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Tom Odell: ‘Billie Eilish is phenomenal and formidable and fearless’

Tom Odell has battled his own Monsters to bring us his new album. He tells us about the artists that make him want to keep creating.

It’s been a tough 18 months for everyone who believes in the power of live music, and Tom Odell is nothing if not a devotee to that cause. The Brit and Ivor Novello award-winner has come out of lockdown with a new album – Monsters, his first since 2018’s Jubilee Road – and a renewed belief in the importance of creativity. “The arts, the culture of the UK, is what makes this country,” he explains.

A working musician since he was just 21, Odell found huge success with his debut album, Long Way Down, which rocketed to the top of the UK charts and went platinum. Ten years into his career, The Music That Made Me finds a mid-career Odell still learning from the greats that went before him – but also drawing inspiration from the next generation. Watch Odell discuss his choices at bigissue.com.

Tom Odell: The Music That Made Me

Inspiration from Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish is just an inspiration for us all. She’s phenomenal and formidable and fearless. I’m 30 years old. I’ve been doing this job for 10 years, and I’ve never looked at another artist who was younger than me and really been inspired. Until I heard Billie Eilish. She is seeking the truth. It is so commendable.

There’s a song, idontwanttobeyouanymore, which says, “Tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before: I don’t wanna be you anymore.” I find that, on so many levels, so wonderfully deep and relatable. Dare I say, even philosophical.

Mentoring from Elton John

Elton is a mentor for me. He calls me up every three or four months, and he says, “How you doing?” Every time he calls, it doesn’t get any less mind blowing. Like, Jesus Christ, Elton John called me!

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Elton is a big supporter of playing live. I’ve known him eight years and every time I see him, that’s what he’s interested in. That’s what he believes young artists should do. I agree with him 100%.

I’ve been around the world, like, 15 times playing live. From the age of 21/22, I never stopped. It’s given me my career. Not only have I learned more from that than anything else, it’s also what pays for new records to be made. And it gives you the audience around the world. Until someone comes to see you, you’re just a two-dimensional character. It’s the only way to truly have a proper career in this line of work.

Rock’n’roll theatre from Razorlight

I was very into Razorlight and saw them live. Bizarrely, I then became very good friends with Andy [Burrows, Razorlight drummer]. I’m godfather to his children. I’m so happy that Razorlight have reformed because I think Johnny Borrell is one of rock’n’roll’s great eccentrics. That’s what this business is all about. Very few bands do theatre these days, the whole rock’n’roll thing and he really did. It was absurd. It was completely out of step to some with what was going on in the rest of the world. But it’s brilliant.

David Bowie’s Hunky Dory

I love Bowie. My mum was obsessed with Hunky Dory. And because there’s a lot of piano on it, I was drawn in. That album is just so stunning. I was very into Ziggy Stardust too when I was teenager. Rock’n’Roll Suicide’s a song that I always come back to: ‘Time takes a cigarette, puts in your mouth.’ I love that. It’s just beautiful, beautiful poetry.

Radiohead’s pursuit of beauty

Who would I most like to go and see live, if I could see anyone? Probably Radiohead. I think their pursuit of beauty in music is unlike any other band. They have that wonderful thing where they progress – and they make progressive music, that’s challenging – but it’s still giving. It’s not indulgent. I love it.

Monsters, the new album by Tom Odell is out now.

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