My incredibly talented sister and I decided to do our rendition of “Never Enough” sung by Loren Allred in “The Greatest Showman”.
Vocally, the most difficult part of the song was the very last “for me”, this fragile feathery little C-note of a thing, treacherously teetering on the scales of Anubis against cliche human desire (because it holds that much volume, as you’ll hear in the bloopers). Piano-wise, playing the “string” of quavers (pun intended) took me ages before I got a take not mistakenly slipping into that irritating, weak D when playing the Ab/Bb/C/Eb in octaves. But, thoroughly enjoyed the quaver/triplet/sextuplet progression runs in building intensity as my sister repeatedly belted and held that exhausting Eb. Whew, I think even after having listened to “Never Enough” for well over 100 minutes worth of time, this majestic composition is so deserving of every second of it. We hope our version does it somewhat justice!
“I’m always so impressed when Skype actually connects. We worked out the time zones – I’m so impressed with us!” And, despite Eddy Ruyter sitting 3452 miles away, this enthusiastic optimism radiates brilliantly through my iPad.
The Toronto-based musician began playing the piano at six years old, when all he wanted to do was play outside. “It was probably a good four to five years before I started turning around and was like, “Oh, I actually really like this!””, he recalls. Eddy then whizzed through the classical training and gained exposure to a variety of influences, including Elton John (“A complete legend – I still see huge influence in my playing from listening to that as a kid!”), but mostly drew inspiration from pop-punk & rock bands. His decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in jazz performance was due to its fundamental applicability, but Eddy comments, “Jazz was something I dove in the deep end in college – I never really lived jazz music in the way a lot of my other friends did.” Nonetheless, he fondly remembers feverishly transcribing some of Joe Zawinul’s solos, and Bill Evans’s “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” still remains one of his favourite albums.
“There was a good year or so I was paying my rent mostly from playing with a Mexican band”
However, it was more the amalgamation of diverse sounds that cultivated his musical direction early on. “Toronto, being a very multi-cultural city, it’s cool just being a side-man here – there’s so many different kinds of music and so many different cultures all put together. There was a good year or so I was paying my rent mostly from playing with a Mexican band. I got to learn how to do a bunch of salsa, merengue, duranguense…I never thought it would be an experience I got to have, which was so fun! I definitely feel Latin influences has been a bigger part of my playing than jazz was, even.”
A lot of Eddy’s passion for pop-punk & rock music stems from hearing how the synths & piano sounds are integrated. “Linkin Park did that, and Silverchair even had a concert pianist come in for one of their songs to play over it. I always love that rock edge, but when they bring in programming, synth stuff & sampling, I always like seeing how all those sounds are integrated within rock music.” So much so, Eddy was part of a 5-piece pop-rock band a few years ago, Aberdeen, that toured around Canada. “It was just throwing everything in the back of a van, driving across Canada, and sleeping on peoples’ floors.”
“You start with little gigs that don’t really pay much, but you have to learn a lot of songs for. But I always loved it; I always wanted to play”
This sporadic, impromptu lifestyle is absolutely expected in a musician’s life, so I ask him about what pursuing a career in music entails. “I just played with anyone and everyone I could. It started a lot with cover bands and being in school for it, as well as just being around a lot of different musicians. I was also working part-time at a music store teaching guitar & piano lessons there, and just being around so many different musicians helped a lot, because they’ll be playing a little bar gig here & there, and be like, “Hey! I need a keyboard player! Can you come for this?” So, you start with little gigs that don’t really pay much, but you have to learn a lot of songs for. But I always loved it; I always wanted to play. I always liked the challenge of, “Oh, how do I make that sound?” “How do I cover all these horn parts and string parts and synth parts at all the same time?” I just kept doing that. The more you do it, the more other musicians notice you, and the more you get asked to do other shows or other projects.”
Breaking into the music industry seemed more of a side-effect than an end-goal for Eddy. Incredibly humble with a remarkable work ethic, it was no surprise Eddy was soon presented with the opportunity to work with the now 22-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, Francesco Yates.“I worked with him for a couple years playing keys. Francesco is absolutely amazing – he is an incredible singer, an incredible piano player, and an incredible guitar player,” enthuses Eddy. In addition to working with Francesco, around that same time, Eddy also began subbing in with the 80s-synth band, Spoons. With a delighted laugh, he exclaims, “I love them! They’re amazing. They’re the sweetest people and have music videos out from before I was even born! I just did a show with them about a week ago, and it’s been so fun.”
“Trying to help people through things is something Shawn definitely is really on with his lyrics, and is one of the reasons I really look up to him”
Eddy & I also happen to be Skyping a couple weeks shy of having just recently wrapped up Shawn Mendes’s phenomenal worldwide Illuminate tour – a simple “Hey, can you come to Salt Lake City tomorrow and play a show?” call from the guitarist led to an adventure of a lifetime. Further exemplifying how integral spontaneity is, Eddy lays down breaking into the music industry with no rigid set of pipeline events. “There’s really no tried-and-true “Oh, I went to do this, or accomplished this, and that allowed me to play with so & so.” I just kept playing, and I loved playing, and your name gets passed around. If someone needs you and they know you from another show you did, they might call you. It all works out.”
