Tom Robinson Interview
New Album: Only The Now
Jo: So, First of all let’s talk about this new album, Only The Now.
TR: Yeah have you had a chance to hear it yet?
JO: I’ve had a quick listen through and I love Mighty Sword of Justice.
TR OK, Cool
JO: You’ve obviously got a whole new set of axes to grind with this album?
TR: No not really, there are only a couple of songs on there that are overtly political but they seem to be the ones that other journalists write about. Also they are the ones that live, seem to get the audience going, get the biggest reaction, because they connect with people’s lives.
JO: Yes definitely
TR: I’d say its an album of things I’m passionate about but not all of it involves tubthumping and banging a drum.
JO: The song you had out in the summer was quite a powerful one.
TR. Yes that was Don’t Jump Don’t fall, in support of the anti-suicide charity CALM. Because I know first hand that young men in their teens and twenties are at really big risk from depression, because of that British stiff-upper-lip thing. We’re not supposed to talk about it. If you’ve have a broken leg and go to the doctor there’s no shame in that, but if you call into work and say “Can’t come in today I’m depressed..” (laughs), they wouldn’t view that very kindly.
JO: Especially when you’re male?
TR: Especially when you’re male. I think women are more able to vocalise it perhaps. Certainly, other women are more willing to listen.
JO: So it’s 20 years since your last studio album?
TR: (sigh) I know!
JO: But you’ve never stopped writing have you?
TR: Well I did it long before they paid me for it and will carry on long after they stop paying me. I always written. All that stuff was on the back burner until I came across Gerry Diver, who made it possible to make the kind of album I like listening to.
JO: Yeah, Gerry’s coming on tour with you isn’t he?
TR: Yeah he’s great, cos he’s playing about 70% of what’s on the album! He’s a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist.
JO: So you’re excited?
TR: Very excited. Because the summer festivals went down so well. We did Glastonbury, we did Green Man, Latitude and just phenomenal reactions! We hadn’t expected it, playing the duff slots midday or late afternoon on a side stage. But people came and it was really gratifying and humbling in a way because you think you’ve been forgotten, and apparently not.
JO: Yeah I was watching the little promotional video on your website and I thought it was perhaps targeting people who maybe didn’t realise what you did before. Because young people listen to 6 Music and maybe don’t realise how big you were before.
TR: Well, temporarily, these things come and go don’t they? Pop success: People who live by the pop single die by the pop single. So I had a couple of years when I used to get recognised in the street because I was on telly a lot. But it’s much nicer to be able to go to the supermarket and not be harassed, keeps your feet on the ground, being able to live a private life. Some people thrive on it, on that kind of thing anyway, but I found it quite hard-going, because I’m a bit fragile I think.
JO: So new album: Its on Pledge Music isn’t it?
TR: As of today the Pledge Campaign has closed, at 188% funded, everyone’s signed albums have gone out in the post, and it’s a regular release now. On iTunes and Amazon and all the other web stores. I’m doing a couple of gigs at Rough Trade Record Stores next week
JO. Excellent, yes I saw that.
TR: So it’s great to be back in the game although I’m very aware of what a tiny, tiny minnow every record is in the huge vast ocean of music that comes out each week.
JO: When I was asking for questions I did get the “when is he going to play my song?” and I said, you and the other 70-odd thousand people (laughs).
TR: Yes, I’ve tried to do various blog posts to try and explain. If you were to google “listening to the inbox Tom Robinson” there are posts explaining how going through 200 song in a week competing for 15 slots. Just explaining the way I go through and mark them. Some of it’s meant to be funny and some of it’s meant to be enlightening but….nobody has the God-given right to get played on the radio. As I’ve discovered myself with this record! (laughs)
JO: I have to say I’ve not received a press release about it.
TR: Oh? I’ll get them to send you one then. Had a promo copy of the album?
JO: I er pledged for one!
TR: Oh bless you!
JO: Because I was listening to it on the Soundcloud and thought “I want this in me car” and I knew my son would love it. He’s a born lefty!
TR: obviously starting him on the right road!
JO: So we’ve to wait until the 9th November for the Sage Gateshead gig.
TR: Well I can’t wait. I’ve got a long association with the Northeast, my Dad used to live in Esh Winning. So I used to come into Newcastle every Saturday night for the wild nightlife! Which in those days consisted of the gay club above the bus station called The Casablanca, and then there was Rock Shots remember?
JO: Oh yes I did attend Rock Shots..once.
TR: Ha ha! It was pretty brutal..I’ve come up a lot for local music events, put on by Generator and stuff, in association with Narc
JO: Of course. So you’ll know how great the Sage is?
TR: The Sage is amazing we were streaming the 6Music Festival there earlier this year. I played the Cumberland Arms, a little acoustic gig.
JO: Did you find it frustrating, the twenty years of heping other people with their releases, getting them on the radio. Then thinking “I wanna do this, I miss this”?
