Soundtrack of Our Lives: Tom Joshua

Tom Joshua, photographed by Jodie Canwell

TOM JOSHUA is a young singer-songwriter from Stockton-on-Tees, who’s set a course to seduce us with sweet and emotive, well-sculpted guitar and piano-led songs such as the autumnal fragility of “Meteor Showers”.

He’s just released the Undergrowth EP (watch the video for the title track, here), and not content with just that, has made a documentary about his historic home town with Michael Kiwanuka’s touring videographer, Jodie Canwell; started working on another record; and has just been named as a recipient of the PRS Foundation’s PPL Momentum Music Fund – a grant to take him on to the next stage of his career.

He’s been out on the road with Bill Ryder-Jones and Billie Marten, but remains firmly and wholly a Stockton lad; his new EP is wholly of his roots; in fact it’s a love letter to his home town.

 “I love where I live,” he says: “It’s a rousing group of towns to be from – these songs just wouldn’t exist away from home.

“I’ve always considered the skyline you can see from the flyovers between Stockton and Middlesbrough pretty epic and unique – you have miles of industry, stretching out to the coast met further along the way by some massive hills.

“The contrast of the landscape feels thoroughly Teeside, both bonny and rough in equal parts.”

He says of the EP and its genesis: “I work in a restaurant five minutes from my house. Last autumn my boss let me record some live songs in the backroom on the piano in there.

“I wrote [EP track] ‘This Still Life’ on that piano so it was nice to give it some
love; keep him involved.

“This Still Life’ is about a few different moments from the last few years. Times when I’ve had a moment of clarity or peace, a feeling of alienation or discovery; moments where I feel a small part of something much bigger.

“Each song on the EP was sort of committed to a location near to where I live.”

“The contrast of the landscape feels thoroughly Teeside, both bonny and rough in equal parts.”

Tom shared a gorgeous live session version of “Still Life” with us just last week – you can watch it here; it’s magic how he takes vocal flight in the round, at the piano, accompanied by a quartet.

Having imparted the geographical influences on his writing, we wanted to know the music he grew up with, that gets him on the dancefloor, is perfect for that Sunday downtime; so we caught up with him to ask: Tom, what’s the Soundtrack of Your Life?

Hi Tom, and thanks for sharing the soundtrack of your life. What was the track that inspired you to start making music?

Nick Drake, “From The Morning”. I listened to lots of sad folk in college. This was a front runner and got me playing guitar.

What’s you tour bus favourite?

Radiohead, “There There”. The drums in this tune driving through London is something to be done.

And a Saturday night tune?

LCD Soundsystem, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”. Listen to it. Try not to swing around someone’s house knocking things over with a beer!

And a Sunday morning record?

Arthur Russell, “Love Is Overtaking Me”. Breakfast can be digested well to this breeze of an album.

The first record you ever bought?

From Under The Cork Tree, by Fall Out Boy. I was full of angst and poetic sentiments and [had] a long fringe, watching Kerrang! TV eating Super Noodles and hotdogs with my brother.

What’s the cover version you would love to play?

“Here Comes A Regular”, by The Replacements. The lyrics are perfect and I think I fully get the sentiment.

What’s the best cover of all time?

“Heartbeats”, by Jose Gonzales. It’s such a flip on the original and I can always depend on it to make me feel a certain way.

What’s been your musical discovery of lockdown?

 “Honey”, by Oliver Coates. I’ve been listening to his big immersive cello-scapes on walks. 

And how’s about your musical rediscovery of lockdown?

“Unsatisfied”, by The Replacements. They’re a band I forget about and remember all the time; but I love them. 

What’s The best song you’ve ever written?

 “Undergrowth”, mostly because I enjoyed writing it so much. I was bopping for plenny hours on a beat and a guitar part, writing nonsense. 

What’s the best cover version of your music?

 I haven’t seen any yet online, but had a couple people send stuff through on Instagram stories. My friend’s kid plays my songs at an open mic night in a coffee shop in America, which I find very cool.

What’s the song you remember most from your childhood?

“Ode To Billy Joe”, by Bobby Gentry. It was on a Country Legends tape we had in my Dad’s car. Myself, my brother and sister knew it backwards. This song is pure storytelling and I’ve been visualising it since I was a kid.

What’s your favourite track made by friends?

“Tendons”, by Dressed Like Wolves. I work in a restaurant with Rick, the writer and singer. He’s a rambling lyrical genius. 

And what’s your favourite track by a band that should’ve been, or should be, bigger?

“Here’s To My Old Friends”, by The Dancing Years. I saw them once at a festival in Stockton, my home town, and I felt like I’d seen something I should have paid a lot more for.

Your guilty pleasure?

The Lighthouse Family.  Them smooth vocals.

What’s the record in your parents’ record collection that attracted attention?

Fleetwood Mac, Rumours. A staple winner. You’d be daft not to be robbing that one.

What record will you have played at your funeral?

“Freestyler”, by Bomfunk MC’s. There will be an open coffin, dry ice and I will be wearing a tinfoil suit.

The words of this song inspire me …

“We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”, by Bright Eyes. 
“If you hate the taste of wine/Why do you drink it ’til you’re blind?/And if you swear that there’s no truth and who cares/How come you say it like you’re right?/Why are you scared to dream of God/When it’s salvation that you want?/You see stars that clear have been dead for years/But the idea just lives on.”
I find those lyrics to be incredibly honest and evocative. I’m interested in them.

What’s the best record ever?

Pink Moon , by Nick Drake. I love the man. It’s a perfect dream of an album.

 The record that makes you sad?

Either/Or, by Elliot Smith. 

The record that gets you on the dancefloor?

“Got To Give It Up”, by Marvin Gaye. Getting on the dancefloor feels like a dying art. This would probably get me off my seat for a moment before I sit back down and rock my upper torso whilst eating everyone’s sugared almonds.

The best record you’ve ever written or recorded?

The Undergrowth EP.

Tom Joshua’s Undergrowth EP is available now across all digital service providers; follow Tom on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and at his website.

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