Having gone from the unpredictable “Can you jump in with us tonight?” texts to a scheduled regimen of touring with label artists, I inquire whether he misses the flexibility in performances, like during the Illuminate tour. “It’s very put together beforehand, and decided “Okay, this happens here, this happens there.” In rehearsals, there will be a lot of improvised parts that we figure out – we’ll lock something in and say “Okay, this is what we want to use for this tour.” It all depends on the group. There can be improvisation, but mostly has to be set in stone before going out on the road. In the case of a tour like that [Illuminate], you have to be locked in with lighting, visuals, and everything else. The more production element parts, the more you have to be like, “Okay, so this is what we’re doing” so it fits. But with that being said, there are a lot of shows set up in a way that allows improv to happen.”
Also, feeling creatively stifled is never an issue with Eddy: “One of my buddies in college, he’s a saxophone player, and was talking about doing pit band. He said, “Well, whenever I’m in the pit band, there’s no improvisation there, but I’m really focusing to make sure that my tone is on point, that my pitch is right there; I’m focusing on doubling of the instruments, or on my sight-reading.” So, with any show, it’s always looking at what to improve. With a tour like this, you’re not doing as much improvisation, but you’re taking that attention and focusing on other aspects of the music – “How tight can I play with these guys?”, “How can I create the best sound that is going to fit in with this project?”, or “How can I dynamically play this part to showcase it in the best way possible?” It’s definitely a very big part of it, seeing what the song calls for and what’s the best way you can do it in.”
“Lyrics are a big thing because music is something that can help people through so many different aspects of their life”
The next few months will involve a little less traveling mileage – Eddy is currently working hard on his own personal projects. Amidst the gigs generously speckled here and there, Eddy has a four-track EP “Blurred” to be released soon (“It’s been on “Coming Soon!” for a while now!”) with one track out now, “Catch Me If You Can”.“I am slowly recording and starting to launch some of my own stuff. It’s under the name “The ER Project”. I’ve got a few recordings that I’m holding onto and trying to figure out the whole release plan. Hopefully, over the next few months, I’ll start getting those out!”
With a lot of the sounds being a fusion of pop-rock and electronica, noting the large influence Hedley & Marianas Trench both have on the EP, most of the tracks were written during his Masters project: “The whole thesis of it was just pop-rock compositions, but it was lyrically targeting a lot of issues songs don’t.” Communicating with the listener lyrically is clearly the crux of Eddy’s musical vision – the long, drawn-out pauses of contemplation in conversation hints at deeply personal experiences. “Lyrics are a big thing because music is something that can help people through so many different aspects of their life; that’s why I really focus on a lot of artists or groups that will lyrically target that. I don’t look at that as anything against any other genres or other lyrical content – everything has its place.” He smiles gratefully, before continuing, “Trying to help people through things is something Shawn definitely is really on with his lyrics, and is one of the reasons I really look up to him. He really cares about connecting with the listener, and writing things that will inspire them, and can give them something to relate to, which is huge.”
“A lot of the music rebels against whatever the generation before created, and in a lot of cases, it isn’t anybody meaning any harm. It’s simply: this is what this generation is; this is what the next thing is”
Recently, there has been some bewilderment from older generations due to what “masquerades” as today’s popular music created by certain millennials at the forefront. Working with young artists, like Cian Ducrot, Shawn Mendes and Francesco Yates,to name a few, what is Eddy’s opinion? He grins, rolling his eyes good-humouredly. “I think every generation in music history has been there: “Oh, these kids are doing this – why is that okay?” A lot of the music rebels against whatever the generation before created, and in a lot of cases, it isn’t anybody meaning any harm. It’s simply: this is what this generation is; this is what the next thing is.”
“Now, we’ve got the diversification of all these different genres that can exist at the same time. And I like that people are willing to accept that”
Whilst we utilize the master category of “pop music”, Eddy notes the boundaries of the genre being tinkered with, as elements of house, trap and EDM music cross over considerably these days. However, he pauses mid-sentence, before a frazzled, “Actually, I don’t know if I can even say that! Even when you had the huge club thing and EDM back in the early 10s, you had the whole folk music movement coming with Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers; then “Counting Stars” by One Republic, boom, combined them.”
“Everything has diversified now. Yes, I can say a particular genre was more prevalent in this decade to the prior one, but there are still so many other things going on at the same time. We have the internet with access to so many different things. You think of it as, “Oh, that 60s sound!” because I guess in that decade, it was more unified – whereas now, we’ve got the diversification of all these different genres that can exist at the same time. And I like that people are willing to accept that. We’re able to experiment with more, so who knows what’s next? Maybe the grunge will come back into play!”
“We’ve got far more ability to invest into any particular artist, but we definitely don’t, because there’s a lot of other artists there you can discover, which in a way…is kind of cool!”
The ease of discovering new music via streaming services has fundamentally changed the music industry and the method of consumption. Listeners have easy access to a plethora of music, but a debatable trade-off becomes the lack of investment into a single artist. Eddy immediately jumps in: “Oh, definitely – we’ve got far more ability to invest into any particular artist, but we definitely don’t, because there’s a lot of other artists there you can discover, which in a way…is kind of cool! Even if you just get a snippet of everyone, you can find so many different people making music, and listeners have such a variety to really make their own collection. I mean, obviously you’re not diving in as much into an artist, but if you find an artist that you really like, I think people are still going to do it because they have a means to. It might not happen as much, but I think when someone really finds someone they like, they’re gonna go for it.”
