Over the course of a still blossoming career, North London’s Tom Prior has demonstrated a gift for telling compelling stories with a remarkable degree of earnestness and charm. Blending indie with hip-hop, Prior is a truly 21st century troubadour.
On November 9 Prior releases The Sunday Scene which includes the recently released “Don’t Worry” and “Flashing Amber”, a collaboration with Sticky Blood’s Andy Nicholson (Arctic Monkeys) and Jamie Shield. In addition to the studio version of The Sunday Scene there will be two other versions of the EP. The Sunday Scene Unplugged’ will feature acoustic performances of the tracks whilst The Sunday Scene Lockin Sessions sees Prior reinterpreting the material with artists including Haus, Jake Isaac, Lauren Aquilina and Prose.
Following the EP’s release Prior will be playing a show at London’s Sebright Arms. Tickets for the gig on 30 November are free and are available via DICE.FM.
When did you first start writing and performing songs?
There were probably three key moments, I wrote my first lyric in 2004, I think. Growing up, Grime and Hip Hop were all I ever really listened to. I kinda’ messed up my school life because I was just writing lyrics in all my lessons. I went to college out the area in 2008 and was introduced to more Indie and Rock music for the first time, The Arctic Monkeys, The Verve and The Beatles became pretty important to me. I was always intrigued by how similar the approach actually is lyrically even though the music is completely different. My last band broke up in 2012 and I have been a solo artist ever since, that’s when I began trying to merge the two styles more intensely.
Your tracks are pretty personal, what’s your songwriting process?
I really feel for my friends sometimes. I think it can be quite exhausting being around me, I’m pretty obsessed with music and in particular songwriting. I’m always trying to say something I think the people around me all feel in a way that they have never said it before. I read random things, have as many conversations as possible and try to just explore what my friends and I are experiencing as we’re growing up. I take a lot of pride in it, I know to most people I’m still a very new artist but some people have supported my music very loyally for a few years now and I don’t want to let them down.
Your music blends elements of acoustic with hip-hop, what records had the biggest influence on the new EP?
I listened to so much music making this EP. Sometimes my biggest weakness is I tend to find a reason to like most things. I’ve probably turned to Urban Hymns by The Verve whenever I have lost my way slightly. Any of the Streets albums too, I read Mike Skinner’s book earlier this year, the way he uses words just blows my mind, and I’m infinitely envious of him. AM has never worn thin on me either. Personally, I think that record is a modern day masterpiece; I think 99% of artists would be grateful to ever come close.
Do you think your sound has evolved since the last record?
I think so for sure. I was pretty sure of myself when I was young, probably too stubborn for my own good. I think that got me so far but in the end I had to loosen up a bit and try new things. I swore I would never rap on a record again but when I was writing ‘Don’t Worry’, no melody was coming naturally for the verses, even when I’d finished it, I promised myself I wouldn’t show anyone - somewhere along the way I did and I suppose the reaction from my nearest and dearest convinced me that people should hear it. Usually the songs that excite me most are the ones that sound like nothing I have made before and I hope that never fades.
There are three different versions of your new EP, what’s your thinking behind that?
Everybody has got an EP these days - I’m convinced the postman is going to knock on my door someday and try and sell me his. It was important for me to make the process of making a 3rd EP enjoyable. I’m glad people will have the opportunity to hear different interpretations of these songs.
You’ve got some great musicians appearing on The Sunday Scene Lockin Sessions, how did those collaborations come about?
I’m very proud of British music, past and present. I’ve made some great friends in music the last few years, I started making music in my shed at home, anyone and everyone used to come and get involved, it was a very sociable thing. Going round the country writing and staying in different in places I found myself on my own a lot more and I started to lose the spirit of what made me love making music. I was so proud when Lauren, Jake, Haus and Prose were sitting in the control room at KONK listening back to what we had made. For me, days like that is the whole point of (the selfish part) of making music.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
It changes all the time but at the moment, I’d love to work with Alex Turner, Richard Ashcroft, Mike Skinner or Noel Gallagher. Lately, I’ve also become a massive fan of Kevin Parker from Tame Impala; I really love what he does musically and lyrically. I listened to Fleetwood Mac the other day; I’d love Stevie Nicks to teach me how to REALLY do it.
The new material has got some great buzz, how does it feel to get such a positive response?
I wrote most of these songs early this year. I’ve had enough a time to fall in and out love with them a million times. My songs have always personal to me, but there are some moments on this EP where I’m really not hiding behind any metaphors and it’s always nice when it feels like people are resonating with my words and relating to them in their own way.
You’ll be playing the Sebright Arms in November, what can people expect from your live shows?
95% of my time is spent making music, but nothing really beats getting on a stage with your mates after a few days in a rehearsal room and playing the songs. There have been a couple moments this year where I’ve gone places far from home and seen people singing the words back. It’s the oldest cliché but for a songwriter, it’s hard to top moments like those. I always think, that’s my song, how the f**k do you know it?
What’s next for you?
Making music never really stops for me but I definitely want to give people time to get with this EP. I have two videos coming out, I’ve had a lot more fun with the process of making them this time around and I’m looking forward to people being able to laugh at my expense, for one them in particular. Other than that, get back out playing shows and have some good times with the people that are supporting my music.
Tom Prior plays Sebright Arms on Wednesday 30 November. Free tickets are available via DICE.FM.