TR: Well I didn’t miss it really. And it was awfully nice actually, not having the pressure to come up with new material. Not having the expectations of people going “When you touring next?”, and being able to sleep in your own bed, see your family grow up and know when the next crust is coming from. I mean honestly , 15 years ago when I got the job at 6 Music it was like a lifeline. Hacking around the nostalgia circuit when people are only really interested in what they liked 30 years ago, it’s so depressing. I don’t ever want to be a nostalgia act again. You’ve either got something to say in 2015 or you haven’t. If people don’t want to hear what I’m saying, fair enough but at least I’m saying it.
JO: I did read a comment on one of the recent shows, where someone said they did go to the gig for the old songs but came away more excited about the new music. Which is a really good sign.
TR: That’s a fantastic comment! Pleasing to hear that. But you’ve got to do the old songs, about 60% I think. When people pay 20 quid a ticket, then they’ve got expectations.
JO: That’s right.
TR: And you’ve got to satisfy them. I mean I’d be really miffed if I went to see Brian Wilson and he didn’t play any Beach Boys songs! There was a really funny review of Shakin’ Stevens at Galstonbury mid afternoon on the main stage. “And then came the words that nobody in the crowd wanted to hear: (Welsh accent) “Now I’m going to play a few songs from my new album!”
JO: (Laughs) I can imagine! You’ve got some interesting people on the album, you’ve got Ian McLellan?
TR: Yes, basically Gerry loves different voices, loves the human voice. He did a thing called “Speech Project”. He’s fascinated by all the different textures and personalities and so he got me to go through my address book, see who was available!
JO: And Billy Bragg as well..
TR: Yeah, have you seen the video?
JO: Yes for ….uurrgh (brain fog)
TR: Mighty Sword (Of Justice)..
JO Yes! I like!
Mighty Sword of Justice: video
TR: We’ve only just put that out. It was really nice of him to come and do that, so really pleased. This morning I woke up and realized I hadn’t updated my own website. So it was all still “Coming soon, new album”..I was like, hang on it’s out today!
JO: I was quite impressed how up to date it was! Because to be honest a lot of people are pretty bad at doing that. So I think you’re doing pretty well! Considering how busy you are!
TR: Have you seen the updated site? I only did it this morning.
JO: Oh yes!
TR: Oh well it was worth it for that alone! So the last two hours in bed with my laptop, not talking to my wife was worth it then!
JO: Ha ha!
JO: What can people expect at the gigs then?
TR: I think we’ll try to give then a well-rounded show. An entertaining evening, with plenty of communication and involvement with the audience. Because that’s the trouble when you do songs that deal with social issues and social justice. People think “Oh God, he’s gonna lecture us for two hours”. I try to do what Billy Bragg manages to achieve. When you go to a Billy Bragg show, he’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you cry, he’ll make you think, he’ll stir you up. But above all it’s a really well-crafted piece of…entertainment! In the end, unless people like the music and enjoy the show they won’t give a toss about what your opinions are about the world.
JO: Sounds good to me. I know you’ve got a lot of people to talk to today so...
TR: yes, unfortunately due another one about now!
JO; Thank you very much for talking.
TR: Thank you and if you come to the show do say hello.
JO: Will do!
You can see Tom at The Sage on 9th November.
The rest of the dates:
19 Oct London: Rough Trade East instore gig
22 Oct Nottingham: Rough Trade instore gig
25 Oct Hailsham: Pavilion – 01323 841414
26 Oct Stroud: Convent – 0330 2232 707
ABOVE SHOW VIEWABLE WORLDWIDE AS A NETGIG
27 Oct Bury St.Edmunds: Apex – 01284 758000
28 Oct Newbury: Arlington Arts – 01635 244246
30 Oct Harpenden: Public Halls – 01582 767525
31 Oct Leamington Spa: Assembly – 0871 220 0260
01 Nov Holmfirth: Picturedrome – 0844 478 0898
02 Nov Cambridge: Junction – 01223 511511
04 Nov Manchester: RNCM – 0844 478 0898
06 Nov Edinburgh: Queens Hall – 0131 668 2019
07 Nov Glasgow: Oran Mor – 0844 844 0444
08 Nov Aberdeen: Lemon Tree – 01224 641122
09 Nov Gateshead: Sage – 0844 478 0898
11 Nov Nottingham: Rescue Rooms – 0845 413 4444
12 Nov Frome: Cheese & Grain – 01373 455420
25 Nov Leuven (Belgium): Het Depot – 00 32 16 22 06 03
Plus end-of-year acoustic gigs:
04 Dec Liverpool: Philharmonia Music Room – 0151 709 3789
05 Dec Skegness: Great British Folk Festival – 0330 102 5395
09 Dec Dublin (Ireland): Whelans – Ticketmaster 00 353 81 8903 001
10 Dec Cork (Ireland): Cyprus Avenue – 00 353 21 4276165