Not only have streaming services dampened the rigid gatekeeper role record labels once possessed, the digitization of the music industry has paved way for autonomy. Whilst terrestrial radio remains a popular avenue to means of music and vinyl is making a surprising resurgence, it cannot be overstated how platforms such as Apple Music or Spotify have given numerous musicians accessible means to easily share their music without the need for creative compromise – this comes with the valid option of not manufacturing or distributing physical copies at all. “You get to hear songs released half a year before they make it on radio, and I’ll be like, “Ah, I know that one already, I already know about that artist!” So, I think it’s definitely cool, instead of a few people having those spots and everything about those few people; there are all these other artists you can really dig in and find.” It’s true the ease of adding a one-off song into your cultivated playlist means a lower likelihood of learning more about the specific artist, but perhaps the overarching interconnectedness is more of a fortune than a downfall.
“I’m definitely one of those people that starts going crazy if I’m too long without an instrument”
Pianist-to-pianist, I eagerly ask what he is currently focusing on musically. “Right now, honestly, it’s mostly vocals and getting ready to track some more stuff. Within piano playing, it’s always just creating synth sounds, and playing with other people & making sure you’re locking in is always a big part of it. Improvisation on my own is always listening to standards and playing over them. It’s definitely hard to find a balance,” Eddy sighs, furrowing his eyebrows. “And balance is usually dictated by what show is coming up and what needs to be strongest.” The stress is transient, immediately dissolving into a grin. “As long as I’m working on something, I’m happy.”
“I’m definitely one of those people that starts going crazy if I’m too long without an instrument. I have this habit of tending to immerse myself in it in any way I can.” He laughs warmly, before finally adding, “And if that’s healthy or not…who knows?”
From the 4-year-old boy singing “We Are The Champions” karaoke in France to being one of BBC Music’s Sound of 2018 longlisted acts following staggering success in the past few months, Lewis Capaldi is indefinitely one of the most extraordinary talents of this generation. With two sold-out headline tours and the recent release of his gorgeous EP “Bloom”, I had the privilege to explore the mind behind the authentically cathartic voice himself.
Lewis & I sat down in an empty VIP room above the main stage where we could hear Freya Riding’s angelic voice subtly interlacing the air – wearing a navy blue hoodie with the strings tied in a bow, he commented on how much bigger the venue was than he anticipated. Legs dangling over the couch, we began a dynamic conversation about the wildly fast-paced year that has gone by. Lewis still finds the astronomical success surreal following the release of his first single “Bruises”, a tune penned with James Earp whilst in London: “That shouldn’t have done as well as it did – best-case scenario, we were thinking somewhere in the 3 million mark.”
“Bruises” was simply a last-minute addition to the setlist when Lewis performed at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut earlier in January, one of the most celebrated music venues in the world. Truly proof of the saying “Last but not least”, somebody filmed the performance and posted it on Twitter – it went mini-viral with thousands of retweets, and it was only then when Lewis changed a few of the lyrics and released the final version in late March. The ballad subsequently destroyed Spotify, and it has also just been featured on the TV show, “Riverdale”.
“More people have listened to that song [Bruises] than there are people in Scotland”
“It feels like somebody’s gonna realise one day, like, “Oh shit, that wee boy shouldn’t be like, how did you manage to…” and then someone’s gonna tap me on the shoulder and go, “Right, you almost slipped through the cracks there, but get back to Scotland!” “
Millennials, like Lewis himself, are at the forefront in shattering the stereotype – that is, self-entitled, lazy, and useless – imposed on our generation through this kind of hard work and humility.
“I hate the fact we’re seen as the lazy, whiny generation, which is not the case at all. There are so many young people out there now doing such amazing things, and I think it’s just bubbling under a little bit. And in the next 2 to 3 years, we’ll really see our generation properly come into the room and do all these amazing things – I think it’ll push it out of the mainstream a bit more that millennials are useless.”
“I hate the fact we’re seen as the lazy, whiny generation, which is not the case at all – there are so many young people out there now, doing such amazing things”
We began discussing his incredible EP, “Bloom”, which consists of four beautiful compositions – predominantly (though unintentionally) piano-based despite being a guitarist, Lewis explains how hearing the blend of his voice with the keys “really stirred something in me”, and that “…the fact I don’t play it, that I don’t feel I have an understanding of the chords and stuff, makes it more interesting.” He describes how fulfilling and integral it is to progress as a songwriter, irrespective of external validation; exploration of instrumentation offers this individual path of discovery. And his favourite chords and/or chord progressions? Amy Winehouse’s “Addicted”, and the F major to F minor transition in the chorus of his own song, “Fade”.
Speaking of, “Fade” is Lewis’s favourite track off his EP – but not in terms of being better than the others. “It was the whole kind of: when it was written, who it was written with, how quick it was written…it was just all very indicative of how mad these past 6 months have been.” He draws out a mental timeline for me – age 12: walking. Teenage years: a gradual, slow jog. The period between 17 to 19 years old: running. Finally, hitting the age of 20: full-on hyper speed. Everything beforehand was merely a transitional warmup to implement all the knowledge learnt into the greatest showtime of his life, and he hasn’t slowed down ever since. I inquired how school fit into this chaotic schedule, and Lewis explained that before going to college for a couple years to study music, he was planning to study sound production, which required a B in Higher Mathematics.
“I was fucking shit at Maths; excuse my French. I was awful at it. So, I had a tutor.” Lewis goes on to explain the one time they had a lesson, and he had incorrectly answered what was supposed to be a simple calculation question. “…he [tutor] just lost the plot: “Look, if you’re going to be an idiot, I’m not gonna teach you anymore!” And just got up, and walked out my house!”
Even if Mathematics isn’t his forte, Lewis excels at consistently making time to interact with people who enjoy his music on Instagram & Twitter – scroll through his page, and the genuine gratitude radiates unmistakably clear.
