July 27, 2016
Hello, how are you?
Yeah, really good thank you. I’m having an amazing time.
We’re speaking to you in St Louis.
Yes, we’ve just come from Indianapolis. It was five or six hours in the bus.
Have you toured America in this way before?
Not like this, no. America was actually where it really started for me, because people started noticing my music here before they did in the UK. That was very early on when I released a couple of songs and they got on Gossip Girl, which is a big TV show in America. So I did a mini tour that was obviously not of this scale – it was 600 capacity venues like the Troubadour. That was a few years ago.
And you’ve toured there since?
Yeah, I guess from there I did tour America quite a lot, but that was mainly with Zedd for a track we did called Clarity.
Ah yes, the Grammy-winning track!
Yes. So that was good fun. We did a lot of arenas, with me guest vocalling with Zedd more than anything. They were great shows to do and it was amazing to reach that many people, but I haven’t been over here for a while. I’ve been doing a lot of UK tours and a lot of stuff in Japan. I don’t think a lot of people have really heard of my new music, so it’s really nice to have a chance to come out and play that music to these huge audiences.
Of course, your first show on this tour was actually in Zurich. How was that?
I was really mindblown actually. I was quite nervous, but it was actually a blessing to be able to have that one-off show to get an idea of what it was going to be like and know what I needed to prepare to come onto the US tour.
Did you watch the band’s performance in Zurich?
Yes, I hadn’t seen the show before, and it just completely blew me away. It was so inspiring and incredible. And just to be part of that, I couldn’t quite believe I was there.
You said on Twitter that you’ve been a fan of the band since you were a kid. When did you get into them?
Well, I can remember when they put their first album out. It’s really nice actually, because my sister’s worked with Chris on a lot of charity work for a few years. So I was just writing music and my sister was working with Chris and obviously the scale that he’s on is insane, but he’s always taken the time to give me some advice and be really sweet. I think Coldplay were pretty much my soundtrack to growing up. So their music is quite a big part of my life!
You grew up in Will’s home town of Southampton, and actually went to the same school!
Was it a big thing at your school that Coldplay’s drummer went there?
Yes, definitely! My sister was in the same year as Will, actually. They had a bit of a reunion at the New York show, because my mum and sister came over for that. But, yes, everyone was definitely aware.
So your sister met him when she was 11?
Yes, something like that.
Do we know what he was like at school?
Hahaha! Well I’m pretty sure he was a good kid. I don’t know if she was, though! But it’s quite incredible the amount that he’s achieved. It’s very inspiring for someone from your home town to have done all that.
He’s actually given me a question especially for this interview: “Nicholl, Woolbridge, Arundel or Polymond?”
Oh my God! That’s mad!! I was Polymond! That’s so funny. Those were the houses at our school. I don’t think they have them any more, though. I think I was in the last year that they did it.
Are you a Southampton fan like Will?
Yes, I am.
I did wonder if you’d have jumped ship to Leicester given their nickname is the Foxes.
Ah yes. I actually got asked to do a soundtrack for them! But, no, I’m a Saints fan through and through.
When did you get asked to do this tour?
I can remember exactly where I was. I was on my way back from Japan, which was really going to be my last touring promo trip before I started writing another record. And then we get an email from my agent in America saying “Chris would love you to join them on their US tour”. We were just about to get on the plane, and I was completely in shock! It was crazy. I was literally ready to get back into the studio, but I was like, this is the chance of a lifetime! I can’t turn this down! So that 12 hour flight was quite an exciting flight! It was such a nice thing that it was actually Chris and the guys that had invited me. I was really taken aback and grateful for the opportunity.
And how have the US dates been so far?
Just other worldly. That’s the only way I can make sense of it. It’s just an incredible experience, because not only is everyone so lovely, but the crowd are just so welcoming. When you’re a support act, you don’t really expect anyone to give a shit. But Coldplay fans are really in it to discover new music and they’re real musos. So I’ve had some of the best receptions.
And it could conceivably be the opposite for an opening act, right?
Completely. And that’s what I expected. I went into it in New York thinking it’s not easy to get people on your side that might not necessarily know who you are, and they’re there to see Coldplay. But it’s been amazing how lovely the audiences have been.
Have you met up with Alessia? Is she someone you knew before?
I’d never met her before. She’s awesome. I’m a fan of her’s, I think her voice is incredible. She’s just really got this cool laidback attitude that I really like. And she makes it all about the music. So I’ve watched her each night and, again, it’s been really inspiring. And her band is lovely. There’s a real family vibe.
Completely. We were talking earlier about how there’s such great energy on this tour, Everyone just goes away feeling so positive about the world, and there’s such an amazing message behind it.
Are you watching Coldplay every night?
Yeah, I have been. Actually, on the first night my mum was there and I’m pretty sure it changed her life. She was in tears. And I was as well. It was really amazing. But you can’t really not watch it every night. It’s such a huge show, you’re kind of drawn to watching it.
There are a few days off here and there on this – are you getting to do a bit of sightseeing?
Well, we were going to go to this mad museum today, the St Louis City Museum. It’s kind of like a theme park inside a museum, I think. But I can’t keep away from the tour catering.
Ah yes, catering is dangerous. It’s like walking into a really good quality several times a day and just helping yourself.
Exactly. Like a royal buffet!
What do you hope will come out of doing these shows?
I think for me it’s the whole experience. And to hopefully get a different crowd to listen to my music. To be put in front of that many people each night is very challenging, and you’re just hoping there’s some people who are going to enjoy it and take something away. But I feel like I’m learning so much watching them every night. There are things I can take on for when I’m doing my own shows in the future. It’s really inspiring when you see a show on that level. It really makes you want to step your game up.
For those people who are coming to the remaining shows – and I know a musician never loves this question – but how would you describe what you do?
I think my music is very personal, but I think I’m playing a really fun show, it’s half an hour and I’ve packed in the more upbeat songs. And I think it’s a really good show to warm people up for Coldplay. But you’re right, it *is* a really crap question and I hate it! Hahah!
Although, if you said you play avant garde nose flute, then at least people would know they probably didn’t need to get there too early.
Haha! Totally! it’s just not easy to describe what I do. People say I make heartbreak danceable. There’s definitely some melancholy in my music. Does that work?
Absolutely. And what have you got coming up after this tour?
I have lots of festivals lined up. I’m doing V Festival and a few others in the UK. And I’m playing Pride, which is always great fun. Then I’m going to see what happens. I’m going to keep writing. I write a lot of music for other people as well, so I’m constantly in the studio. And then I’m going to work on my next record.
Will you be working on songs while you’re on this tour?
Yeah, I wrote most of my second record while I was supporting on Pharrell’s tour. I’ll be trying to write here and there. I do a lot on my laptop.
So if there’s a song called the St Louis City Museum, then we’ll all know where it came from.
You will, but I hope there won’t be!
It might be the best song you ever write.
Hahaha! You’re right. You never know. I’ll just name all the songs after the places we play.
KFC Yum! Center would make a pretty good name for an album.
Yes! That’s the title! KFC Yum! It’s all been leading up to that one!
The final question is, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
Oh, that’s too difficult! I don’t know what to say.
What leaps into your mind?
Well, I was a really big fan of Ghost Stories, I had that on repeat. And I also love Christmas Lights. That is a massive song. I remember seeing them perform that at a Crisis gig that my sister put on. But I think the one I’ve always related to the most is quite an obvious one. So I’m going to say that my favourite Coldplay song is Fix You.
Why that one?
I think like every Coldplay song, it’s so relatable. There’s like a genius in the way they make the lyrics so simple, but you feel like they’ve written it about you. That song is just incredible.