Arts

Tom Walker: I'm enjoying success but always doubting says Leave A Light On singer

After rising to fame last year with his smash hit single Leave A Light On, Tom Walker has gone on to win a Brit Award and score a number one album. The Scottish singer-songwriter talks to Scene about his career so far and his dreams for the future

Scottish singer-songwriter Tom Walker performs in Dublin in November

TOM Walker is one of Scotland's biggest emerging stars, but you'd be forgiven for being none the wiser to his heritage when speaking to him. If anything, there is a vague dash of Mancunian in there, but overall, he's quite difficult to place.

"My accent's all over the place," Walker says, laughing. "I was born in Scotland and then I moved to Manchester, but I've lived in London for the last seven years."

Walker's speaking voice might be tricky to pin down, but his singing voice is instantly recognisable, thanks to his breakout smash hit Leave A Light On.

The robust ballad is one of the most popular tracks of the past year, reaching the top 10 in several countries. Walker went on to win the British breakthrough act Brit Award in February, despite not having even released an album at the time.

The following month, he dropped debut album What A Time To Be Alive, and it went straight to number one, fending off competition from music heavyweight Bryan Adams, who had to settle for number two.

It has just been named the best-selling debut album of the year by the Official Charts Company, and is sixth biggest-selling album of the year overall. It's fair to say Walker has had a pretty incredible few months.

"It was crazy, I was not expecting that," he reflects of the Brit Award. On his album topping the charts, he adds: "That was pretty crazy too. It was Bryan Adams' 14th studio album or something.

"You spend so long working on an album, so when it actually does the thing you set out for it to do, it's so gratifying."

With success that comes as speedily as Walker's did comes the inevitable hype, the fame, and the expectation. Does he ever doubt himself?

"I don't think people would be proper musicians if they didn't doubt themselves," he says. "If you don't question what you're creating, where's the quality control? It's a mixture of both; I'm enjoying the success but always second guessing."

So what of the attention? "Everyone's well nice. Most people just want to get a photo, and that's it," the 27-year-old says. "It doesn't happen all the time, but there has been a bit more recently than it was previously."

Another thing that comes with fast fame is a concern over mental health, and its potentially detrimental impact. The entertainment world is currently awash with discussion about the difficulties of being in the public eye, combined with the dark side of social media and trolling, with more and more stars opening up about dealing with depression and anxiety.

With Leave A Light On, Walker has already established himself as someone who is switched on to the conversation; the song was inspired by a good friend of his who was struggling with addiction.

"I've got enough experience with me and my mates, like... I'm fortunate to have mates that, if something was going on, we could all have a chat about it," he says, when asked if he would feel comfortable opening up about dealing with mental health issues as his success builds.

"It's changed too. It's all right to feel sad now, whereas 10 years ago, if you were a guy and you were upset, it's this whole masculinity thing, about not talking about it and burying it. It's not healthy."

For now, Walker is looking forward to performing for his fans. Well, for the most part.

"It's like a double-edged sword," he confesses. "I really like it, but it's also really tough...

"I never thought I'd get to go and play my songs to people. It's amazing, but it's hard work, and I don't think people realise it."

Is it too soon to start thinking about that second album?

"Not really, no," he chuckles. "My plan is to just keep touring this album and see how long it goes on for, and in between touring I'm going to write some songs for a new album, but not really think about a particular direction."

He does admit to having goals including a collaboration with a fellow Scot and headlining a venue that means a lot to him.

"I'd love to write a song with Paolo Nutini," he says.

"And, because I grew up to see a lot of gigs at the Manchester Arena, I'd love to headline that one day. I went to see Muse there, I saw the Foo Fighters and John Mayer there, and loads of bands, so it'd be cool to headline that. That'd be a massive dream."

:: Tom Walker plays The Olympia, Dublin, on November 5 (ticketmaster.ie). What A Time To Be Alive is out now.

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