Tom Leader is singer-songwriter and a friend dating back to the youthful years of Music A-Level. It was a treat to get back in touch with him and catch up, and we talked about his recently released debut album, Uncomfortably Happy, another masterpiece made in the confinements of lockdown.
Normally based in Cambridge and Birmingham, Tom is currently doing his semester abroad in Copenhagen. He gave me a virtual tour of his flat overseas, jokingly showing me a light-up globe on his desk, with a confused face, saying, “it came with the flat!” Comparing his life there to the UK, Tom said, “I’ve done a lot more gigging here! I’ve been to open mics and have done some sets at bars and that.” He described the time before that as a “massive gap” from performing live because of the pandemic, and was delighted to be able to return to it again.
Uncomfortably Happy was, like many musical projects, written exclusively during the lockdowns. Tom jokes, “it felt like the world was ending, so I had nothing to lose!” He went on to explain the meaning behind his album, saying, “It’s about transitioning from a state of being comfortably unhappy to seeking a better path without the discomfort of that change. I guess when we confront our ‘demons’, that’s a daunting process. And although these are my ‘demons’, I’ve tried to portray them in a relatable way. I’ve also tried to structure the album so that it’s uplifting and motivational.” Genre-wise, we should expect an “Indie Pop, Alternative Rock, Acoustic Guitar based, singer-songwriter…vibe!” Count me bloody in.
Tom humbly praised his musical collaborations in the album as well: “someone who pretty much features in all my tracks is Jonno Gaze, a mind-blowingly good drummer, song-writer and human being!” He also gave credit to other talented musicians that worked with him – Millicent B James and Elle Beale. “I was also lucky enough to work with Iwan VanHetton too, who mixed and produced it, and Peter Beckmann from Technology Works, who mastered the album.”
The songs in this album are the most personal Tom has ever been, but they also explore important wider issues. Tom points out, “two of the songs are about climate change – it’s been a big source of anxiety, I’ve realised.” When writing, he explained “I try to bring these topics to a smaller scale and ask, what’s my relationship with it? So, like one of my songs, Red Yellow Trees, is about going on a walk, but during it, I reflected on the prospect of not being able to go on a nice walk in the autumn again.”
To me, the careful choice of lyrics is what makes Tom’s music stand out. He went into more depth about this, saying, “The first thing I do is ask if I have something in my heart? I try and trust there’s something there, you know? Honesty is the thing that determines whether the song is a keeper, I guess.” Tom shows the example of remaining true to yourself as a creator. Healing and uplifting, Uncomfortably Happy can be streamed on all musical platforms – Tom Leader’s finishing words were, “I hope this album makes people feel understood and helps them feel like they belong in this world.” I look forward to seeing which direction he goes next.