Highbury-born talent who turned his back on classical path to be next Leonard Cohen
- Credit: Archant
Son of leading conductor is on track to fulfil dream and see his name in lights as a singer
Musicians can often seem spoilt, but the journey that has brought Highbury-born singer-songwriter Tom Hickox to the release of his first album, at the age of 32, has filled him with gratitude.
The son of one of Britain’s foremost conductors, the late Richard Hickox CBE, it’s easy to assume that Tom was destined to be a professional musician – but it’s been a long road.
“I wasn’t directly influenced by my father,” says Tom. “There was music around the whole time and I was listening to music constantly. Indirectly that was a huge influence – but I never wanted to be a classical musician.
“I had music lessons as a kid and I played drums in my band at school. We were terrible, but through that we explored writing our own material and I absolutely loved it.
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“I knew then that music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The last few years I’ve been lucky enough to do it professionally.”
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But Tom’s dream took a while to come to fruition. Growing up just off Liverpool Road, he moved to Scotland with his mother as a teenager – before going to Manchester University to study English literature.
After that he worked in offices, on building sites and behind a bar to pay for recording, all the while writing the haunting songs that make up much of his first album, War, Peace and Diplomacy, which was released in March. He is now preparing for a spring tour, his first as a headliner, which will finish at the Roundhouse in Camden on June 2.
“These things are all relative, that first half of my 20s where I was trying to get noticed, it was hard and very frustrating.
“I carried on writing and I think I got better. Periods of frustration and failure can often be very important moments that lead to success as I think they test your resolve.
“During that time I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to lose my passion.”
His influences include PJ Harvey, Randy Newman and Tom Waits and it’s easy to see why he has been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave.
His last gig was a sold-out show at the Union Chapel, but Tom – who now lives in Camden with his wife Amy, the violist in his band – still has his feet on the ground.
“It’s really satisfying that people have responded to the album so positively, but I wouldn’t change a note of it – even if it got panned.
“I’ve had an incredible response from fans and members of the public who’ve said the most incredible things and that’s deeply unexpected.
“I don’t think there’s anything difficult about what I do. It’s hard work but I’ll never complain about having to work hard.
“You do find yourself in some slightly surreal situations though.
“I’m learning a song backwards for a video at the moment, so that when it plays in reverse it’ll look like I’m singing it normally – it’s very difficult.
“I’m definitely going to film myself doing it. It sounds bizarre.”
Tom’s album War, Peace and Diplomacy is now on sale and his next single, Out of the Warzone, will be released on May 26.