Ipswich: Armatrading makes Tom’s Regent wish come true

As wedding presents go, the chance to open for legendary singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading isn’t bad.

“Tell me about it. It was a fantastic return,” says Tom Sanderson who’ll be doing just that when her Starlight tour comes to the Ipswich Regent on October 11.

“My bass player brought in a cutting from your paper. I applied; thought no more of it and then when we came back from our belated honeymoon the first e-mail I had was from Joan’s record company saying I’d been chosen for Ipswich. I was just absolutely dumbstruck,” he laughs.

The gig’s a dream come true for Sanderson.

“I’m so excited; the first gig I went to was at the Regent; that was Shakin’ Stevens and I was eight. Even then I looked and said ‘one day I want to play that stage’.

“I went for a competition there a couple of years ago; the only reason I went for it is because they said auditions held at the Regent and I thought ‘oh, even though it’s an audition I’ll get to play on the stage’ and it wasn’t - it was in the bar,” he laughs.

“I wasn’t brave enough to sing on me own [this time] so my best friend and a guy who I’ve been making music with for the last five years now, Joe Taylor, is going to be backing me up on acoustic guitar.”

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Armatrading started a search for a regional singer songwriter to open the show in their home town or city last year. One of those picked was current X Factor star Lucy Spraggan. All will not only perform on the night, they will also have a track featured on a special three CD package available for sale at all the venues on the tour.

As much as he hates the phrase, Sanderson describes his songs as acoustic pop; infused with everything from rock to Motown.

“The first gig I did I was ten. At school I used to write songs and they were pretty much dreadful, appalling, but I kept on with it because the people who influenced me, like Dire Straits and Gary Moore, they were all writing their own stuff and I wanted to do that.”

It was only when he went travelling ten or so years ago, listening to the likes of Jack Johnson and Jason Miraz that he found the songs he could write.

“I couldn’t get them out before,” he laughs. “It also helped I had stuff to write about; growing up in Essex with a middle class background, I didn’t have much angst. Experiencing life… it gave me a voice.”

Sanderson’s lived in Ipswich for about five years. Before that he was in Colchester.

Right now the 38-year-old is working on the follow-up to debut album Righting All My Wrongs.

“A lot of the songs are from when I was in Australia… quite a lot are about love and breaking up with women,” he laughs. “That age old story, but thankfully no more.”

No stranger to the live gig circuit he’s old enough now to realise major success is not all it’s cracked up to be. He just wants the chance to do what he loves, performing for people.

He’s really looking forward to opening for Armatrading.

“I think this [kind of] opportunity for someone like me, it’s just phenomenal. I’ve tried other routes, I’ve tried Pop Idol and all of that and I realised it just wasn’t for me. I love playing guitar, singing, writing songs; but I’m not going to be wacky on TV just for the sake of it.

“What Joan is offering is just about the talent. It’s about how good you are, not how you sell yourself… it’s a case of I want local talent to be around me and I’ll support it.”

A die-hard Liverpool fan, well, nobody’s perfect, the photo-shoot at Anfield was an added bonus for him.

“We all got treated like royalty for day it was absolutely fantastic. I just want to take this opportunity, grab it with both hands and hopefully make her proud,” laughs Sanderson.

“We’ve got 20-25 minutes and I’m thinking ‘oh I want to play this song, that song’ and at the end of the day you can’t play them all. I’d stand up there and play seven hours if I could.”

Joan Armatrading talks about her new tour, album and career so far online here. For more entertainment news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne

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