British folk rocker Tom Speight knows he might still be a stranger on these shores, and he’s OK with the low profile. His debut album “Collide” was released in April and he’s raising awareness date by date on his U.S. tour, which brings him to San Francisco this week for the first time. “I can’t wait to get there,” he says, after asking a bevy of cultural questions about The City. “It’s the start of my American journey.” He figures he’s two or three years behind his U.K. peers, forced to play catch-up by forces larger, and more malevolent, than himself.
How did you find out you had Crohn’s disease?
Well, the symptoms were quite aggressive, to be honest, so I got diagnosed rather quickly. Within a month, I’d lost a couple of stone, maybe 30 or 40 of your pounds. It was all the classic symptoms of Crohn’s, and it’s a pretty s——- disease. So I’m still learning how to cope with it at 33. It’s been a real rocky road. I’ve been hospitalized seven times now, for very lengthy stays. But in some respects, it’s made me stronger. I know that’s a bit cliche, but you can take things for granted, especially your health. Then things like that hit and you’re like, “Whoa!”
But you had some great support during the two years you took off for rehabilitation. And some other artists are dealing with it, too, like Beth Orton.
Yeah, I had heard that. But do you know Keane? They contacted me and said they wanted to record me, and about a week later, I met the guitarist for Travis, Andy Dunlop, who said he’d work with me, anytime I needed. And I said, “Funnily enough, I’m working with Keane next week — do you want to come by and sit in on some sessions?” And he actually came all the way from Liverpool to Sussex, just to play guitar behind me. He was super-kind, and I’d always been a huge Travis supporter.
But the time off worked. Until you came back with no less than seven rapid-fire EPs.
I took two years off from gigging, away from the treadmill of the industry. I jumped off that and wound up deciding what I really wanted to do with my life. So I launched music in 2016, and I haven’t stopped since. I was hospitalized for a bit during the making of my album, which sucked. I had an “autographed” option for an EP coming out on the website, but no way to actually physically get to them for the signing. Now I always work well in advance, just in case.
IF YOU GO
Where: Cafe Du Nord, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 375-3370, https://shows.swedishamericanhall.com/