“…even just a thanks or cheers, it really pays off in terms of the community you build“
“When I started out, one of my managers said, “Look, you should reply to these people.” To begin with, I was a bit like, “That’s gonna take ages to reply to everybody.” But once you start doing it, you get these comments back and you’re reading through all the comments and they’re all amazing – you feel great by the end of it, you feel you’re having conversations with like-minded people, it feels like having conversation with your friends. It just seems a positive situation for everybody, to just kind of chat and talk.”
He also adds, “I don’t like the terms “fans”; I think it’s a bit…like putting yourself above. So I just say: people who listen to my music.”
“I don’t like the terms “fans”; I think it’s a bit…like putting yourself above. So I just say: people who listen to my music”
So, if I were to hand you a list of highly recommended texts to read, it would include: “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Endurance” by Scott Kelly…and Lewis’s Twitter feed.
Naturally, I asked about the tweets regarding his pubes. Yes, that is plural.
“I was in with my label the next day, and I was thinking, “Oh no, they’re gonna be so raging because I’ve talked about my pubes!”, but they all loved it. It’s good to have people around you as crass as you are,” he says before bursting out laughing. But Lewis continues to explain the seriousness of being lighthearted and a bit absurd on social media platforms like Twitter.
“There is so much shite on Twitter; there is so much horrible, horrible stuff on Twitter. I think in some cases, like right now with the slave trade in Libya, it’s great to use Twitter to shine a light on that. But I’m talking about fucking Trump being a knob, and people arguing all the fucking time on Twitter. I don’t care about your politics, so long as you’re an alright person.
“I don’t care about your politics, so long as you’re an alright person”
“Everyone’s so serious on Twitter, and then you forget there’s 280 characters. You’re not really going to really solve the world’s problems in 280 characters. You can shine the light on important things like the Libyan situation, but it’s not the place for mass political debate. And I think it’s just good too start a conversation, but not end a conversation.”
“You’re not really going to really solve the world’s problems in 280 characters”
And this value Lewis so accurately describes translates into his music – contrary to the vast depths of his songs, he doesn’t take his music too seriously: “I’ve got a really weird thing referring to myself as an artist, or refer to what I’m doing as art. Those words carry a lot of weight, I think, and it makes it seem more very serious. And I’m just making my tunes, that’s all I’m doing. I’m a singer that makes tunes – that’s it for me. The main thing is that it should always be fun.”
Lewis eagerly leans in and quickly adds, “I should say, I do have happy songs. I have a lot of happy songs! I don’t want that to be indicative of me; “Oh, Lewis sings sad songs.” “
Finally, I asked him about a beautiful (and simultaneously frightening) metaphorical lyric in “Fade”: It ain’t no wonder why we lose control/When we’re always heart attack away from falling in love.
“For me, it’s being so close to the edge of losing it all, that makes it so fucking exciting. Because I think as soon as you realise how much you’ve fallen for someone, immediately, that’s the moment you also realise that if you lose them, it’s gonna be fucking horrible. That precise moment when you realise, “Fuck, I’m in love with this person!” is also the moment you think, “Fuck! I’m in love with this person…””
“Because I think as soon as you realise how much you’ve fallen for someone, immediately, that’s the moment you also realise that if you lose them, it’s gonna be fucking horrible”
Lewis performed an incredible setlist later that night; interjected with witty lines and little anecdotes, the overpowering atmosphere was unlike any other – his visceral voice translated deeply personal experiences into this extraordinarily communal phenomenon; reading a powerful bedtime story for both the hopeful and the broken.
I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly humble and kind Lewis is. Like his voice, his sophisticated insight is full of strength, grit and resilience; so, here is a colossal thank you to Lewis for sharing your vulnerability, ultimately reminding us of the moments we live for: to celebrate, to forget, and to remember.
My best pal and I stood in front of “The Exchange” in St. Nick’s Market, staring at the heavily barred doors.
“Google Maps said it’s here?”
One unanswered phone call and quick Google search later, we were frantically running at a 4:00 min/km pace through the dimly lit Castle Park to “Exchange”, the concert venue with a distinctly omitted “The” that almost cost me the night. We made it 8 minutes earlier.
“Is this interview going to be video or audio?” Tom inquires as he pulls out a chair, sweeping some papers on the table into a vague pile.
“Audio, so don’t worry about cleaning up. I’ll be using the iPhone voice memo app – very millennial-style.” He laughs before I press record, and we begin talking about the immense success he has had this year, from releasing his EP “Blessings”,touring the USA with The Script in a jam-packed leg covering 7000 miles in 22 days, and his smashing success across all social media platforms.
“Going on tour with The Script was absolutely amazing – they are proper gentlemen, and everybody was just so nice. I could have done that for a whole year, just on tour with them”
Tom is currently working on his new upcoming album with Jim Abbiss, renowned music producer who has worked on multiple smashing record successes including Arctic Monkeys’ “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” and Adele’s “19” & “21”. With nothing but praise for Jim, Tom gushed, “He’s a hero of mine…it’s nice to do things properly with loads of loud guitars and real drum kits.” Further emphasising the incredible musical journey he has made, Tom added on, “One of my first tunes, “Fly Away With Me”, I made in my bedroom on my computer in a basement!”
