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Singer Tom Chaplin: ‘Middle age is interesting and unexplored’

September is a strange time of year for having a spring clean, but that’s exactly what Keane frontman and solo artist Tom Chaplin was up to when he spoke to the Cambridge Independent from his home in Kent.

Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson
Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson

“It’s probably at the wrong time of year but it always puts me in quite a good mood,” says Tom, 43, adding that he spent much of the summer “basically catching up on a load of Keane shows that we were meant to do during Covid times”.

The father-of-two adds: “We had the forest tour which we did, which was fantastic – yeah, lovely because it felt like everyone was in a very celebratory mood and finally, more-or-less free of the pandemic in terms of rules and regulations – and obviously it’s always a pleasure to do the Keane songs.”

Described as “a warm, engaging record” by the Daily Mail, Tom’s latest solo effort, Midpoint – his third studio album, released on September 2 – deals with the subject of midlife. The current single Gravitational, with its evocative accompanying film starring Niamh Cusack, paints a picture of a man who is both bemused and confused with thoughts of his life at this stage.

The artist, 43, began writing the songs for Midpoint two years ago when Keane’s Cause and Effect tour was interrupted by the pandemic, meaning that some of the tracks were written and recorded during lockdown.

“I felt like a lot of the questions that I ended up exploring on the record were things that started to come up prior to the Covid pandemic,” explains Tom, who appeared on ITV’s The Masked Singer earlier this year.

“There were things I was thinking about: my life and particularly getting to a certain age, and I started to think ‘I really would love to get some time where I can actually sit in my studio and work on some new music’.

“But we were right in the middle of a Keane tour and a Keane campaign at the time, so if there was a silver lining to the Covid situation it was that I was able to get in my studio and focus on getting all these songs out that were inside me. So I spent quite a lot of the lockdowns at home writing.”

Tom Chaplin’s new album, Midpoint
Tom Chaplin’s new album, Midpoint

How is Tom finding middle age? “I think it’s a really interesting part of life,” he replies, “and I feel like it’s something that’s not really explored... as far as I’m aware at least not explored in any great detail on any pop or rock record.

“I think partly because it’s potentially seen as an uncool subject, or it’s an area that a lot of musicians are trying to run in the opposite direction away from, because certainly the perception of music and the music industry is that it’s a younger person’s game.

“But interestingly enough, I think there’s now more room for older artists and also by extension exploring those kind of subjects... Whilst I think music is at its most appealing when you’re young or a teenager or whatever, people still continue to love music as they get older and it still speaks to them about life and their experience.

“So I just think it’s important, for me at least, to keep trying to articulate that stuff for myself and then I guess by extension if it resonates with people that’s a really great thing.”

Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson
Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson

The star continues: “It’s a lot of questions, I think, that’s the sense that I’ve had about this time in life. A lot of questions about being old enough to recognise your own mortality but young enough to realise there’s still enough time, hopefully, to either capitalise on what you’ve got or to tear it all down and start again – or to make adjustments to your life to really make the most of the time that you do have remaining.

“So that’s definitely one side of it, but I think also just the idea that you have to say goodbye to a certain part of life, and that can be quite a wrench. A lot of what provokes a midlife crisis is a desire to get back to something that’s gone, like trying to be young again.

“All those clichés of like leaving your partner and starting up with someone new, or wanting to spend more time down the pub, or buying a fast car or a load of stuff that you don’t really need... I think it’s all trying to recapture something that’s gone.

“So I suppose I wanted to try and talk about that sense of how in a way you have to mourn the loss of that but also move on from it and recognise what you do have and what is important and what’s going to make you happy as life goes on. I think the album explores lots of those little facets of what it is to get a bit older.”

The songs on Midpoint, all founded on reflection and imagination, were recorded in six weeks at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath and Paul Epworth’s The Church in North London. On which of the 13 tracks especially stand out for him, Tom says: “I think the title track particularly, because I feel like it’s a song that summed up a lot of what I wanted to write about.

“It goes on a real journey; it starts in a place of doubt and fear about getting older, but actually as the song goes on it recognises the importance of knowing yourself and knowing what your home is and what centres you. Then the final part of the song is about standing back and celebrating that.

Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson
Tom Chaplin. Picture: Derek Hudson

“Then a lot of the other songs on the record sort of fed off from that. There’s a song called Stars Align, which is one of the lyrics that I’m most pleased about on the record. It’s about how when I was younger I was really driven in a certain direction at the expense of often taking little detours or left turns or whatever it might have been.

“These days I think it’s much more interesting just to say, ‘Well, there’s great energy there and I’ll go there and I’ll do that’. That’s certainly the way I treat making music these days; I wouldn’t do it for the sake of it or put myself through the wringer and do things I don’t want to do.

“It’s very instinctive or a feeling where this seems like an interesting avenue to go down, I’ll take it. There’s a couple of love songs as well... I think obviously that’s a big part of midlife, particularly from my own perspective.

“I’ve been with my partner for nearly 20 years so we have a very different kind of relationship to the sort of relationship you write about when you’re 21 or whatever, or the heartbreak that you write about when you’re 21.

“There’s much more experience and baggage as well, but there’s also a deeper love. There’s a couple of songs – Gravitational and Overshoot – which both explore that subject, I suppose a kind of nuanced view of love and long-term love.”

[Read more: New Turin Brakes album, Wide-Eyed Nowhere, out today, Madeleine Peyroux: If it’s not beautiful, it’s not interesting]

On his upcoming tour, which comes to the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Saturday, October 8, Tom says he’ll be performing “a bit of everything” so expect to hear songs from his solo career and Keane favourites such as Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing – as well as some Keane rarities.

“I want to have people from the audience ask questions, I want it to feel like a conversation,” says Tom, “whether that’s just by talking to the audience or having people submit stuff on social media. I want it to feel interactive so it’s not a big, posturing rock show, that it’s more of ‘An Evening with...’

“Because I suppose with Keane it’s more of a posturing rock show, whereas I want this to feel like a different experience for people.”

For more information and to book tickets, visit cornex.co.uk. For more on Tom Chaplin, go to tomchaplinmusic.com.

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