Tom Parker, one fifth of The Wanted, is back with vengeance. Straying from his popish, boyband roots, Tom has been honing his DJ skills over the past months, pushing house and dance genres to the forefront of his music. He recently released two tracks on Soundcloud, “Undiscovered” and “Finally” which shows the world the kind of music he wants to release.
I got the opportunity to meet with Tom at London’s eye catching Lights of Soho, to talk about his solo project.
Hi Tom – firstly, it’s great to hear new music from you! How did you get into DJing in the first place?
Thank you! I used to DJ back in the day, when I was like 15/16, way before I got into the band. I used to DJ on vinyls and I used to play drum and bass music, I did that for two or three years. I’ve always kinda been into dance music. I have a real eclectic music taste, I like rock, indie, dance music. I wasn’t ever really interested in pop music until I got into the band. That’s when I auditioned for it – even then I didn’t really know what I was auditioning for, and then it just became apparent as the auditions went down that it was for a boyband, which I was a bit like, “oh, not sure how I feel about that!”.
DJing has always been something of interest to me, I think when we decided to take a hiatus, I wanted to go back to it and do something a little bit different. I think the natural thing is to come out of a band and be like “oh yeah I want to do a solo record as a singer” but with me, I just want to do something different. I wanted to make people go, “you know what, that’s pretty cool”. It’s a tough genre to be in, I think coming out of the pop market and going into a dance market is hard work. I think if the music’s right and the product’s right then people will get over the fact that I was once in a boyband.
Does that mean that you’re not going to be singing on any of your future songs?
I think I will do, I think people like Calvin Harris has a fine balance between singing on certain records and producing records. When you come out of a band as a singer, you really have to distinguish what you are as an artist, and what I am as an artist is a producer and the DJing kinda comes with that, as in live stuff. Ultimately my main focus is engineering and producing music.
How does it feel to have sole control over the music that you produce now?
It’s good! Yeah it’s really nice to have the freedom to be able to go into the studio and be like “I want to create this today, I wanna write something a bit different”. Even in the band, we wrote quite a lot of the stuff. Not so much the singles, there were a few that we wrote but generally 80% of the album was pretty much written or contributed to by ourselves. In that sense, from a writing topline lyrics and melody wise, it was always that, but with what I’m doing now, it’s more engineering music and creating beats, piano melody or riffs. It’s nice just to be able to have a bit more musical freedom
Do you feel pressure to shake off the boyband tag because your current music is different to that of The Wanted’s, and how have people reacted to your new music so far?
The reaction’s been good, really good actually! I think naturally the fans would want to hear me sing and that’s cool as I will sing on certain records going forward. I’ve sang a few records that I’ve been making in the studio, but like I said I think you have to really distinguish what you are as an artist and ultimately I have to separate myself as a vocalist before and producing music now.
Have you been working with anyone in the studio and is there anyone in particular that you’d like to work with in the future?
You know what, it’s literally just been me by myself and the reason why that is, I think when you’re in a band you work with such a wide variety of writers and producers and for me, I just wanted to go “I’m gonna go to the studio and write what I want to write”. Obviously when you’re in a band, you meet loads of people, topliners that want to come in and stuff, like Ki Fitzgerald who wrote quite a lot of stuff on our albums, I’m really close with him and he’s come in to do a few records.
I think I just want to concentrate on getting the music right first and then think about pushing it out, I want to keep it commercial but with a cool edge. I’d rather work with new and upcoming talent that no-one really knows than go out and get a world famous singer. I like the fact that I’ve gone from being in a successful band and now I’m stripping it right back and pretty much going back to the start again which would scare some people. Yeah it’s scary, cos you’re going into a whole new genre and new chapter in your career but I like the fact that you start from the bottom and work your way through.
One of your latest tracks is a remix of the classic song ‘Finally’. How do you go about finding suitable songs to remix?