The discussion naturally lead into his songwriting process – like many songwriters today, the nifty iPhone voice memo app comes in handy. “I record loads of voice memos. Normally, I just leave it on in the car just while I’m driving about, and if something comes into my mind, I’ll sing something into it. So, they’re all really sporadic and when I go back and listen to them I’m like, “What the fuck is that?” “So, does that mean he has a lot of awful songs he will never make public? “Yeah, loads, I got loads. I kind of think that 1 in every 10 songs is good, and the rest are just…*laughs*”
“He’s [Jim Abbiss] a hero of mine…it’s nice to do things properly with loads of loud guitars and real drum kits. One of my first tunes, “Fly Away With Me”, I made in my bedroom on my computer in a basement”
One must always wonder: chords or melody first? “I don’t start writing lyrics without a melody…I’ll always try to do the lyrics whilst doing the melody. So I’ll start with a little melodic idea, then try to fill that in as quickly as possible even if I change the words later, so I’ve got an idea of the structure and rhythm.” And even if Tom does dabble in jazz chords, it’s unintentional – “I did do music theory at uni, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s just all shapes to me on the guitar.” Tom further emphasises it is “all based on sound” using the unorthodox guitar tuning C#/A/E/E/A/C# in his gorgeous song “Just You & I”as a prime example. Because of his interesting chord usages in his songs, I inquired his opinion on mainstream pop music nowadays using the standard I/vi/IV/V (or some mechanical variation of that). Needless to say, it was fantastic to meet somebody with the same opinion on the issue – “It feels like a product,” Tom said. “Not something you’d invest in, like “Oh, look at the lyrics, they’re so sick!”“
Tom went on to talk about how often creative exhaustion hits; “All the time. You run out of things to talk about, especially if you’re doing loads of music and loads of fun things, you need something fucked to happen to really write a good song.” And of course, a lot of his songwriting draws upon his personal life experiences – “Most of my songs are about something that has personally happened to me – either a really good situation or a really bad one. You can’t write a song about something being medium; it doesn’t really work. “Oh, I’ve had a very average day today and everything was really average.” It’s not really a great song.”
“You need something fucked to happen to really write a good song”
His most recent single,“Leave A Light On”,which has already amassed an astounding 3.3 million views on YouTube within 2 months, is one of many fantastic examples of Tom’s ability to turn the personal into universal –an incredibly hard-hitting song, he dedicated it to his family & friends, explaining, “If everything’s going down the toilet and it’s all fucked, then you can talk to me.” Upon inquiring who his light was, Tom immediately replied his girlfriend, Annie.
On Thanksgiving Day, he very appropriately performed in his hometown, Manchester, performing a sold-out show – “I actually went for my first ever legal beer in there when I was 18 with my friends, so to sell it out was fucking cool.” This nostalgia burrowed back into the beginnings of his musical journey, from his first ever record, “Bob the Builder” (what a classic), and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the first song he remembered ever listening to, remarking: “It was spooky as fuck listening to it as a kid! It’s really, really eerie…especially the guy laughing at the end…”
However, Tom’s musical journey all began with a violin. “I always had a really shit acoustic when I was a kid, but I didn’t know what I was doing with it,” Tom reminisced. “I then went to this primary school music open day, and I wanted a guitar but my Mum wouldn’t let me have one. And they were like, “Oh, you should play the violin ’cause he’s tiny and his hands would fit on a violin!” And I was like, “Nah, I want to play guitar!” I played violin for 2 years, and then eventually, my Dad bought me a guitar for Christmas one year, brought that home, and I completely stopped playing the violin.”
His determination to pursue music only grew exponentially – purchasing a drum kit (“I became the next annoying neighbour”), a bass with an amp for £50 (“I’ve still got it, it still works, it’s fucking unbelievable!”), and a mini keyboard. Tom had to become the whole band himself as a kid, tediously recording tracks separately. Surprisingly, he didn’t begin singing until 18 years old – “I didn’t think I could sing. Ah, fuck, I couldn’t sing. It was 3 years of me being like, “Yep, definitely not singing.”And then I just kept going and going and going. Then one day, it was all good.” It sure was, Tom.
“My parents are super awesome, they definitely helped me out – they would never buy me a PlayStation, or an Xbox, or anything really, apart from music equipment; it was sweet”
So, how about music theory? I used Sibelius as a passing example, but the frustrations that arose with the mention of the software on Tom’s face was hilarious. “I can’t tell you how much I fucking hate Sibelius. I did 3 years of fucking composition, I still don’t know music theory, I just did it at the time, and never put it on my instrument; I just did it in my head. I can tell you the notes and scales, but it means nothing – just shapes on my guitar.”
Nonetheless, he expressed mad respect for those who are adept at music composition, wishing he perhaps paid more attention but simultaneously emphasised , “You just gotta pick what you want to do, and just do it – you can’t be doing everything, it’s impossible”, and Tom being the more “sit-down-and-jam-out-on-the-guitar kind of guy.” He does a lot of improvisation on stage with the same spontaneity vibe, “If it sounds good, then buzzin’ – if it doesn’t, then lose it”, but upon asking if he passes the solos around to the rest of the band, “If I asked my bass player to do a solo, he’d be like, “No.” If I asked my drummer to do a solo, he’d be like, “No.” *laughs*”
“I’m more of the sit-down-and-jam-out-on-the-guitar kind of guy”
Talking about his collaboration with Kogey Radicalon their song “Sun Goes Down”,Tom profusely compliments how wickedly talented he is, and how much respect he has for the independent pathway Kogey is blazing in the music industry. “He’s sick, he’s a next-level guy who’s making a proper go at music exactly how he wants to do it and I just have so much respect for that.”
