International Coffee Day on 1st October is coming up and singer-songwriter Tom Odell has partnered with Julius Meinl, the Viennese coffee roasters and their Meet with a Poem campaign. They are encouraging people to have a digital detox, put their minds together and create something special using coffee as creative fuel. We spoke to Tom Odell to find out more:
Can you tell me about your partnership with Viennese coffee roasters, Julius Meinl?
I’m an ambassador [for them] and the campaign attracted me because I liked the idea of combining coffee and poetry. It’s a nice incentive. When I’ve been on tour, I like visiting coffee houses, particularly traditional Viennese ones. I like the whole culture and I think it works well in today’s digital world.
You are working with Julius Meinl on the ‘Meet with a Poem’ initiative, how can you encourage fans to get creative while having a digital detox?
I think the answer is in the campaign itself. It’s a very nice sentiment. If we put our phones away, there’s a richness, like putting pen to paper. I get a hell of a lot out of that. It’s cathartic. Before you go to sleep, people write their thoughts down. Once you do that, you become alleviated of your concern. The same applies to writing.
Do you have a favourite coffee shop in the UK or abroad which inspires you to feel creative, and why?
Not one specifically. I like the social aspects of coffee shops and houses. You sit amongst people in coffee shops. I think that’s nice. When I’ve been touring, I’ve really enjoyed going to coffee shops. It’s a healthier version of going to the pub, without the hangover. It’s nice to be around people. I quite often will take a book to a coffee shop. The modern world and the way it is structured now is isolating and the world is beginning to acknowledge that real interactions are important. [This initiative] very gently encourages that.
Walk me through the creative process when writing music or recording a song.
It begins with the song and the song most probably comes from sitting at the piano, or occasionally the guitar. Usually, you get an idea for a lyric. I will then slowly chip away at the lyrics for days, weeks or months. I chip away and try and understand the music and what it’s trying to say. I’m quite slow, to be honest with you, and [the process] seems to be getting slower, like solving a puzzle. There’s a sort of visceral sense of emotion that you’re trying to convey. Ultimately, you’re trying to express yourself as clearly as possible. Songwriting, songs, music-they’re all about communication. The best singers like Aretha Franklin and other geniuses managed to do it very well; they expressed themselves with great conviction or clarity.
What is inspiring you musically at the moment?
I’m listening to music, as always, a lot of various bands…Big Thief, Madison Cunningham, Lizzo. I thought Sam Fender’s album was very good.
What was it like working with Alice Merton on ‘Half As Good As You’?
Good. It is nice to have another singer…hearing someone sing my song is always a nice feeling as a songwriter. She’s a very good singer, with a powerful voice.
Is there a hidden meaning or message in any of your music?
I think there are little bits of detail that mean a certain thing to me because sometimes I draw from personal experiences. It can be self-indulgent so I try to avoid that. Becomes testimonial. Truth will always tell the best story.
What are your highlights from the past year?
We’ve been touring for 18 months nearly. Loads of memories made. We’ve done hundreds of shows- in Europe, Asia, and the USA. It’s quite overwhelming thinking about it. I really enjoyed touring America in April.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I think I’ve been honest in my music and both albums, so I don’t think there are any secrets.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without?
A world without music would be horrendous. Lots of things. I would be very upset if my family and friends died. I’d struggle. I could live without money.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t follow in my footsteps [laughs]. I don’t know. I get asked that a lot and I enjoy helping people with advice about getting into the industry. The number one thing is to enjoy it! And to do it with all your heart. It takes a lot of hard work. You have to give it your all. It’s all about the music.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing the next album which is very exciting. I enjoy it a lot. I also have a radio 2 documentary coming out about the piano later this year. I got to speak to some of my heroes.
Find out more about Julius Meinl.
Participating UK locations:
Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 8LJ
Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, WC1N 2AB
Beaufort House, 354 Kings Road, SW3 5UZ
Zai Café, 81 High Street Hampton Wick, KT1 4DG
Shot It, 10 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL
Today Menu, 1 North Street, TA19 0DG
Bite Café, 27 North End Road, W14 0SJ
Guava Kitchen, 16 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3JA
Graze On Grand, 16 Grand Parade, East Sussex, TN376BS
Middleton Deli, 63 Loampit Hill, SE137SZ