After releasing his highly-praised ‘EP2’ earlier this year, fast-rising Sunderland artist Tom A. Smith has returned once again to offer up the official video for his latest single ‘Like You Do’ which was co-written with Miles Kane and co-produced by Miles Kane, Oscar Robertson and Dave Bardon.
Continuing his aesthetic for raw and intimate visuals throughout this new clip, the new video for ‘Like You Do’ illustrates the darker and more haunted approach he took on this original release. Aaron Kavanagh caught up with Tom to discuss the video and more.
I believe you’re only 18, but you’ve already had such a massive career: playing some of the biggest festivals in the UK and opening for Elton John. Do you feel like there’s much more left for you to have to do? [Laughs]
Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think I’ve started yet. [Laughs] I’m nowhere near where I really want to be. I’m incredibly happy at how the last year has gone, how it’s started, how fast it’s grown, and how exciting it is, but I think there’s still plenty more. I’ve got my headline tour coming up in December, which is selling incredibly well, and I’m looking forward to that. However, it’s still 100-cap venues 200-cap venues, and there are bigger ones out there; and this is what I want to do as a career for my life, and I hope to keep putting more music out and growing a fanbase and just enjoying it as much as I am now for as long as I can, to be honest.
How old were you when you first played Glastonbury?
When I first played it, I was 10 – it was 2015 or ’14 – and I remember it was probably a 150-capacity tent, but there were like three or four hundred people trying to cram into this tent, and I was ten years old, doing covers of “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys and stuff like that! But it was great fun and a pleasant surprise to do it because I didn’t know I was doing it when I got there, and I think a slot opened up or something like that, and I said, “Here, can I have a go?” And they let us do it, and it was amazing!
So, how old were you when you started getting into not only music but performing music, and what would you have started playing? As you mentioned, would it have been covers of “Kokomo” and stuff? Would it be traditional pop covers?
Yeah. I mean, it was a mixture of things, but I used to do quite a lot when I was – obviously, I’d say “When I was younger,” but when I was very young! – but I used to choose covers of bands that I felt were on the way to doing something quite well. For example, I timed a cover of Catfish and the Bottlemen, and from that, I managed to play with them a few times and open for them. And James Bay, too. I did a cover of one of his songs, and he spotted that, and I did a few shows with him. So, I used to look around for artists that I thought were up-and-coming and would do well, or maybe even older artists who I felt were on a comeback or doing something new. For example, I did a cover of a Shed Seven song, and they ended up seeing that. I played with them at the Leicester O2 Academy when I was about 12 or something like that. But yeah, I started gigging live when I was about eight years old. My first show was supporting a band who used to give me music lessons at The Cluny in Newcastle, which is an iconic venue up here. So, I think I’ve now been gigging for longer than I haven’t, which is quite brilliant. [Laughs]
I know – because I’m from Ireland – over here, it’s very difficult for underage people to play concerts because of licensing laws; many of the venues here are over 18s. Has that been a similar thing for you? Have there ever been shows you haven’t been able to do due to your age?
Not particularly, no. We’ve known the shows I couldn’t do for a while, but I was never offered them or anything like that, so it wasn’t really to be thought about. But obviously, you’ve got your venues [that you can play]. To be honest, [Laughing] I used to play a few gigs where I used to have to play, but I’d have to be out by a certain time. So, I’d be on stage at eight o’clock, but I had to be out of the building by nine, which was always odd, but I enjoyed it, and it was something I loved doing, so it didn’t bother us that much. Funny story: this year, even though I am 18, I can’t really say I look 18 – but I was touring with a guy called Miles Kane, and we played [at the Royal] Albert Hall in Manchester and me, and my friend, who’s in a band, we’re both 18, [but] we got chased around Albert Hall by security, thinking we were underage. But obviously, we showed our ID, and they let us off fine, but it’s never really been an issue, I don’t think. But now I can play where I want to play, and it’s great.
Well, you mentioned Miles Kane there, and your new song “Like You Do” is co-written and co-produced by him. How exactly did you get affiliated with Miles?