“He’s [Kogey Radical] sick, he’s a next-level guy who’s making a proper go at music exactly how he wants to do it and I just have so much respect for that”
Tom goes on to talk about the ease in discovering new artists nowadays, but the relatable inevitability of lacking investment into the songwriters themselves – “I love Spotify because you find loads of new stuff each week, but I’m kind of guilty of listening to new stuff and adding it to a playlist but not really diving into what the artist is about. Whereas back when I was growing up when it was CDs, you’d open up the CD and look in the contents page – I know that’s super outdated, but I kind of miss getting really invested into artists.” I commented on how the number of plays on his Spotify is the same as the population of my hometown, Thailand; “Big shoutout to Spotify!” Tom added on with a laugh. We ended the interview discussing the eclectic mix of sounds in his upcoming album, and he hints he’s got two songs left up his sleeve (“I don’t know what they fuck they are”).
I stopped recording, and we talked for a bit about the opening act, Tors, performing tonight. And my +1, who also hails from Manchester, made great conversation with Tom about their hometown (“It’s nice to meet somebody from up North down here”), before he turns to me and asks,
“Whereabouts are you from? You are obviously from America!”
“No, I’m actually from Thailand!”
“Thailand? Wow, I would’ve never guessed!”
We talked for a bit longer, and then wished him best of luck with the show before heading downstairs to the bar.
Needless to say, the concert was insanely electric. The opening act, Tors, performed such uniquely written songs with an immaculate three-part harmony, including a beautiful composition dedicated to their grandfather who has dementia. Needless to say, I was enraptured by their talent – Matthew’s ability to seamlessly transition between low and high notes; Jack simultaneously playing the electric guitar, the drum pads and sing into the microphone; Theo’s wicked guitar riffs combined with the flawless higher harmony vocals. Before playing “Seventeen”, Matthew asked if anybody was in love – the silence was devastatingly loud albeit two measly cheers, to which he responded, “Fuck me, only two people!?” They ended with charming humbleness, and I immediately proceeded to download their music straightaway.
And then, Tom Walker came on – his set was stunningly powerful; his voice is one you cannot forget. With the brilliant opening line, “Bristol, fuck me, it’s hot up here!”, his band proceeded to perform. And boy, did they deliver – beginning with “Fly Away With Me”and the iconic finger-picking guitar intro, he followed it with his gorgeous song “Just You & I”,and it was no surprise when the crowd knew every word to“Blessings”.He then performed his new song, “Angels”,which really got the bassist grooving along, before the masterfully vengeful “Karma”with some seriously edgy glissandos strewn in there. “Heartland”was an incredible crowd-pleaser that showcased his uniquely husky voice, and Tom got a little therapy session going with the feisty “Rapture”; Tom did this awesome guitar solo, the drummer went fanatical, and the entire audience went ballistic with the band. And finally, Tom ended with his most recent single, “Leave A Light On” –and in that moment, we were all just screwed-up misfits banded with hope in this screwed-up world.
The show left us in a daze, and we went first to directly thank Tors for an amazing performance. Upon asking how old they were, Jack casually replied, “I’m 22, and Matthew here is 87.” Theo joined in, and began chatting about how they were on tour with Clean Bandit before.
“Yeah, they were sick, it was really great!” Theo enthusiastically described; we asked what being on the road was like. “Imagine being on a tour bus with four other dudes – it was gross,” he remarked whilst scrunching his nose, before adding on, “And sad.”
“Story of my life,” I said, which elicited an initially polite laugh followed by one of full comprehension of the statement. After saying our goodbyes, we then went out to see Tom Walker holding a beer, and complimented him on such a fantastic performance to which he immediately replied, “The flu fucked me!” before laughing.
Tom Walker & Tors are all such ridiculously talented musicians – I highly admire how exceptionally humbling and down-to-earth they all were, which radiated profoundly through their songs and just as people in general. It was a massive privilege to have met them all, and I cannot urge you more to check out their music. Thank you so much, Tom Walker & Tors – until next time.
Cian Ducrot is a 20-year-old singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Cork, Ireland. He started uploading covers & original music on YouTube in 2013, and released his debut EP, “Words I Never Spoke”, earlier in January this year. Presently, Cian has an incredible following of over 50,000 people online, and I had the opportunity to have a chat with him about his greatest influences, auditioning for “The Voice”, and the direction of his musical career.
Where did your love of music come from?
My love of music came from my family (mother and brother). I started at a very young age studying classical music and theory when I was 4 years old, but also did musical theatre. I then taught myself guitar and piano further on when I began to songwrite. I’m currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Which musicians & songwriters have been your greatest influence?
I’m hugely inspired by artists like Michael Jackson, John Mayer, Shawn Mendes, Justin Timberlake, a lot of classical & jazz influences and smaller scale songwriters & musicians, such as Bruno Major and YEBBA.
I must ask: favourite chord or chord progression?
My approach to chords changed once I opened up to blues and jazz and from there I took a lot of new influences. I don’t think I have a favourite chord progression, it all depends on the emotion and situation.
Jazz, huh? You must do a lot of improv.
I love to do improv, yes, everyday!
So, you auditioned for “The Voice” about a year ago; you then released a video a while after, revealing the realities of the auditions and what really goes on behind-the-scenes. It was quite astonishing – what compelled you to make that video?
My video about “The Voice” was only to raise awareness about what goes on behind these shows. They are full of good intentions and I was treated kindly, but sometimes I feel the public isn’t fully aware of how these things really work.
Let’s look to future. What current music projects are you working on that we could look forward to, and what are your plans for the times ahead?
