As a member of Snow Patrol, Dundonian Tom Simpson enjoyed massive international success, playing to thousands of fans and selling millions of records. But in August last year he called time on his career with the band after nearly 16 years with the group.
Tom first met his former band mates while he was studying for a Fine Art at Dundee University’s DJCAD. The story says they invited him to watch a gig they were playing, he liked it, they invited him to join the band and the rest, as they say, is history.
He became part of the band in 1996. Long before they went platinum five times, sold more than 12 million albums around the world, got nominated for six Brit Awards and won ‘Song of the Decade’ with the hit tune Chasing Cars.
Not bad for a band that was started by students at Dundee University.
Tom’s last gig with Snow Patrol was in Belfast on Thursday, August 15. As you can see in the video and picture above, it was quite an emotional night and he was given a rousing send off – complete with a very impressive cake.
We caught up with him to ask about his plans for the future, how he’s enjoying life back in the Dee and how his first show since leaving the band went. And, for somebody who has enjoyed so much success, he was genuine, approachable and warm throughout.
So Tom, how’s life been since you came back to Dundee?
Things are a lot slower now; retiring from the band meant I went from doing 5 gigs a week to probably just doing one good one a month. So I’m enjoying that it’s slowed down and I’m just finding my way. I’m enjoying being not so busy but I’m still doing music – more on an electronic level. I’ve got a few projects that will see the light of day soon.
I’m away to start painting again soon as well as – I’ve still got a degree in fine art after all.
What’s prompted you to get back into art?
I don’t know. When I joined the band [17 years ago] I was at a crossroads in my life.
I was still making art and DJ’ing but then I was given the chance to join the band and I just took it. It was like running away with the circus. It seemed exciting and I wanted to give it a go.
But now I’ve left it behind and I’m trying to sort of pick up things where I left them – maybe it’s just something you do in your 40s – start panicking about things.
And why did you decide to come back to Dundee?
I’ve always kept my roots in Dundee. I’ve had a cottage just outside Dundee for the last seven years so I was also finding ways to visit and spend time with friends.
Even when I was living in Glasgow, I was always coming through to Dundee every other weekend. I never wrote that link off and I never burned that bridge.
Have you got any plans of doing anything musically now you’re back?
Well, I feel like I can use all the skills that I’ve learned from being with Snow Patrol, all the amazing stuff I’ve learnt from working with the guys. Maybe try to use that to do something for myself. I’m looking forward to it and want to enjoy it; I’ll just see where it goes.
I’m under no pressure to produce anything of any quality, no pressure to come up with any hit records. It might be a hip hop record, it might be techno – I really don’t know.
I don’t have a timetable at all. There are a couple of personal things I need done at the moment – but when I’ve got a studio and a proper work space I think I’ll be inviting people to come down and play for me.
The Dundee music scene is looking quite healthy at the moment, have you heard much?
To be honest I’m more involved with the people from the underground, more electronic stuff really. The people hiding in basements who only come out at night.
There are so many people out there and you bump into them; they’ll link you to their Soundcloud accounts and it’ll be really good and I’ll think ‘why aren’t you releasing anything?’
It would be great to use some of these guys and to elevate them but as I say I’m not in a rush to do anything too soon. I’m enjoying the transitional stage from being really busy to not being busy.
I’m enjoying my space at the moment and being with friends and family and popping down to see old band mates and things like that.
I spoke to you before you performed at the Rhumba Launch Party last month, how did that go?
It was brilliant. It was excellent. I knew it was going to be great but, speaking from my own sets point of view, I wasn’t quite sure how it would go.
It turned out that the room was packed and I was playing a mix of old stuff and some old Liberty City Records and people were going for it.
It’s nice to know that they’ve managed to stand the test of time. It was great fun and when the big guys were on and I had a walk around the club – and did a wee bit of dancing of course I did.
It was great just to see people enjoying themselves, it’s a great night to have in Dundee.
They do that party well and I’m looking forward to working with the guys behind it in the future.
Will you be doing any shows in Dundee any time soon?
I think I’m playing at the Electrode night at Fat Sams. I think that’s in April. So that’s a nice one and after that is the Dundee Dance Event – I think I’m doing a couple of events at that which should be good too.
Way back I used to do a night in Dundee called Spaceships and I’m doing that again at the Dundee Dance Event. We even had people dancing during the day for the last one so I’m really looking forward to that.
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