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Tom Odell is Listening to Lorde, Nina Simone, and Bob Dylan
This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with the English singer-songwriter Tom Odell on the occasion of the release of his fourth studio album monsters, and his recently announced 2022 North American tour. From Radiohead and Lorde to Olivia Rodrigo and Bob Dylan, Odell tells us everything he’s blasting this summer.
JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: Let’s begin with your new album monsters. What was the inspiration behind the title?
TOM ODELL: One of the songs from the album is called “monster” and I was looking around me at some of the destructive anxiety that I was experiencing. I was having panic attacks every day and part of overcoming a panic attack is to try and convince yourself that the fear you’re feeling is not real. As I got deeper into that, I realized more and more that so much of the modern world that we live in is defined by our fears. The album is an exploration of fear, both from inward and outward pressures. So, monsters felt like the best summary of the songs.
UKIOMOGBE: Is “monster” your favorite song on the album?
ODELL: As the creator, it’s difficult to pick your favorite. It’s like picking your favorite child. I feel that I’d be dishonoring the other songs by picking one over the rest of them. I don’t think it’s my favorite, but the ones I enjoy listening to the most are those that have the least amount of my voice on them. I don’t like listening to myself that much.
UKIOMOGBE: I saw that you’re going on tour soon. What’s your favorite part about performing live music?
ODELL: The escapism. Also, you feel so present when you do a live gig. When I play live, I’m not thinking about the future or the past. I’m just performing. When people buy a ticket, they’re paying for the experience. They only take away the memories and I think that’s very beautiful and rare in this incredibly materialistic world we live in. I’ve missed it so much and I can’t wait.
UKIOMOGBE: What was your first concert?
ODELL: I was like three or four and I was living in New Zealand. There was this Christmas event at the local park in Auckland. They had a band and I just remember being totally mesmerized by it. It’s probably one of my earliest memories. It was so otherworldly, and they just seemed like the coolest people ever. They had a great effect on me.
UKIOMOGBE: Who have you not seen live that you’d love to see?
ODELL: I’ve never seen Radiohead live.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a favorite Radiohead song or album?
ODELL: In Rainbows is probably my favorite album. It came out when I was a teenager, and I don’t think I quite realized how good it was when it came out. To be putting out a classic album like that so late in their career… I love that record. It takes me back to that time.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you listen to other people’s music while making your own?
ODELL: Definitely. I make better music when I’m listening to others. It can be quite easy to get so stuck in an echo chamber, so it’s important to listen to music. Every Friday, I listen to all of the new songs that come out. I really enjoy that.
UKIOMOGBE: What was the last song you listened to?
ODELL: I just listened to Lorde actually. The one that just came out.
UKIOMOGBE: “Stoned at the Nail Salon.”
ODELL: Yeah, it’s really nice. I think Lorde is great.
UKIOMOGBE: I love that she’s back.
ODELL: She’s an incredible artist. It’s amazing when you stop and look around and realize how much influence she’s had on pop music. She certainly opened the door for alternative music being the most popular music in the world. Same with Olivia Rodrigo, you can really hear the influence. Lorde was just so forward-thinking. You go back and listen to “Royals,” and she was like 16 and that’s so crazy and phenomenal. It’s transcendent.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you make playlists or listen to albums straight through?
ODELL: These days, it’s rare that I listen to an album straight through. The other night, though, I did listen to all of Joni Mitchell’s Blue. It was such a great experience. I immediately went back and listened to it again. I think what’s quite nice about Spotify and Apple Music is that they consolidate your albums and make a catalogue for you. It’s nice that if someone listens to one of your songs, they can carry on and listen to all your work. It’s been crazy for me because one of my songs, “Another Love,” was never really listened to in America and suddenly this year it’s gotten loads of streams. It’s so amazing that it can happen at any time, irrespective of when it came out. As a songwriter, that’s a nice feeling.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a song that always puts you in a good mood?
ODELL: “My Life” by Billy Joel. I toured with him and did some shows at Madison Square Garden in 2014. I spent three months living in New York and listening to that song takes me straight back to that time.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s your go-to breakup song, if you have one?
ODELL: “Nobody Does it Better” by Carly Simon. I’d say that’s up there for me.
UKIOMOGBE: What song would you use to describe yourself?
ODELL: It’s not so much a song, but it’s a piano piece called “Hymn to Freedom” by my favorite piano player Oscar Peterson. It just moves me to tears every time I hear it. It’s so profoundly deep. It does everything for me. If you were to ask what I’d play at my funeral…
UKIOMOGBE: That’s the next question.
ODELL: [Laughs] Well, maybe, I’ll choose one of my own songs. The song I’d play at my funeral would be “Somehow” from my second album. In the last verse, I was imagining my own death, which is something that every great narcissist will do very commonly. But all jokes aside, that song sums everything up. It’s a correct farewell.
UKIOMOGBE: In your opinion, what’s one album that has zero skips?
ODELL: That’s a hard question. Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s a song that everybody should know about?
ODELL: One of my favorite artists is Nina Simone and I haven’t mentioned her yet. I like “Lilac Wine.” That recording is so stunning.
UKIOMOGBE: If you were to have dinner with four artists living or dead, who would they be?
ODELL: David Bowie, Elvis, John Lennon, and Aretha Franklin.
UKIOMOGBE: If your life were a TV show, what would be your theme song?
ODELL: Let’s say “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson.
Listen to Tom Odell’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.