Categories: Arts Music Pop

Tom Odell’s most recent inspiration: suburbia

Looking back at his first two albums — 2013’s “A Long Way Down” and 2016’s “Wrong Crowd” — soulful English keyboardist Tom Odell recognizes a pattern to his songwriting influences. A bibliophile’s obsession with reading colors his material far more than his love of music. “I collect a lot of books, and whether or not I’ll read it in the coming months is irrelevant to me. I like to have new books waiting when I’ve finished the last one,” says the singer, who followed a fascination with Hemingway into John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and, for most of last year, a John Updike/”Rabbit”-series binge. But for his upcoming “Jubilee Road,” he decided to write about people, mainly his real-life neighbors at his new home in suburban London.

Why disappear into suburbia?

I was at a point where I realized that I hadn’t stayed in one place for more than a month. And I found that quite terrifying. And also, it was just necessary for me to have a degree of domestication in my life. And it just so happened that I was suddenly involved in a very serious relationship with a girl, and my touring was finished, so I was ready to, ahem, settle down. And with everything in my life, I threw myself into it with absolute conviction. And, ah, it didn’t quite work out. But whilst I was doing it, I wrote an entire album called “Jubilee Road.”

How did you find this place?

I actually owned the house a year before I really ever lived there. But I’d been touring so much that it was never really my home. Then the touring stopped, and I wrote in my diary, “Maybe I’ll stay here for six months, because I want to spend time with my lover and be with her.” So we got a cat, we got a dog, and we really went for it. And I immersed myself in this community, and I’d never experienced that before, and I found, suddenly, that there were so many stories just on my doorstep, stories of simplicity.

How did you gradually approach your neighbors?

It was very much unforced, and over a period of time. And a few of them have become my friends. The others? We barely know each other. It was more the feeling of being part of this community, the feeling of the kids saying, “Hi, Tom!” across the road in the morning.

Did they know who you were?

Yeah. And I guess, for a few months I was the talk of the street. But soon enough, they forgot about all that, and I was just another neighbor. Which was a wonderful feeling, actually.

Tom Odell
Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St,., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12
Tickets: $22 to $25
Contact: (415) 431-7578,

Tom Lanham
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Tom Lanham

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