Well, I did the tour with him, and I think our managers sort of got in touch with his, and they were happy enough and wanted me to join them on tour. I met him on the tour, and we got along well with his band, you know? They were fantastic, great people. And I remember – after the Cardiff show – he watched my set for the first time, which was like the second date on the tour that we did, and he wanted to meet up with us afterwards, and he was like, “I need to get you in the studio! We need to do some writing; we need to do something because that was fantastic! Brilliant!” And, yeah, it just went from there. And I’m buzzing with the track we did together; I think it’s a great mix of my sort-of style and his sort-of style. You know, it’s very Last Shadow Puppets but also has a sort-of poppy, modern feel to it, which I love, and, yeah, I’m just thrilled with it. And, hopefully, I can do some more with him in the future, but you never know, but I’m buzzing with the track we got and the reception that it’s got so far.
We’re [also] talking about the music video that accompanies it. When I watched it, it was very interesting. It seems initially quite simplistic: it seems like just you with a black background and with a watery, liquidy effect and just the lyrics. But, when you stare at it, there is an intensity to it and a lot of visual performance on your end. I was wondering what the conceit of the music video was before you made it.
Obviously, with the sound, I wanted it to be quite edgy but also quite authentic and just not overly done or anything like that. [Laughing] And literally, I mean, it’s the most low-budget production thing you’ll ever see! Because I wanted it to be sort of like a Peaky Blinders sort of thing; I really like that idea. And all it was, I got my dad to hold the camera and also shine a phone torch at us, and I literally just sang the words and put some effects on it. [Laughs] Nothing special, but I think it’s supposed to be, and I think it really suits the song. I think if I went out there and did something a bit mad for it, I don’t think it would quite suit it, and I do think it’s more of a performance song instead of this big pop anthemic, crazy production product, and I don’t think it is. I think it’s such an authentic, natural tune, and the music video needed to be that as well. And, you know, there’s a lot of words in there as well, especially in that pre-chorus bit, so I felt you needed to see a visual of what I’m actually saying to get it.
Yeah, and I think that somewhat low production benefits the song and the feel. I’m wondering if it’s, obviously, you for about three minutes, just staring at a camera and just singing the words. Do you feel comfortable doing that kind of visual acting as a musician? Because musicians, when they make music videos of any kind – whether they’re big, elaborate productions or whether it’s smaller productions – have to do a degree of acting. I was wondering if that was comfortable for you to do.
Yeah, yeah! I mean, I quite enjoy it! It’s quite fun! I’m only just sitting and doing it in my living room, so it’s a little different! [Laughs] But you perform on stage all the time. Every time you do it, you have to be sort of visually acting as well as what you’re doing. Obviously, being a songwriter and a musician now is more than just being able to write songs and being able to play an instrument; there are so many more aspects to it: you need to be an influencer, you need to [have] some social, online presence and that’s just another part of it. Yeah, I am comfortable with it. I’ve been performing for many years, so I think it’s just something you enjoy more and get more comfortable with experience. But, yeah, it’s always good fun to do. I love making music videos; I think they’re the best part.
Your EPs at the moment are called EP 1 and EP 2. I was wondering if you’re going to fully follow the FKA Twigs route and call your first album LP 1? [Laughs]
Potentially, yeah! [Laughs] To be honest, I’ve not even thought about that yet; I’m thinking, “When does this EP 2 tour end?!” [Laughs] But, yeah, I’ve never thought about it. Potentially, yeah. I’m open to having a few more EPs come out first – I’m not sure – before we do that. I wrote a lot of songs over lockdown. During the lockdown, I wrote about 250, but over the last year, there’s probably been 100 added still again. So, I’ve got a hefty aul SoundCloud link with quite a few demos on it! So, there’s plenty more music to go. But it’s not a bad idea that [the LP 1 title]! I quite like that! I think it’s immediately recognisable, so I quite like that. Yeah, I might go for that!
Yeah, but having recorded your EPs, is there any particular route you have in mind for an LP at the moment or are you just kind of taking it as it is?
Yeah, we’re taking it as it goes. I’ve got some more music recorded, which is almost ready to go, so hopefully, that will be out within the short future, but we’re unsure of that still. But, as you say, I’m just taking it as it goes: it’s been such an incredible rollercoaster year where I put out a lot of music – I’ve probably got about 10 or 12 songs out which are available to stream on absolutely everything – and it’s just been insane, the amount of shows we’ve done and all that and I’m just enjoying myself, and I’m hoping this continues as long as it possibly can. But, yeah, there’s plenty more music, so I’m not really too worried about what I need to put out and when I need to be putting it out because I’ve plenty there, which I’m more than more than happy with, and I just can’t wait for people to hear them.