I think it’s just records that I grew up with. That’s a song from the early 90’s so it was just a touch before my time as a teenager but those songs, they never die, they’re classic dance records. I think there’s been a massive resurgence of old classics being redone again. I heard the record somewhere, and thought “that song needs a new production on it” so I sat there with a co-producer and we made the record!
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You’ve been taking part in the Official Charts’ After Party gigs recently, how’s that been going?
Both gigs have been at Universities and I love that University crowd. I didn’t actually go to University, I just lived there at my pal’s house! He lived in Sheffield and I remember living there for about six months and we just used to go to the student’s union. Back in the day even before Chase and Status were big, there was Underground, Scream, Benga, all these people used to play there before they were big and we just used to go there and rave and I loved it! So I love that University crowd because they’re always up for a good night.
You’ve got lots of DJ sets lined up, including a headline set at Festive All. How do you like to warm up before a gig?
Hmm…I like a few beers to be honest! Not too many, as long as I can see my laptop and I can see the decks, I’m in good shape. I’m quite relaxed backstage, I do get a bit nervous now as this is all a little bit new to me, it’s the start of a new journey. When I used to be in the band you just do it, you go into pilot mode and get on with it. I do get a little bit nervous but I enjoy it, I love being behind the decks and love watching people enjoy music and that’s the most important thing.
You’re not the first ex boyband member to go down the DJing route. Marvin Humes from JLS became a DJ and even has his own show on Capital. Is presenting something you’d also like to go into?
You know what, I’ve never really considered it up until recently. It’s not that I’m dismissing it but ultimately I want to concentrate just solely on music. There will be things down the line, or things that interest me and something that’s relative to what I’m interested in. I could go into the jungle, but is it relative or am I interested in it? It would be a great experience but at this present time in my career I just want to be in the studio and make music.
Who inspires you musically?
I like a lot of different people, I like commercial artists like Calvin (Harris), Martin Garrix, Nicky Romero, those kind of people but from all aspects of music, I love Oasis, Sterophonics, Manic Street Preachers. I just have a really wide eclectic music taste which I think helps when writing music. You can listen to a dance song and you can listen to a rock song and ultimately you’ll be able to take some influence from both, even though they’re two separate genres. I think to have a wide taste in music really helps moving forward with what I’m doing.
Do you have a favourite song that you like to include in your set, something that really gets the crowd going?
There’s one song by a guy called Tchami, the genre’s called ‘Future House’. It’s really dirty and he’s a really cool producer. I expect the readers to go and check him out cos he’s so cool, he does amazing production. For me, I just like to listen to other producers and see how they produce. It’s still relatively new to me so I like listening to different types of music, and see how can I take what he’s done and twist it to make it my own.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never p*** people off. Cos when you get to the top, there’s only one way down so I think it’s nice to always be nice to people. In fact it was Guy Chambers that said that, “always be nice to people” cos I don’t think there’s any place to be a d*** in this industry to be honest with you, I don’t see why you’d want to be.
Alongside your DJing/producing, you’ve also been managing a new girl group called Sweet Riot. How are you finding that experience?
It’s good but it’s hard, the industry’s really hard at the moment. It’s interesting, because when I was in the band I always took a bit more of a managerial role in the group, so it’s been nice to be able to look at it from the other side and not being the artist. I’m trying to mentor them and be like “don’t do this”, or “do this”, show the mistakes that I made as an artist, mistakes that were made around us as a group. It’s nice to pass on advice and it’s nice to work with new and upcoming talent
In the past you launched your own clothing range called #Hashtagz, do you have any plans to revisit this in the future?
I think so! I haven’t done anything with it for a little bit and it’s something that I loved doing. Fashion for me, I’ve got a real interest in, more so after the band. When we were in the band there were people who worked behind the scenes saying what you should wear but now that I’ve come out of the band it’s been nice to be able to have a bit more freedom, this is how I want my individual style to look.
We’ve touched on this briefly but Jay’s doing brilliantly on Strictly at the moment. You of course did Celebrity Masterchef, however would you ever consider doing another reality show?
