave a Light On’ is about, letting my friends and family know that I’ll always be there for them through a hard time.

“Whenever there’s something I need to get off my chest, I usually put it into a song. So whenever I finish a really long period of touring, I can’t wait to get writing again because of all the experiences that I just need to get off my chest.”

Tom’s music is very personal to him and he doesn’t hold back on his forthcoming debut solo album, ‘What a Time to Be Alive’.

“Everything I’ve wanted to get out has ended up on the album and I’ve not held anything back, I don’t think it’d be very fair if I did,” he said.

The new album includes Tom’s collaboration with Swedish pop star Zara Larsson, ‘Now You’re Gone’ and his feature on ‘Walk Alone’, by Rudimental – the BRIT Award-winning drum and bass group, who have had three UK number one singles and collaborated with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Jess Glynne and John Newman , who Tom hopes to one day emulate.

He said: “They’re absolute legends, it’s been amazing doing a single campaign with the boys, and getting to hang out all the time has been so much fun.

“Those lads have been doing it for ages and they’re still loving it, which is how I hope to be once I’ve been doing it as long as them.”

Though he’s keeping tight-lipped, Tom has hinted that he may have a few more collaborations in the pipeline.

“I’m always open to working on collaborations, there’s a couple of things I’ve been speaking to people about so who knows what could happen.”

The singer - who named this year’s BRITs Critics’ Choice Awards winner Sam Fender and Paolo Nutini as influences - got to work with Ed Sheeran’s right-hand man Steve Mac and Mark Ralph on the production of his album and he’s hoping to work with Cam Blackwood, who is known for his work with George Ezra and produced his recent hit ‘Shotgun’.

Tom said: "I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been with the producers I’ve been able to work with on this record, like Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys) Steve Mac (Ed Sheeran, Clean Bandit) and Mike Spencer (Emeli Sande, Rudimental), who have all done an amazing job.

“I really want to work with Cam Blackwood soon too, I’ve met him a few times now and think we’d work really well together.”

But he would never give anyone full reign over the production of his music.

“I work alongside the producers and like to co-produce everything” he added. “I couldn’t just sit back a let someone tell me how my music should sound. It’s definitely a collaborative process.”

Tom will head out on a UK tour in April and May, including a stop at London’s Roundhouse on May 1st.

The humble star thinks playing arenas is a while off yet - but it’s something he aspires to. 

“The tour has been mental.

“There are only three shows with a few tickets left and it’s still like five months to the shows, I can’t believe it. I still think arenas are a little while off - but hopefully we’ll get there at some point.”

Tom has a busy year ahead, playing festivals and touring the globe right into the autumn, but he’s always writing new music.

“I’m touring and playing festivals all over the world right up until October and we’re currently working out the plan from there, but I don’t think I’m going to get much down time this year.

“I’ll always try and fit in writing around my touring and promo schedule, so I’m sure some new tunes will get penned this year.”

Tom’s debut album ‘What a Time to Be Alive’ is released on March 1st via Relentless Records.