Interview: Sandi Thom all grown up as Banff lass goes from flower-haired punk to blues rocker

Sandi Thom
Sandi Thom
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SANDI Thom then and Sandi Thom now. Plenty has changed for the Scot since she first sang, somewhat naively, about wanting to be a punk rocker with flowers in her hair.

The Banff-born lass burst onto the music scene in the summer of 2006 and for a brief time she was hailed an internet sensation, having scored a major record deal after webcasting her gigs from a dingy basement flat in Tooting, London.

She topped the charts with both her aforementioned breakthrough single, I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker, and her debut album, Smile... It Confuses People. But then came the backlash.

Critics claimed she wasn’t really a DIY phenomenon after all and that she had an ingenious marketing campaign behind her all along. Thom’s star fell as quickly as it had risen and her early success seemed consigned to history.

But while being dropped by Sony seemed like a major blow at the time, Thom now sees it as a blessing in disguise, allowing her, as it has, to build a credible career.

The million-selling singer’s switch from pop diva to gritty blues rocker began with 2010’s Merchants And Thieves, and she continues down that path on newbie Flesh And Blood, which has picked up favourable reviews since its September release.

Like its predecessor, the new album is far removed from Thom’s pop past - though she doesn’t like to think about her change of style as a reinvention, rather that she’s matured as a musician.

“Four records over six years - that’s all it is,” says the 31-year-old, speaking ahead of her visit to the HMV Picture House on Monday. “Over that time I’ve been listening to tons of different music genres and different artists, and I’ve been inspired by lots of new things.

“It’s just a progression, a journey. It’s about pointing your own sound, and I think I’ve kind of hit it with this album.”

It’s not just musically Thom has matured, but also as a person.

“Six years is a lot,” she agrees. “I was in my 20s when I started releasing my music and life changes.

“Everything I write is reflective of what’s going on around me - whether it’s about me or whether it’s about what’s outside of that. It’s all a direct reflection of my circumstances at the time.

“The first album has such innocence and youth to it and the second is much more slick and produced, which you can imagine it would be with a pop label behind it.

“I suppose the third album was a real revolt... it was about becoming independent as an artist and being free to do whatever I wanted to do. And also just being so into the blues at the time.

“This album is really where I found the real sound I’ve been looking for, which had always come from me being so influenced by Fleetwood Mac along the way.

“They’ve always been a huge influence on my music, and I can really hear that now, which is great.”

Thom now lives in Malibu with her partner Joe Bonamassa, the virtuoso American blues guitarist. She describes it as a beautiful part of the world, and says it’s very different to rainy Scotland.

“My boyfriend and I moved out to Malibu a year ago,” she says, without a hint of smugness. “We actually live in a really remote part where there’s not many people around, so it’s very peaceful and quiet.”

Thom is quick to add that she loves coming home to Scotland, and is back here all the time.

“Obviously I’ll be in Scotland next week for the gigs and my boyfriend and I will be spending Hogmanay in Edinburgh.”

Sandi Thom, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Monday, 7pm, £15, 0131-221 2280