I don’t know, I think it’s one of those things that you have to make a decision of at the time. When opportunities arise, you have to go, is that something I want to do or that I’m interested in? I think Marvin (Humes) has got a really good fine balance between his music and doing This Morning and presenting on The Voice so I think it’s a matter of, if it ties in with what you’re trying to achieve as an artist, then it’s cool and if it’s got an interest to you then I don’t see why not.
What is the ultimate career goal for you in the future as a solo act?
I just want to make music that people enjoy. Ultimately, I want people to take it at face value and not go “well I don’t like it because he was in a boyband”. I want people to go, “I really like that record even though he was in The Wanted”, that’s my ultimate goal.
Tom also took the time to answer some fan questions from Twitter.
How do you like to relax? @KirstyLauraLoo
I like watching telly especially with my dogs! When you’re in the band travelling you don’t really have time to sit and relax watching TV with your mad dogs or your girlfriend so it’s been quite nice just to do that.
Do you prefer being solo or being a part of a group? @TomParkerFR
That is a tough one! I like the freedom of being a solo artist but I miss having the boys around, all the banter and the laughs that we used to have. We had a right laugh on tour, I do miss having them around to cause mischief.
What one word describes you the best? @jxciara
What’s your favourite memory from your time as a musician so far? @helz999
There’s a lot but probably running with the Olympic torch. That was a really special moment cos we got to do a lot behind the scenes with people that deserved to run with it. We didn’t really deserve to, we were just a band, but there was actually people who really deserved it and it was nice to watch people being rewarded by doing something so honourable.
What’s the best way to write music? @IzaTWFanmily
I think the best way to write music is to not force music, I can be in the studio for seven days a week and there’ll probably only be three days out of that seven where I go “this is really coming together, this is going to go somewhere”. The other four days, I’ll be sat there thinking, this is not happening. Sometimes you’re just in the studio and it’s not working and you just walk away and you go and do something else like walk the dog, or make tea. You have to say no sometimes as it’s really easy to force things and you just end up writing s***.
You’re known for being opinionated and often share your political thoughts. If you were PM what would be the first rule that you’d implement?
I’d make student fees free. The future of this country relies on young people and to charge them £9000 a year for further education is just daylight robbery. I think Scotland have got it spot on, it should be free as they’re the people that are going to ultimately go out and pay taxes and to charge people for it is disgusting.
There’s been several tweets from people in the South West, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore etc asking when you’ll be visiting again – do you have any plans for a DJ tour?
I think ultimately that would be the longer term goal over the next couple of years, to be able to branch out and play festivals over in Mexico, like they have Ultra in South America and Mexico. At the moment, it’s just about laying the foundations and going back to basics, playing clubs and re-engaging my fanbase through the band and a new fanbase and making people go, “this is cool, I’m into this!”
Have you got plans to release new music soon? @hobbs_samantha / @AniiLobzhanidze
Yes, it’s actually an original song, it will probably be uploaded onto Soundcloud over the next few weeks. I’ve written it with Ki Fitzgerald, and it reminds me a little bit of Runnin’ by Naughty Boy and Beyoncé. It’s got a really beautiful topline melody but the drop in the chorus is really dirty and house. I’m excited by that one actually.
Lastly, the question most people have been asking…you and the rest of The Wanted boys are all extremely busy with your solo projects at the moment but is there hope for a reunion in the future?
I would hope so. I do miss being with the boys to be honest with you. I think there will be, I don’t know when that will be but I would hope so. I’d be rooting for it at some point. Everyone’s doing their own thing, Nath’s having success as a solo artist, Jay’s on Strictly but yeah I would hope that some point in the future, we’d go “let’s go and do some stuff again”. It just depends on demand doesn’t it? If people want it to happen then, cool! If they don’t want it to happen then it won’t.
Thank you so much for your time Tom, good luck with your project!
You can listen to one of Tom’s tracks, “Undiscovered”, below.
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