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Interview: Tom Pointer

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So, how do you take your coffee? I ask Tom Pointer, after having talked our way into a strangely formal, yet quiet meeting room above the union bar at Bath Spa.

“It used to be flat white, but yeah now just black, double shot black!”.

Cappuccino or iced, I confess, correcting his casual assumption that I’m latte person – we’re not all as straightforward as we first appear, as I’m soon to realise of Tom.

“Ah, I’ve got coffee on my mind now!”.

Like his coffee, Pointer is an energising presence, his enthusiasm bringing an ease of confidence and natural charm. His music too, proves quite a unique blend – R&B in flavour with jazzy undertones, and a soulful aftertaste.

I suppose it came from listening to R&B growing up, and then playing jazz guitar. I’m not expert at jazz guitar...," he throws in.

“I did play clarinet for a while and… the recorder! Ha - everyone plays the recorder!

I just try to incorporate some of the same things, to create something that sounds familiar but is unique as well.

A lot of soul is coming through to pop now. People are starting to prick their ears up to the old Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye, when before they weren’t really very cool!”.

I doubt Tom will have a problem there. The chilled-yet-effortlessly-trendy vibe of his music, definitely holds up in his personal style - even if his boots aren’t quite as rough around the edges as Bill Withers’.

Already acutely aware that beneath the confidence and the polished boots, there is a little more complexity behind his journey here today, I stir a little, for the story behind the change from flat white to double shots.

“So yeah, I was signed to Wasps [playing professionally for U18’s rugby union] and moved to London when I was sixteen. I took it quite seriously, I mean - that’s all I was doing really, just training, I wanted to have that as a career, that was all that was on my mind. But then - I’d always had some back problems, ever since I was younger.

"I think when you get quite excited about things, when things are going well you don’t really look after yourself properly.

"So, when I went to Loughborough [University] I broke my back. Quite suddenly but you know, a few months of pain. And they said to me ‘look so you can either have two years of strengthening and rehab, or we can pin it up for you and you can call it a day.’”

“My parents were a lot more upset than me actually.” He shrugs, admirably glossing over this pivotal turning point in his life, “Well. That was my last year at uni so I was a bit stuck.”

“I did fine art,” Tom clarifies, infusing yet another layer into the brew – I find myself wondering how one person could be so vastly talented?!

“I threw myself into the last year of that, scraped a 2:1," he says, with a "get in!".

"And then just - no joke - for the year after just tried everything. Got internships, work experience, played gigs. I just tried to just bounce around and see what would take my interest and, who would have me! Then, after working in production for a while, I got offered some free studio time and I just thought, okay. Okay, this could be the one.”

Not always having had the confidence to sing to a crowd, Pointer tells me about his first performance, at an open mic night while on holiday in Greece: “Singing’s so personal that if you show someone, they’re either gonna burst out laughing or they’ll tell you it’s good but they really don’t mean it, so you just think, but this could be so embarrassing! It’s such a vulnerable thing.

“That’s what’s difficult about this tour - you’re stood up in front of a room of uni students, who are, you know, quite judgemental people! You gotta sing your own stuff and that’s hard!”

And so, we arrived at what, as a writer incapable of forming even the simplest of poems, I see to be Tom’s more awe-inspiring talent – his ability to write his own songs. Feeling cheeky, I press for the insider secrets of songwriting, “Oo - I start with music."

"I just sort of fiddle on the guitar until I find something that’s fun to play, and then think okay this has a good feeling, what’s this feeling? And then I make a voice memo, and sing for as long as possible. I hate listening back to the bad ones,” he laughs, “Because you just think wow… I actually thought that was good!”.

But how do you know when a song’s the one?

“I really enjoy singing the slower, more jazzy, R&B style ones. But sometimes at gigs, the more upbeat ones I more fun to play because they have a bit more of a groove, and you can see people are with you, nodding their head or tapping their foot and I can see that you know, they’re listening they're listening. 

“You can make it in the studio and think yeah this is great, just listen to this cool bit but, yeah if no-one else likes it, no-one likes it! [Touring] is the best test, and it’s the hardest thing to do but you’ve got to throw yourself into it. 

“It’s all about momentum, with confidence. You get an adrenaline kick or something, like you know, getting on a roller coaster. You don’t know how its gonna go, but then - it’s so addictive!”.

From there the conversation quickly turns to cider, for which I point him toward our local brewery (Lilley’s if you’re after recommendations), and we conclude that The Stable might just be heaven on Earth. Until, forty-five-minutes after sitting down for ‘just a quick interview’, Tom ducks out to prepare for his set (“is the coffee here any good?”).

Already, I am sure that we can expect a lot more from Tom Pointer, once he's worn in those boots.

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