You were talking earlier about doing covers. For example, David Bowie’s widow shared your cover of “Lazarus” by Bowie after he passed away, and Morrissey was playing your cover of “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths at his shows. Obviously, when you do covers, you’re paying tribute to the artists – saying, “I like the music. Here’s my rendition” – but do you think there is an aspect of wanting validation from the original artist in some way too?
Yeah, I think so, yeah. I mean, it’s always fantastic when you see someone who’s put out such a tremendous piece of work, and then you do your own rendition of it, and they approve it and like it; I think that’s always amazing. And I think it’s really important to me because, as an inspiration point-of-view to writing music yourself, when you’ve got artists like the people you’ve mentioned approving it, you think, “Right, OK, if I’m doing that well…maybe that’s what I need to be doing; that’s the style I need to be going for.” So, yeah, I think it’s definitely a shock, and I think artists like I mentioned before, like James Bay and Catfish and the Bottlemen, also approve of what I do, and they’re also massive heroes of mine; it’s fantastic. So, yeah, I think it’s been a key part of my songwriting.
Is there anyone you’d like to tour with or collaborate with?
I mean, yeah! There are some great ones. I might have topped it this year with Elton John, playing with him. I think that was a surreal one. So, if I ever got to do a tune with him, I think that would be amazing! I love what Yard Act are doing at the moment. I’d love to do some shows with them; they seem like so much fun. DMA’s, as well; I’m a massive DMA’s fan. There’s plenty. I know that Blossoms have announced their tour. I know Brooke Combe’s going on there, and she’s fantastic. Yeah, there’s plenty, but I’m just doing what I’m doing, and obviously, getting to collaborate with Miles Kane was amazing as well. But yeah, [Laughing] if anybody wants to work with us, feel free to drop us an email or message, and I’d be more than up for it!
And you are just wrapping up; what would be your aspirations for the future, in general? Is there anywhere you would like to tour? Do you have any particular vision for what you’d like for your career going forward?
Like I always say, you see your heroes doing what you love to do. I’ve watched Catfish and the Bottlemen and all that came from 2014, doing what they were doing, to doing what they were doing three years ago, which was amazing. I went to Europe for the first time this year, so I’d love to go there and tour Europe. I think that would be amazing. But, just bigger venues, I suppose, you know?! Tour the bigger rooms, the arenas, these venues that I’ve been going to and watching bands for years; to be able to do that would be fantastic. And to put out bodies of work, to put out more albums and stuff like that, would be fantastic as well. As I’ve mentioned, I just enjoy it all; I’m taking it all as it comes, and I’m very happy with the way it’s going at the minute. I do feel that something is happening, and I’m just enjoying it. The fact that everything that I’m putting out is getting the reception that it is is really nice to know and nice to hear, so hopefully, it continues, and hopefully, it gets a little bigger, and maybe, when we’re having this chat this time next year, I’ll be getting ready for my Academy tour or something like that, but you never know! [Both Tom and the interviewer laugh].
Well, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
My debut headline tour is happening this December. There are plenty of tickets left, but it’s selling well; we’re going to York, Stockport, and Birkenhead. Newcastle’s sold out, unfortunately. Liverpool, London, and there are a couple more as well. Head over to my socials, give them a follow, have a look and get some tickets as well because it’s going to be great fun.
Watch the video for ‘Like You Do’ – BELOW:
Having already played a ton of gigs throughout the last two years, including supporting Courteeners, Miles Kane, Martha Hill, Vistas, Blondes, The Pale White, Eliza and The Bear, Gang of Youths, and Sunset Sons, as well as shows at The Great Escape and Neighbourhood Weekender, Tom A. Smith remains on the road for the months ahead and recently announced his debut UK headline tour taking place this December. See his full list of live performances below.
Tom A. Smith Live Dates:
5th Nov – Waves Festival, Sunderland
18th Nov – The Ferret – Preston, Crosstown Sounds
26th Nov – The Foundry – Sheffield – Crosstown Sounds
6th Dec – Future Yard, Birkenhead, Liverpool (headline show)
7th Dec – Bask, Stockport (headline show)
8th Dec – Jimmy’s, Liverpool (headline show)
10th Dec – Head of Steam, Newcastle (headline show) ***SOLD OUT***
12th Dec – The Fulford Arms, York (headline show)
13th Dec – The Grace, London (headline show)