A bit of a break from my travelling spam today, instead an inspiring story, philosophy and fresh music from a captivating new artist...
A few weeks ago, I was approached by London-based PR agency Lucid Online, asking my thoughts on the latest single from one of the artists they represent. As with all of the music I have reviewed and written about on A Romantic Calamity, I will only agree to work with an artist if I believe in and enjoy their music, this one was definitely a yes!
So today I have the great pleasure of introducing to you all Tom Forest and his faith-assuring new single 'Believer'. Somehow I've been lucky enough to not only be asked to review Tom's brilliant new single, but also been granted the opportunity to ask him a few questions. So you're all in for a treat!
Tom Forest has lovely ability to ease and elevate mood with his languid melodies and rich vocals, each song portraying an honest and sincere story, often of the purer things in life. From what I've learnt of Tom and his view on life through the research for this post, he has such a deep appreciation of the things that really matter; family, friends and working hard for your dream. He seems to have figured out how to be happy, with the love of the people around him and doing something he loves, even if its not been easy to get there. His songs have a real transparency and honesty to them, speaking of how beautiful and simple life can and should be.
Starting at the beginning; the single. This is Tom's second single to be released from his upcoming, debut album 'Hope' and tells of a feeling we've all undoubtedly experienced at times.
REVIEW - 'Believer'
This is a song that stirs the quietest parts of your soul, the modest but ever present parts of us that keep us moving even when we feel like we're losing more battles than we're winning. The things we want the most are always worth pursuing, even if the struggle makes us lose sight of what we're working towards. This is a song for moments like that; when faith flickers and the clouds seem to mirror the doubt inside us, but despite these feelings we continue to move forward.
'Believer' is a soul-sooting track that refills us with faith, in ourselves and our dreams. It's the restorative cup of steaming tea at the end of a hopeless day, its the feeling of someone unburdening your shoulders of their uncomfortable weight, the belief in the voice of your loved ones when they tell you you're going to achieve everything you set out to.
The track has such a tangible feeling to it, put your headphones in and let Tom's smooth voice drown out the rest of the world while he reassures you of yourself. With a guitar riff that simmers underneath the lyrics like your heart beats under your chest, it will fill you with grace and quiet confidence. The transcending layers of vocals throughout the track mirror the depth of belief in those closest to Tom who helped him through his own feeling of struggle that inspired the song. Through their faith in him, he found his faith in his dream again.
We all need that now and again, the embrace of a family member or the voice of a friend to let you know that whatever happens they'll be there and you will be ok. 'Believer' is the song to bring you back to solid ground, the raw but ethereal melody reminding you to close your eyes and take a deep breath. 'Believer' is a song to relieve the tension in your body and your mind; it is a humble anthem for anyone in need of solace and respite.
Click here to watch the video to Tom Forest's 'Believer'.
I hope you all like the track as much as I do, after hearing it I had a few questions for Tom Forest which he kindly answered and completely affirmed my belief in his lovely outlook on life.
INTERVIEW - Tom Forest
HI: The context of ‘Believer’ is a feeling we can all relate to; losing faith and momentum with our goals. What mindset did you have when you wrote it? Was it written retrospectively having overcome this feeling? Or did you write it from the perspective of someone who was helping you through this time?
TG: I'm a father, have a day job, and work on music every spare hour between those things, so there is constant tension between those elements of my life; the reality and the dreams. My writing partner, Isabel and I have needed this song on and off a lot. I don't think you ever fully overcome that feeling of needing faith from outside. At the time we wrote it those were the things she was saying to me to pull me through.
HI: ‘Believer’ is a song that holds a lot of love in lyrics, would you say it's a way for you to repay those that supported you in the making of your album?
TG: Exactly. We had one month to make the record, and no real budget. Everyone who played on the record did it out of love. Our parents took over childcare duties so we could work 24/7 to get it done. Everyone got behind us in a way that was overwhelming and humbling. I sang the lead vocal for this song with my dad looking after my baby daughter a few feet away. Most of the album vocals were recorded at home late at night with a long-suffering family member on the sofa nearby.
The video for Believer features as many friends and family as could make the filming, the video is a visual thank you, we wanted to make portraits of them to treasure.
HI: When the song premiered on The Line Of Best Fit, you said on Twitter: “we wrote this album..” who are you referring to there?
