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Tom Williams: All Change“This is the record I’ve been trying to make for the last ten years – and I did it by mistake...”It’ s a strange story. A folk-rock band – signed to Moshi Moshi, beloved of BBC 6 Music, support act to Adele –nearly make it in the business, but not quite. Their frontman packs itall in and turns to teaching, with no plans to make a record again. Then, in 2017, he produces the album of his career – with the help of some school children, and a group of first year students from Leeds.
Tom Williams, formerly helmsman of Tom Williams & The Boat, wrote his fifth album All Change in practice rooms across Kent, in breaks from teaching guitar and songwriting to primary and secondary school children. Lyrics came to him on the long daily drives from his home in Hastings. And the band? Music tech students, who helped him out on an artist-in-residence programme. Not that you can tell.
All Change is an album made on a shoestring that sounds like a big budget classic: a reflection of Williams’ life-long love affair with 1970s American rock showcasing a new refinement to his songwriting, and a more commercial edge –“a celebration of the big chord change and the emotional sucker-punch line,” as he puts it. Think Asbury Park by way of Hastings –an unexpected trump card from someone who’ d put rock and roll dreams to rest. Tom Williams and the Boat – formed with friends from his hometown Tunbridge Wells in the late 2000s – came to prominence with their debut album Too Slow in 2010 and quickly picked up support from the BBC’ s Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq, Cerys Matthews and Huw Stephens. Thirty year old Tom talks like an old hand, recalling his early ‘ mockney’ accent in the days of Kate Nash and Jack Penate; the inspiration he took from the folk-rock scene that gave rise to Mumford and Sons; and the darker sounds of Nick Cave and Tom Waits his band reached for as they tried to hit the back of bigger halls. Those early gigs weren’ t easy – not even for Adele, with whom he shared the stage in support of Late Of The Pier. “Everyone faced the other way and talked while she sang,” he laughs. “It’ s brutal when you start. I tell the kids now, don’ t let anyone tell you that if you’ re good you get noticed because it’ s bullshit!”“The stars just never aligned for us,” Williams adds matter-of-factly. “I was about to turn 30, I was getting married, and I was teaching and I really love it. I’ ve got a mortgage. I’ m not that fussed. And I was content!”