The man, the voice, the legend

Tom Jones: the man, the voice, the legend. He can teach you a thing or two about fame - so read on.

Looks come later, and the showmanship, but the voice itself has to be natural. The tone is the thing. I would listen to singers on the radio and I would think, ‘I’m not hearing anybody singing any better than I am.’ I didn’t hear anybody and think, ‘Wow! Shit, if I could only sing like that!’ I heard people that I could sing as good as, I felt, so I had to go and prove it.

If you’re recording more middle-of-the-road songs, once you go onstage you can really let rip. You get your foot in the door, get played on the radio, but then say: ‘Wait a minute. Have a listen to what I do.’ I used to open my show with ‘Midnight Hour’. So it was always there. I thought, ‘It’ll happen. It’ll turn around again’. But meanwhile, as long as you’re recording and as long as the people are still coming to see you; that’s the thing that kept me going more than anything else. I never walked on stage to an empty house. The gigs might’ve got smaller, but the people kept coming.

It’s the people you grow up with. They’re your real friends because there’s nothing else. A lot of my friends in school used to say to me, ‘Tom, you’ve got to go to London. Your voice, man!’ So my voice has always been a part of maybe who my friends are as well - even growing up. That was my strength. I was a shit soccer player and I wasn’t any good at rugby; my thing was my voice - always. So I would make friends, even then, because of that. I think a lot of people have liked me, not only because I can sing, but it’s been a part of my personality that has been there since I was a child.

When you grow up in a working class environment and you’re playing these working men’s clubs, whatever happens you try to take advantage of it. If someone throws a beer bottle at you, you try and catch it and say, ‘Thanks very much’; you work it in, make light of it. So when all the underwear started coming in I thought, ‘Wow, great.’ I’d pick it up, wipe my brow, and all that shtick, which I thought was part of it. But no, it backfired. People were saying, ‘Tom Jones came onstage and this and that happened...’ I thought, ‘Christ, they’re not even mentioning my voice. What about the music?’ People would think ‘Tom Jones’ and ‘Throw knickers at him’. Thank God it’s gone away now. That was the only drawback: my image overshadowed my talent. But, you know, if I’m going to be performing like that, you can’t say, ‘Well, I never meant to be a sex symbol.’

Writing songs does not come easy to me. My talent doesn’t lie there. But I feel like I’m an actor. An actor will take a script and make it their own. They’re not writing it but they’re acting it, they’re bringing that thing to life. That’s what I do with songs really; give them my own thing, pour myself into the way that I hear it.

You have to have determination. If you’re going to crumble with your first knockback you’re not gonna last long. You’ve got to push through that. You’ve got to have faith in yourself; you’ve got to like the way you sound and what you do, and then you can go forward. If you want to do it then do it, and don’t be scared of what people will think. Be satisfied with yourself first and it will show.

The new album ‘Spirit In The Room’ is out now.

Interview by Simon Harper

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