Interview: Tom Baxendale (Part 2)

By on Thursday, 3rd November 2016 at 11:00 am

If you missed part 1 of our interview with Sheffield singer/songwriter Tom Baxendale about his debut solo album ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, you can catch up on it right back here.

Though the album was recorded in fairly short order, the individual songs on ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ evolved over a much longer period of time. “Some of them are really new, or were at the time they were recorded, and some of them are really old.” Rather sheepishly, Baxendale admits, “I’ve just got millions and billions of songs that I need to record that are kind of stockpiled. I used to write songs in bunches, like with an album in mind, and I’d have them sort of lined up. At any given time I’ve got about six of those. But this [album is] the first time I’ve ever just kind of ignored that mindset and picked songs across the different kind of ideas that I’ve got. I picked them [based on] how they were going to work together, so there are kind of themes [on this album].”

The album’s first electric guitar-based single ‘All My Nightmares’ is one of those older tracks that began its life with Baxendale’s old London-based band, the Rainy Day Club. “[We had] a double bass player, and a ukulele player, and a fiddle player and I was playing acoustic. You can imagine that that’s quite a different sound.” But ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ has its folkier moments as well, including the simple-yet-heartfelt ballad ‘All I Ask’, which surely carries over some influence from Baxendale’s earlier venture.

Recording the songs alone, part-by-part, presented a unique challenge for Baxendale, but playing them live turned out to be somewhat easier. Baxendale performed an album launch show in Sheffield on the 30th of September, with his friends from The Payroll Union stepping into the role of his backing band. “We’re so used to playing with each other, [and] I think everyone’s enjoying it. It’s quite a fun way round of doing things, actually, that the music already exists. It’s not like they’re just learning it and playing it exactly as I did, but they’ve got those kind of reference points to get their head round what the song is meant to be, do you know what I mean? Whereas with Payroll, we always develop that together and spend a lot of time doing that. This is a completely different process.”

Baxendale has lined up a handful of local gigs in Sheffield to support ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, but he hasn’t yet made plans to play shows any farther from home. “I’d quite like to, I’ve kind of half-heartedly put some feelers out, but not really got anywhere.” He cites the difficulty of being away from his family and his graphic design job as the main obstacle. “Say like, just a week-long tour, you have to sort of cash in all your brownie points to go away for a week. It’s got to be worth it, there’s got to be a reason to do it. It’s not like [we] can go and do these really cool, high-profile gigs, because we’re not a high-profile band, outside Sheffield. Or even in Sheffield, but definitely not outside Sheffield. We just kind of thought, “what’s the point?” Which is really defeatist, but I don’t know.”

Beyond the few gigs scheduled for this autumn, Baxendale looks forward to more solo recording. “I’m really, really dying to start recording again, and I actually might be buying better equipment. I’ve been investing in some cool things, like, to make my recording sound better and be easier and more fun. I’m really dying to start using all this nice, fancy, expensive equipment that I’ve bought and seeing whether I can actually make it sound good. I think I’ll do it on my own again, just because I really like that process. DIY writing is really cool. I mean, I would be quite happy if like a big record label came and gave me loads of money to make music, but that doesn’t really happen, because of the state of the music industry or whatever. But the flip side of that is, you can actually do all this stuff on your own, you can make a half decent album in your own house, and put it out for very little cost, which you wouldn’t have been able to do in the ’60s or ’70s or whatever, so you might as well make the most of it.”

Tom Baxendale’s decidedly better than “half-decent” album ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’ is available on Spotify, iTunes, and on his Bandcamp page. If you missed our earlier coverage of ‘In the City a Short Time Ago’, you can read it right back here.

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