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Tom Williams

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

Show time: Friday 7 July - 7.05pm - 7.30pm

It’s a strange story. A folk-rock band – signed to Moshi Moshi, beloved of BBC 6 Music, support act to Adele – nearly make it in the business, but not quite. Their frontman packs it all in and turns to teaching, with no plans to make a record again. Then, in 2017, he produces the album of his career – with the help of some school children, and a group of first year students from Leeds.

Tom Williams, formerly helmsman of Tom Williams & The Boat, wrote his fifth album All Change in practice rooms across Kent, in breaks from teaching guitar and songwriting to primary and secondary school children. Lyrics came to him on the long daily drives from his home in Hastings. And the band? Music tech students, who helped him out on an artist-in-residence programme. Not that you can tell.

All Change is an album made on a shoestring that sounds like a big budget classic: a reflection of Williams’ life-long love affair with 1970s American rock showcasing a new refinement to his songwriting, and a more commercial edge – “a celebration of the big chord change and the emotional sucker-punch line,” as he puts it. Think Asbury Park by way of Hastings – an unexpected trump card from someone who’d put rock and roll dreams to rest.

In January 2016 Williams’ new songs came to life when he was offered a week-long artist-in-residence job at the music department of Leeds Beckett University. He said he’d do it if they could provide him with a band – who turned out to be six 19 year-old music tech students including Jack Clayton (drums), Jake Mehew (keys) and Igor Dall’Avanzi on bass.

All the boys’ lead parts appear on the final album. “They were the best band I’ve ever had,” Williams says. “I was there pretending to be a success, and they were there pretending to be a band, and we met in the middle and bluffed each other, and it worked.”

All Change offers a touching and honest commentary on the mindset of a musician who was prepared to hang up his guitar and take on life’s other challenges. The funny thing is, now he doesn’t have to.

“There’s a sentimentality and earnestness to these songs, and I’ve got to the stage in my life when I just don’t care anymore,” says Williams. “I’m dad dancing at my own wedding now.”

Maybe he was a few months back – but the future is wide open again. The plan is to tour as much as possible this summer with the new band – Jake, Jack and Igor. If they can get time off from lectures, that is...