Songwriting course leads to label deal for Tom Walker

Mancunian folk-rocker Tom Walker admits he was something of a late bloomer when it came to music. For most of his teens, he recalls, “I pretty much did every s—- job you could think of, until I finally made it to a head chef position at this lousy pub, where I’d started as the pot washer.” At the time, he had no career plans. But things have changed. The soulful Passenger-meets-Pavement vocalist is preparing to issue his debut disc on swank Relentless Records, which already released last year’s hit EP “Blessings.” It’s been quite the aesthetic turnaround.

When did you first realize you had this great singing voice?

Um, not until I was 19. I did a course in songwriting at the London Contemporary Music, but I’d actually originally applied for the guitar course. But I wrote a few songs and did a few demos with vocals, and the faculty said to me, “Look, we don’t think you’re right for the guitar course, but you could do songwriting instead.” So I spent the next three years falling in love with songwriting. I thought I wasn’t very good, but all the people around me said, “Man! You’ve got such a cool voice!”

What had you been planning with the guitar course?

I don’t know. I’d been in some band, and had done a bit of backup singing. So I was good enough to be the second singer in a band, but no way was I ready for lead. So I just thought that I’d be a backing singer — that was the plan. Music just started to make more and more sense to me as I got older, though. So it just all seemed to work out. I started performing with just me and an acoustic guitar instead of being in bands, and started writing songs just for myself.

And your college profs took notice?

I guess the first song I wrote at uni was “Office Sheep,” when I started producing, as well, because they had Logic classes there. So I produced this kind of hip-hop track with loads of electric guitars on it. And it was a bit Ed Sheeran-y, I guess, a bit wordy with a big chorus. And I handed it in to my teacher and he was like, “F—— hell! This is seriously, seriously good. You seem to have a real knack for this!” So it was more other people telling me that I was sounding really good, and me just thinking, “Well, It’s not the best thing I’ve ever heard…” I’m still like that now — nothing is ever good enough for me.

Tom Walker
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Aug. 29
Tickets: $15
Contact: (415) 861-2011,

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