By: Kat Harlton
Since being named the winner of the 2008 season of Canadian Idol, Singer-songwriter and Alberta native,Theo Tams has experienced a lot and his new single “Strangers” is a reflection of that maturity. The single combines emotional lyrics and Tams’ powerful vocals taking cues from Sam Smith and Adele. Pulling from his personal experiences, the track emphasizes the ups and downs of a relationship and sees Tams fully expressing himself as an artist.
Tams grew up in the small town of Coaldale, Alberta, into a strict and Reformed Christian Dutch family. He sang in church and at home had access to a music cabinet of mostly sacred music. At 16, he started writing original music and three years later recorded an EP, influenced by Sarah McLachlan, The Script and Jann Arden. Nine months after he came out to his parents, Theo landed a spot on Canadian Idol in 2008 and eventually won what would be the show’s final season. He released his debut full-length, Give It All Away, in 2009 and eventually worked with Slaight Music for his EP, Back Pocket. Although Theo has already had a successful career, he has used his experiences to fully develop his creative vision for his upcoming EP Call The Doctor due out this September.
We had the opportunity to discuss Tams latest single, songwriting inspiration and Canadian Idol.
Kat: Could you talk about the inspiration behind your latest single “Strangers”?
Theo: “Strangers” was written about a breaking point. A lot of songs on the EP are. “Strangers” specifically touches on that moment in a relationship where you literally ask the question “who are you? You’re not who I thought you were…” There is a real feeling of being used which I feel really adds to the passion and vibe of the track.
Kat: What is your songwriting process like?
Theo: I guess it really depends on the session. My phone is full of voice notes- sometimes just 4-5 seconds of a lyric thought, a melody idea, or a concept. I’ve felt that really helped shape this album; being able to sort through all these small moments and decipher where there was potential. Most of the time when inspiration hits- I’m not in the studio. I’m out walking, or I’ll wake up from a dream, and I have to capture those moments and get them recorded. The phone has come in handy, just need more storage now haha.
Kat: Could you speak a little on your musical idols or role models?
Theo: I’m inspired by many different artists for different reasons. I’ve always appreciated Jann Arden, not just because of her melodies and stories, but because of her openness and candidness. I really admire the vulnerability, we need more artists like that. I appreciate Adele and Sam Smith for allowing great songs to just be great songs, there isn’t a lot of showboating, there is just beautiful stories and incredible voices singing those stories. That’s the music I make, and I love watching them and learning from them.
Kat: Have you ever been given any advice in regard to your music career that you felt you really connected with or made an impact? Or do you have any advice that you think would be useful to new artists?
Theo: The one thing I was told, almost 10 years ago, from one of my favorite artists was “in this industry, persistence means more than talent”. I will never forget that, and there has been numerous times where I wanted to throw in the towel, and that sentiment got my ass back into the studio again. There are no guarantees in this industry, but if you feel it is your purpose to create music and tell your stories, then you do just that. Payoff or not, it’s an artistic responsibility.
Kat: How did winning Canadian Idol impact your life? Would you do it again if given the chance?
Theo: Idol was a really great experience for me, I know some who have come out of the franchise that didn’t necessarily have the same experience I did. I was going through a lot personally at that time; I was in the process of coming out, dealing with a lot of anxiety because of it so Idol really was a welcomed distraction and was the first taste and learning experience of how to channel anxiety and self-doubt into my music. Would I do it again? No- but not because it wasn’t a really cool opportunity but because there are new and different opportunities waiting for me. Shows like that can often be a bit of a double-edged sword in this industry- it’s why I really like the concept behind “The Launch”, there is a lot more artistic collaboration from the contestants. They’re involved in a way that we didn’t get to be involved in on Idol.
For more on Theo Tams please visit: http://www.theotamsmusic.com