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Interview: Tom Figgins

7 min read

Although you might not know the name Tom Figgins now, give it time: the supremely talented singer’s new single, Rain On Me, seems ready to break him into the big leagues. Figgins began his recording career at the tender age of 19, with his heartfelt EP Your Place, a touching and powerful release produced by the renowned Bob Cranham. From there, the singer’s successes grew and grew: his second record, Wake Up, was an even more impressive collection of songs, and won Figgins further acclaim.

Rain On Me, his ecstatic new single, is a powerful summation of the man’s career so far: it’s tender and subtle, and sure to help Figgins find his way to a whole new gaggle of fans. Figgins is about to embark on a tour around the UK; ahead of his time on the road, we spoke to the thoughtful and approachable artist about Bruce Springsteen, the new single, and the enduring magic of burritos…

Joseph Earp: How are you and where in the world does our interview find you today?

Tom Figgins: I’m just on a train heading south for a gig tonight at The Troubadour. I’ve just been up in Scotland for two weeks working on new material.

Tom Figgins 2JE: It sounds to me like there is a strong autobiographical element to Rain On Me. Is that the case?

TF: All of my music has autobiographical aspects yes, even if they’re not directly obvious. When I’m writing I sometimes shout the first lyrics that come into my head, and more often than not it’s my subconscious that speaks things that are on my mind. It can be a good catalyst when writing and even unearth some feelings that you didn’t know you had.

JE: The video for Rain On Me is just beautiful: it’s so evocative. How was that shoot? And, most importantly, where was that awesome tunnel?

TF: We woke up at about half 3, I think it was, to get to Greenwich Park in time for the sunrise. Which unfortunately we didn’t use in the video as it hadn’t come out the way I’d hoped. We all got McDonald’s breakfast including the dog! The tunnel is pretty cool it runs between the Cutty Sark and Millwall, under the Thames. Quite a few years ago walking back from a night out in town and walking through there I thought it would be a wicked place to shoot a music video and I’m so pleased I went back.

JE: Your lyrics paradoxically seem both dense and yet accessible, often at the same time. Who are the biggest influences on you as a lyricist?

TF: Jeff Buckley was a wonderfully rich lyricist, the imagery that he employed was incredible, he’s been a strong source of inspiration for a long time. Bruce Springsteen as well is amazing. The River is the one song that without a doubt gives me shivers every time I hear the words. Born to Run, I’m on Fire, there’s just too many to mention…

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JE: Your debut EP, Your Place, was recorded in your bedroom. Do you prefer the intimacy of that kind of recording space, or are you just as happy to work in a studio?

TF: Your Place was actually recorded at a studio down in Eastbourne called ICC, which is where we did Wake Up as well! It was amazing to work in that studio it was a great place, we lived there for about 2 weeks I think. Both of the latest singles have been recorded at my producers studio which is at his house, and for what the singles were It was absolutely perfect. Everything we needed in an intimate space and I think you can hear that in the track. I’ve kind of done it in reverse I guess. I’m still writing them all in my bedroom though!!

JE: You performed last year at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Can you tell me a bit about that project? Did it turn out as you had hoped?

TF: I’m part of a group called with Wings Theatre Company and we took a show up there. It was an adaptation of Swan Lake set in a Russian travelling fair! It was pretty wild, live music on stage, hook a duck’s instead of swans, dodgems etc. It went better that we could’ve ever hoped or imagined. I remember us all on the train up saying to each other “we just want to sell out one show!” and we ended up being entirely sold out for the 3 week run. We couldn’t believe it. I loved performing that show it was amazing fun. A song of mine, Mother, was written for that show.

JE: Your style has been described as ‘indie pop’, but how would you describe it?

TF: I would say it’s more folk rock… There’s so much fuzz guitar on all of the tracks! My acoustic playing style is certainly largely folk influenced.

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JE: What is your favourite song out of those you have recorded?

TF: It would have to be Rain On Me, the new single. It’s such a true representation of what I’ve wanted to create for a long time. It an easy process to record as well.

JE: What was the first song you ever learnt to play on the guitar?

TF: Definitely Basket Case by Green Day, I loved that song. I think I might have first started trying to learn Plug In Baby by Muse but that was a much more difficult task. When I heard Origin of Symmetry I knew I wanted to play guitar. It was such an important album for me.

JE: Was yours a very musical household? Where do you get your passion for creating music?

TF: No not at all to be honest. Neither of my parents played any instruments. We had an upright piano in the house and I remember playing that from a pretty young age. My Grandfather also had a bugle, I’m not sure if that’s how you spell that, but I used to run around the garden at the age of about 5 and get a note out of that. Their neighbours must’ve hated me! It felt very natural for me from a young age I guess. I used to sing in choirs growing up and I was classically trained. I started playing the drums when I was 10 and then guitar at 14 that’s what started me on the path to where I am now.

JE: If you couldn’t be a musician, what would your dream career be?

TF: If I couldn’t I’d have loved to have been an actor. I’m incredibly lucky to be involved with the theatre company it’s a wonderful creative outlet for me. The music myself and my friend Christian write for that is always so diverse so it forces us to think differently about it all.

JE: Who would be your dream musical collaborator?

TF: Probably Bruce Springsteen, the stories that he tells with his music would be a wonderful thing to be part of.

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JE: Have you always enjoyed playing live or did it take some getting used to?

TF: Playing live has always been my most comfortable aspect of what I do. When I first moved back to London I started playing about 7 times a week and that helped me learn quite a lot about the performance aspect of things. I feel at home on stage.

JE: Did you have any of those fabled terrible shows in your early days? It seems like most musicians have at least one show that makes the cringe to think about…

TF: Oh god there was one absolutely awful one at the Grey Horse in Kingston. We basically played to no one. The bloke who was on last was really rude and sat outside with all of his friends and walked in when we we had finished laughing and didn’t acknowledge any of us at all. We were really annoyed! I think we unloaded in the middle of the room whilst he was playing… We also did one upstairs at the Barfly in Camden and we went on at 45 minutes past midnight and there was maybe 3 people milling about during soundcheck. We were just thinking it was gonna be one of those that got archived and never thought about again. But between soundcheck and walking onstage, it could only have been about 10 minutes, we walked out and there was about 200 people. We couldn’t believe it!

JE: What can your fans expect from your upcoming shows?

TF: New songs!

JE: Any venues that you are particularly keen to play?

TF: The Troubadour is a great venue. They’ve been really kind to me. Always given me a place to play and it’s felt a bit like a musical home for me.

JE: Tell me something you’ve never told an interviewer before.

TF: Burritos are my favourite thing at the moment. I literally cant get enough of them! Thinking about it, I’m pulling in to King’s Cross and I’m going to get one now…

Tom’s new single Rain On Me is available for purchase now. His UK Tour dates are as follows:

30th Reigate Music Festival
10th-12th Cornbury Festival
16th Capel Music Festival
29th-31st Towersey Festival

All photos by Kate Woods

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