TG: One of the songs on the album I wrote alone, to Isabel and our daughter, and Monster was written with Isabel and our drummer, the enormously talented Simeon Rodgers. Everything else is Isabel and me. The way we collaborate on a song is never the same. Some are both of us around a piano, some she's more of an editor. She engineered, mixed and produced the album. Because I'm the singer, the songs usually come from my perspective.
HI: Who or what inspires the stories your songs tell?
TG: A few years ago my brother got really ill and we nearly lost him. It was an intense experience (especially for him!) and I had to write about it to process it. Those songs were the start of the album, and as life began to recover we continued to write in a biographical way. I never thought anyone, let alone our family, would hear these lyrics. The songs say things what I wasn't able to express in any other way to the people around us.
HI: What was the production process like for your album?
TG: Isabel wrote a strict schedule and we weren't allowed to mess about! (See below!)
All the songs were written in a rehearsal room, just voice and one instrument, usually guitar, and I would always dial up a huge reverb, to try and fill the space right up with those two elements, so from writing there was this sense of a big church-like space, and keeping it simple.
We recorded those two elements at home and then programmed drums to find a groove. The drums were recorded in one day at RAK Studios, then Mary Cadbury came and played bass for a couple of hours. She has such unique touch, Isabel didn't edit those drums and bass at all. Mary and her sister Lucy, and Conway (Ellis) and Shonet (Zabrina Hockley) would come round to our flat, we'd blast the song at them and they just stood in front of the speakers with a live mic, singing away. The label suggested strings on four tracks and Sally Herbert made the most amazing arrangements. Mandy Parnell mastered it. She's incredible. The whole way through we had a great relationship with the label who let us get on with it, but made suggestions when we needed them.
HI: Your debut album is titled ‘Hope’, a feeling which is clearly expressed in ‘Believer’. Are there any other themes that feature within it?
TG: Its an album of two halves. The earliest songs are about loss. 'You Have A Father' is to my nephew at the point that we thought we might lose his dad. 'Brother' is about that again, but also about Isabel's brother's death when she was younger. Ultimately though, we found each other, we built a home and had a child, and thats the rest of the record, and why we called it Hope.
HI: The artwork you’ve realised so far to accompany the tracks all feature you and your partner Isabel beneath water, what inspired that imagery?
TG: We had just written a song called Superhuman about working till you get sick, till you burn out, to the point that its really serious. Both Isabel and I have history with that. We knew we were going somewhere with clear water and I kept thinking about a man in a business suit underwater, never reaching the surface. The images are stills from video shot on a go-pro- aside from that we had no specialist equipment, diving gear or way to monitor the images… just faith it would work!
We were just experimenting when I got the shot of Isabel in the water. The crazy thing is that she was two weeks pregnant at the time, we had no idea. In that photo I'm holding the camera, she's in the water, and our daughter is there too, so that image is the turning point of the record. The album sleeve is me diving into the water, which feels like the total immersion we had in finishing the album and showing it to people - terrifying, but also exhilarating.
We've done all our artwork ourselves so far. The visual element, the underwater photos and video stills are so important to get across what this project is.
HI: How long has music been a dream for you?
TG: When I was a kid I desperately wanted an electric guitar and my dad built me a toy one cut out of a piece of wood to pretend with. Real guitars became mythical objects to me. If I don't make music I'm not me. I think Isabel feels the same.
HI: What musical influences do you have?
TG: Hendrix, Buckley, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens and Portishead are really important to me, but in the time we were writing and recording this album we listened to Motown constantly. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was in heavy rotation. We also love the new Denai Moore album, which was produced by a friend of ours, Steph Marziano, and the Sampha album is beautiful. Isabel has worked with Adele and Sam Smith and I think she's absorbed a little of that too.
I think the thing I love the most about Tom's story is his and Isabel's determination to see this album through, and how successfully independent it is. It's a beautiful story proving dreams can be achieved if you have a vision that everyone else can believe in too and you're willing to work for it. The gratitude they have for everyone who helped them make the record is unparalleled and it's such a lovely thing to see, modesty and humility are few and far between these days.
I wish Tom the sincerest best of luck with his album, if it's anything like what I've already heard it'll be a wonderfully rounded album that uplifts, moves and delights the listener. Tom's debut album 'Hope' is on its way, but if you'd like to hear more of his music before then I've linked to all of Tom's social media at the end of this post, including his Soundcloud, where you can find some more of his tracks.
I hope you all enjoyed this post and Tom Forest. Next time they'll be more of mine and Victoria's adventures in Europe; our third destination that was Lake Bled, Slovenia. As always thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer!