Tom Chaplin on Christmas, Keane and his solo career

Tom Chaplin - Photo by Josh Shinner

Tom Chaplin - Photo by Josh Shinner - Credit: Archant

Tom Chaplin first knew fame as the lead singer for rock band Keane, purveyors of Brit rock with the ear-worm hooks. His solo career looks set to be just as successful, writes Kate Houghton.

Mention the band Keane and it’s only moments before hit tunes such as Somewhere Only We Know and Is It Any Wonder are coursing through your brain, unstoppably catchy, yet so cool that you don’t care.

Lead singer Tom Chaplin announced that he’d be testing the waters as a solo artist in 2016 and saw instant success, with his album The Wave entering the UK charts at number three. It was this, he says, that gave him the confidence to go again within a year.

‘Going solo is fraught with danger,’ he laughs. ‘I prepared myself for being a complete failure; it felt like I was a new artist, starting out at the beginning of my career - every victory just felt huge. All the good stuff that came along I just felt very proud of and most of the time quite overwhelmed by.’

Less than a year later, Tom was writing and recording again, this time in another brave step – the creation of a Christmas album.

‘I was so excited by everything that had happened I didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing,’ he says. ‘I looked at the timing and I wondered if I could just fit in writing, recording and marketing a Christmas record. It’s a fixed date; you can’t ask everybody to just move Christmas! It really focussed my mind. Normally when you write a record you write a lot of rubbish, thankfully I just seemed to write some pretty good songs more or less straight away.

‘I love Christmas myself, but I’m also aware that it can be quite a difficult time, it’s not all family times and great presents and everyone feeling happy, and where I found the most inspiration was trying to portray all the aspects and sides of Christmas.’

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His album, Twelve Tales of Christmas, was released last month, with eight original songs and four cover versions, including The Pretenders’ iconic 2000 Miles, and and I asked Tom how he knew when he had written a ‘good’ song.

‘It’s always something you hope for,’ he says. ‘Looking for a line or a melody that feels original - an earworm. It’s a strange process, there are no rules to it; it can happen anywhere – on the Tube, in the car, when I’m half asleep or sometimes when I’ve been sitting down at the piano for hours and something suddenly will emerge: it’s a dark art.’

Tom is taking his Christmas album on a three date tour this month, including a night at The Palace Theatre in Manchester.

‘It was a little bit stressful putting it all together so quickly but however hard you try and get the sound right on a record, it’s never going to sound as exciting and impactful it does when you’re in the room. Ultimately they’re going to be really great shows; we’ll be able to make it sound pretty magical and the venues are perfect for that warm Christmassy vibe.

‘One of the things I like about my shows these days, different to what the way things were with Keane, is they feel more like “an evening with…”, more conversational; I can get the crowd chatting and involved and for it to feel like a warmer and more intimate experience.’

The first release from Tom’s album, Under A Million Lights, is immediately ‘him’, his unmistakeable voice, an instant earworm that you’ll be happy to listen to on repeat with a piano and a gentle mix of choir and strings that feels heart-warmingly familiar, and lyrics that feel very, very right for this Christmas.

Tom Chaplin performs at Palace Theatre Manchester on Sunday 10 December

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