Currently I am writing LOADS of new original material. I’ve been working closely with the incredible Eddy Ruyter who is a tremendous songwriter and musician currently touring as Shawn Mendes’s piano player. Eddy has thought me a lot about songwriting and about my own musical style so I am incredibly grateful. I think in the last 2 months I’ve written 10 of my favourite songs and I’ve really started to find myself in terms of writing. I am working towards some London shows and I am very excited to perform live and get my new music heard and hopefully online soon also!
Well, I’m extremely excited, too – I can’t wait to hear your new music, and working with Eddy must’ve been an incredible experience. What was the best advice you got from him about songwriting?
I think something he helped me with a lot is making sure every lyric I write really ties back to the meaning of the song and makes sense to the listener.
And finally, when times get difficult, what motivates you to keep going?
My goals keep me going – the will to succeed and do the best I can.
Thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat, Cian!
I have Twitter. I deleted the app years and years ago on my iPhone, but once in a blue moon, I’ll open up my laptop and type in the embarrassing password my best friend & I devotedly created in our fangirling tween years. You’ll be greatly relieved to know my priorities on Twitter have swung around wildly; I go on to see what my favourite authors, astronauts, and scientists are up to in life (amongst all the irritating weight loss detox tea giveaways). No more broody, vague two-word tweets and a very carefully crafted emoji triad. Just full-on stalking now…
Man, that doesn’t sound much better.
What was I trying to get at? Oh, right – my Twitter bio. It’s one of my favourite quotes, one from Cassandra Clare’s “City of Bones” by the witty Jace Herondale: “…declarations of love amuse me. Especially when unrequited.”Yes, yes, I know; riding the cynical high horse. But just like Jace, it’s with a saddle of irony…and this leads me to my cover of Dodie Clark’s adorable song, “Would You Be So Kind?”Even though I haven’t properly played the ukulele since Year 9 or so, it’s one of those instruments that go easy on you. On a random note (F# minor haha ha ha get it, because it’s not a chord in the song, I swear I have friends), I really like Tom Holland’s dog, Stella. Anyways. I hope you have a beautiful day!
Aaaaaaand I’m back. I’m so incredibly sorry for the hiatus…again. It’s just been such a beautiful summer, and I definitely enjoyed getting lost in it. Get ready for a bunch of posts next week!
So, you may know I really appreciate the work of Shawn Mendes – so much so I hightailed it as soon as we left the exam room to go into London to watch him. Hence, it should be of no surprise that my extremely talented friend and I decided to do our rendition of his song, “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”. If you roam through my YouTube channel, you may see we’ve done past covers together, filming with an iPhone propped up on an old music stand. To have her amazing cousin come film & edit such a crazily high quality production was thus a bewildering privilege we were not used to – check out his blog: https://mathmasonfilm.wordpress.com. Anyways, we truly hope you enjoy!
Thank goodness for music. Personally, during exam period, I tend to avoid lyrical music because my mind will latch onto the words and I get a plethora of distracting earworms. The same reason applies as to why I have to revise in silence. So when I am running or on a break, I’ll be listening to the most mellow songs, or if I’m feeling really frisky then I’ll listen to the following soundtracks on extremely low volume when doing work. A little odd, I know, but there you go. Here are a few select songs that ease out the wrinkles on my brain:
“Anna (Piano Version)” composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu from “When Marnie Was There”
“Katherine”composed by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams & Benjamin Wallfisch from “Hidden Figures”
“Pi’s Lullaby”composed by Mychael Danna & Bombay Jayashree from “Life of Pi”
“Spacewalk”composed by Thomas Newman from “Passengers”
“Go To Her” composed by Mike Higham & Matthew Margeson from “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
Yes, so straight after the pesky finals, I hightailed it into London straight after to watch Shawn Mendes with my best friend. It was such a beautiful day, but incredibly hot for London weather (we speculated it was because Mendes was there).
I’m just going to list a few things I noticed/enjoyed about the concert:
Shawn talked about his mum and aunt being there that night, and said, “I want you all to make some noise, to show that family is where it’s loudest at. Can you do that?” It’s funny how musicians mention their families at their shows, because isn’t family the symphony of your life?
His melismas. His vibrato. There’s something about Shawn’s voice that is segmented – each note he sings has its own boundary; a scenic, rustic, white picket fence freshly lacquered. And then there’s the vibrato, incredibly rhythmic and reliable like the ocean waves, a very well-defined pattern of lull and peaks. Almost like the familiar stairs at home. I really, really like it. It just seems to imply he’s this sturdy rock you can rely on. He’s improved vastly from the boy on Vine, and it’s odd knowing I’ve heard him grow.
He looks tired. I gazed at his broken watch moving erratically as his slender fingers played the chords to “Castle On The Hill”, and I tried to imagine the boys on my course doing what Shawn does as a living – could they pull it off? Could they handle the pressure? Maybe initially, but in the long-term, I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody can with ease. It’s a matter of resilience. Being a singer is also being an entertainer and a performer. So when I saw his glassy eyes, passing like a ghost over the ecstatically wild crowd, it hit me that this was his job. He is meant to deliver and meant to perform; I suddenly felt a little afraid.
