Soundtrack Of My Life: Keane’s Tom Chaplin

Noughties indie legend. RAYE stan. Self-professed "good dancer"

The first song I remember hearing

Gene Cotton – ‘Me and the Elephant’

“My dad had this tape when I was a kid. The song resonated [with me] because it’s got a child-like quality to it lyrically. There’s a verse in it where he’s told he’s got to forget this person and he burns all the pictures of her apart from three, one he keeps by his bedside, one on his telly and one wherever he goes. I thought that was a really curious image.”

The first song I fell in love with

The Beatles – ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’


“I was a teenager at boarding school which was a miserable experience. I remember Tim [Rice-Oxley] from Keane, who was three years older than me and a bit of a big brother figure, told me how to play chords. There was a music room in the boarding house, where I used to go and sit for hours and write very bad songs, totally lost in my own little world. To have that sanctuary in one of those places, which was very male and suffocating, [was very important].”


The first album I ever bought or owned

‘Top Gun: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’

“It was the first time I had the desire to go out and actually buy something. I grew up in a small town and the only place you could buy music was the Friday Ad, a kind of countryside WHSmiths. The excitement of taking my pocket money and then bringing a thing home… kids these days don’t have that experience at all.”

The first gig I went to


Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded, Wembley Arena, July 25, 1995

“The guy next to me was smoking a joint and I was intrigued – ‘what the hell is that guy doing? Why does he keep setting fire to that little piece of mud?’ Then my cousin who was a bit older than me said ‘oh, he’s smoking a joint’. To be suddenly thrust into Wembley Arena and Led Zeppelin and joints, it set me off on a road I wanted to go down eventually.”

The song that reminds me of home

Gayle – ‘Abcdefu’

“My daughter just turned eight and she has Spotify and Apple Music so she digs things up. This song is about a jilted girlfriend saying ‘fuck you and your mum’. There’s a non-explicit version for kids, although somehow my daughter has managed to find the full explicit version which she delights in singing when she thinks no-one’s watching her.”

The song I wish I’d written

Bon Iver – ‘Holocene’

“It’s hard to put your finger on what it is about Bon Iver that’s so spellbinding, but he is. There’s this enigmatic quality to his music. So many times I’ve tried to sit down and write songs like that and think ‘it can’t be that hard’ but it’s really difficult. This particular song is a little bit more conventional, although its very hypnotic. I love the way it seems to somehow keep going and going.”

The song I do at karaoke

Queen – ‘It’s A Hard Life’

“I used to do karaoke every now and then when I got pissed or trashed. I would foalrun a million miles from doing it nowadays. I haven’t had a drink or drug for eight years. Karaoke is embarrassing if you’re a singer anyway – how are you gonna sing it without looking like you’re trying to show off? I got to perform this song with with Brian May and Roger Taylor at a Prince’s Trust thing about ten or 11 years ago and it was like karaoke on steroids.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

RAYE – ‘Natalie Don’t’

“I was asked to be a judge for the Ivor Novello Songwriter Of The Year a year or two ago. I got sent this whole list of different songs to listen to which were on the longlist and had a lovely three-hour judging panel on Zoom with a great bunch of people – Yannis from Foals and Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand. This was one of the songs I was fighting for. Nobody else seemed particularly into it, but I think it’s a really great bit of pop writing. ”

The song I can no longer listen to

Keane – ‘You Haven’t Told Me Anything’

“I know it’s weird choosing a Keane song, but there’s something very particular about that song. I think it’s fantastically written but it reminds me of a time in our lives. It was when I first went to rehab in quite a public way in the mid to late-2000s. I was coming to terms with what had happened with Keane and how it had become really successful out of nowhere. Obviously I had coped in a very chaotic way… There was such a weird and unhealthy toxic atmosphere to Keane at that point that it really held us back and damaged us as a band. It’s only really been since we [reunited in 2018] that we’ve become a bit softer and more understanding.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Röyksopp – Poor Leno – ‘Poor Leno’

“That album came out probably late-‘90s or 2000s, and I remember going to see them at the Astoria stoned off my face. I think it was my birthday actually and I danced all night. I think I’m a good dancer but no-one’s ever complimented me on it! It’s important to be blind to what the truth might be in that regard…”

The song I want played at my funeral

Bill Faye – ‘Never Ending Happening’

“He released a few records in the ‘70s and then his life fell apart a bit. I think he had some mental health problems, but ten or 12 years ago he got a bunch of songs written and released this really beautiful album. This for me is the stand-out song. It couldn’t be written by a young person. It has the benefit of a life’s worth of perspective and that’s why it seems an appropriate song for one’s ending. There’s a humanity to it, an understanding of the mysteriousness of being alive and that you have to roll with the ups and downs.”

Tom Chaplin’s new solo album ‘Midpoint’ will be released on September 2

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