Tom Odell & the Meet with a Poem project

words Lee Taylor

Yes, our electronic devices are a godsend but sometimes they are a pain. They can be an aid to creativity with a myriad of apps to choose from but sometimes the only way of getting something done is to switch them off. With World Coffee Day approaching on October 1st, renowned coffee maker Julius Meinl have come up with a great new way of connecting with each other over a cuppa.

Meet with a Poem invites people to meet up and write together a poem or a song and get a free coffee or tea in return. Celebrated singer and lyricist Tom Odell is backing the project and loves the idea of people leaving behind their devices for an hour or so to create something together. We met up with Tom to talk about his own approach to writing and music.

I know lyrics are important to you. How do the words come to you? Do you sit down to write a song or do the words come more naturally over time? 

The music usually comes first, and it is the feel of the music that often inspires the words I write. Whilst the central theme of the song will come quickly, I tend to chip away at the bulk of the words over a few weeks or so. Sometimes longer. I take my time. As whilst a novelist has tens of thousands of words to get their point across, us songwriters will commonly have just a few minutes, so each word really counts.  

When did you first start writing?

I first started writing songs when I was about 12 or 13. It was a great revelation to me, and I remember the day very clearly when I was realised I could do it. It was as if I had discovered a brand new language. Song writing in my teen years was always a great antidote to the often-challenging moments of adolescence. All my first songs were about the girl that didn’t love me back. But as I grew older, I realised that so much more could be said with songs. It really is such a powerful medium of art that I am obsessed with today as I was that very first day. 

Did writing help you define yourself as you were growing up?

Yes. It helped in so many ways. Writing is incredibly cathartic and when I rarely feel complete without a pen and notepad in my bag. 

Of all your songs which one is the most autobiographical?

I’m not sure about that. To a degree they all are equally. I can only write from experience. But that experience might not always be something I have felt, it might be something I have observed or understood someone else has felt. I think a huge part of being a good songwriter is healthy amount of empathy. The desire to understand what it means to be somebody else. 

Do you prefer to work alone or to collaborate?

I used to be quite a stickler for my songs to always be 100% mine. But these days I am less concerned with the process and more concerned with the outcome. Collaboration can be incredibly fruitful, and music is always better when shared. But admittedly a big part of my process is done alone.  

How important is it for us to leave side our phones and meet up together and talk?

Very important! Every day I try to do a bit of my day with my phone. And it always makes me feel free and lots happier. Of course, phones aren’t all bad, but like my doctor always tells me, everything in moderation Tom.

Did you write poetry or was it always lyrics?

I write a lot of lyrics that never make it to songs. But I guess I always write them with the ambition being they will eventually make it. I could probably put a whole poetry book out of lyrics that have never made it to their marriage with melody. Perhaps I could call the book, ’The rejected words’?

You are part of Julis Meinl’s Meet with a Poem initiative. Why did you want to get involved?

I think it’s a lovely sentiment. Free coffee for a poem. Amazing! 

To find out more about Meet With A Poem, and how you can be involved, visit www.facebook.com/JuliusMeinlOfficial and www.meinlcoffee.com, or Julius Meinl’s YouTube channel. Follow the social conversation using #MeetWithAPoem and #PoetryForChange.  

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