Singers use that tactic of pulling away from the microphone to let the audience sing the high bits – I saw that excessivelywith Calum Hood from 5SOS when they performed in Bangkok (mind you, I haven’t watched too many concerts, but that was extremely prominent and obvious). Perplexingly enough, Shawn pulls away during catch phrases of his songs, which were all varied in pitch, and there was definitely no pattern in always letting the crowd sing high parts. Because, this is Mendeseverybody! He can hit the high notes like a bullseye.During “Never Be Alone”, I found it hilarious when Shawn asked the crowd to sing the iconic “Woah-oh-ohhhh-ohhh-oh-ohh-oh-oh-oh” part (sorry I wanted to make it realistic) because he attempted to do heavenly melismas/riffs over the top of it, but when he did, the crowd probably thought they had to sing what he was doing and most of the crowd simply trailed off thinking they weren’t supposed to sing. So Shawn kept going,“Come on London, sing it real loud now! Woah-oh-ohhh….” and then would try to quickly switch to those riffs, but the crowd didn’t really get it and once again got a bit derailed. Soon after many “Alright sing with me!” ‘s and “Come on, scream it! Woah-oh-ohhh…” ‘s, he did pull off some very great melismas with the backing track of the finally cooperative crowd, and it sounds great on film. I just found it funny hearing the hesitation and confusion of the crowd initially. Just me? Okay.
My favourite performance was “Ruin” – my friend begged to differ because the interactive portion apparently was extended too long but that was exactly what I adored. It was spacious, it was tranquil, it was bucolic. Very John Mayer. In Shawn’s words, the song was timeless. I cannot say enough how beautiful it was – “Do I ever cross your mind?” was on repeat, and it basically embodied every unrequited lover’s mantra (too real).
His piano-playing was…pretty good for somebody who learned it in 8 months (correct me if I’m wrong). Of course sweat makes your fingers slip and you’re performing in front of 40,000 people, so I can’t blame him for little mistakes I heard. It made me admire him even more (if that’s even possible), because it reminded me he’s just an ordinary guy with an extraordinary life.
Alrighty, I could go on, but it would then require full-blown Vancouver referencing. Overall, it was so devastatingly amazing and it is easy to say the concert topped One Direction & 5SOS (if we’re comparing pop artists here) – go, and experience the incredible talent of Shawn Mendes.
So, as part of the curriculum coursework, one of our assignments was to do a creative piece – it could be a poem, an imaginative fictional story, a musical composition, or even an interpretive dance. For those who feel strangers to their right hemisphere of the brain, a long essay is another option (but bumps up the minimum word count requirement). This element, and this particular assignment, was genuinely one of the reasons I chose to study here in the University of Bristol.Honestly, the amount of emphasis put on the human basis of healthcare is incredible – we’re even going to have a 30 minute session next week to do mindfulness meditation (all educational!). So, without going into details, I present my original piano composition, “It’s Worth It”, penned about a courageous patient I met on home visit. It would not be a lie to say I wrote this in three days, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been tinkling around with motifs for a couple of months.
On Day 1, I fooled around for 2 hours on a piano with a missing G key and both pedals broken off so I had to jam the tip of my shoe into the hole to sustain, and came up with a loose framework for my composition.
On Day 2, I was back in the alternative music room, with an upright acoustic piano that reverberates too loudly and has a pedal that is squeaky like no other. Really. It was bad. And there was an uprising rock band next door (walls are not soundproof) who were shredding their souls out. But I figured out more embellishments and got more comfortable with what vision I had in mind. The pressure of having to upload the assignment in a few days made metaphorical beads of sweat trickle down my temples.
Finally, on Day 3, I was talking to a friend who lived in CHH (where I had moved out from), and asked randomly about the baby grand piano tucked away in there. “Come during dinner-time, so no one will be there,” she said. I had booked the piano room in the Bristol SU for the following night, but thought, hey, why would I miss out on an opportunity to play a beautiful piano? It was a devastatingly windy night, and I charged through, face numb and leaning so far forward I would have fallen if the wind had not been that strong. Honestly. My contact lenses were so dry I swear they were clinging onto my cornea for dear life. I reach CHH, and go in the piano room – I didn’t think I would record, but I ended up doing so. Because, I realized, the longer I think about it, the further away I am from the initial emotions I feltabout this wonderful patient I was inspired by. So, with mistakes and lack of any technique from my classically-trained years, I produced the recording you hear below. Some of it is improv, and I probably won’t ever play it like that again. Raw and real.
Here is a quote from the patient that beautifully sums up the meaning of the song: “Because I’ve enjoyed living life so much already, I want to continue. I quite like life. Of course, you don’t want to get old, and there are some things in life you won’t like. You got no choice in these things.But it’s worth it, don’t you think?”
And I couldn’t agree more.
EDIT: So, my GP nominated me for the Year 1 GP Placement Prize for this reflective piece and another essay I did on a rape consultation. That in itself was something I personally was incredibly shocked by and celebrated with chocolates, but I recently received an email saying 19 people were nominated, 10 people were shortlisted and they had selected the top 3…and I received first prize! I’m just so very happy the message of courage the patient gave to me came across in my work. Gah.
*The patient has given permission for use of his words.
“Kataware Doki” by RADWIMPS – From the beautiful film, “Your Name”. If the soundtrack was a landscape, it’d be the Northern Lights. It is the feeling of your mind exploding with chaos, panic and disorder but simultaneously embodying serenity, tranquility and solitude. This is life, this is kataware doki – broken, fragmented, but a beautiful twilight that is not daylight but not quite nighttime either. Constantly shifting, but unknowingly macroscopically similar. It’s meant to be that way.
“Cheap Thrills” by Sia – Oddly relatable. Easily satiated, but for a darker reason. Forgetting, despite being temporary, gives you a bit of distraction and sometimes that’s everything you need. Human, naked and vulnerable, but being okay about that. Learning.