Single – Fire In The Doll’s House
Hi Tom, how are you?
Yeah, good. The new single is getting some airplay and people have said some cool things on iTunes. Had some great fun at a gig at the weekend. It was a charity thing in a barn which was interesting but great feel to the place.
Which instruments do you play?
Guitar, keyboards, drums, harmonica
What made you decide to be a solo artist and not want to be in a band?
I’ve been in bands and it’s cool. Right now I’m doing stuff on my own. Maybe I’ll form a supergroup in the future.
Do you work with the same musicians when recording as you do when performing live?
Not always. The guys I worked with on the recording of the album are some of the top pros in London and sometimes they’re touring or have TV and radio commitments - so they sometimes can’t make gigs. I’m lucky enough to know a number of musicians who can come in and play. We all know each other. In this world there are generally about only 2 or 3 degrees of separation between you and another guitarist.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Soulful and real. Somewhere between Dylan, Waits, John Martyn, Ray LaMontagne on the one hand and Jo Cocker and Free on the other.
What have you been up to recently?
Gigging mostly and promoting the single “Fire in the doll’s house”. It’s been really well received on the radio up and down the country, BBC London’s Robert Elms liked it so that’s got to be good.
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
A lot more gigs and the release of the album “Fire In The Doll’s House” in February next year. It’s going to be a busy year, we’re planning the UK tour at the moment and I’ll be performing at festivals over the Summer. Look forward to seeing the fans on the road.
Did you always want to be in a musician/singer when younger?
Yeah, from as early as I can remember
What music did you listen to while growing up?
Wow, all sorts of things and probably a lot of music that you almost listen to subconsciously. I remember when I first got an electric guitar and amp, turned it up to the max and played the opening riff to AC/DC’s Back in Black. That pretty much changed my world right then. I’ve always been into rock and blues. As a lead guitarist I just am that, sort of comes naturally to me so Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, BB King, Santana, Page and Keith and Ronnie... And I love people singing about life or telling tales so Dylan and Waites and Cohen and Joni Mitchell, and the great singers…Ray Charles, Cocker, Paul Rodgers, Ella, Robert Plant, Aretha, Billie Holiday
How long have you played your instruments?
Started on piano at 4 and guitar soon after and well I’ve been singing forever. I did a gig once and a guy came up to me afterwards and said , “what’s your instrument man?” I said I played guitar and he said “no mate, it’s that voice…”
What was your first music making experience?
Making up tunes on the piano and guitar probably way back when. I actually got my old classical guitar teacher to play on the album and he said he could still remember one of the tunes I came up with one lesson…probably because I hadn’t done any practice… actually I can still remember it…
What is your current equipment?
Right now I’m playing a young fender strat at gigs, a Takemine acoustic I’ve had for ages and a three quarter size acoustic by Art & Lutherie. I’m using a Mesa Boogie Studio Caliber amp that, amazingly, I won in a draw at a Mesa Boogie sponsored gig at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles when I was studying there. When they called my number I actually stood up and roared…
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
Would be great to say I was some kind of boy wonder (is that how he got his name you think?) but I was classically trained in piano and guitar. Rock and blues guitar sort of came naturally though. I started playing it almost by instinct and just listened to a lot of music. Then I went for an audition at the Musician’s Institute in LA and they said yeah ok so I must have done something right. One thing I would say though and that is there are musicians who can read music like a book or hear music and play it. I’m the latter, and you can’t teach that.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
Ha ha, Hendrix’s strat that he played at Isle of White although he was a leftie and it would be wrong to switch it back, just wrong. So I’d just have to learn to play left handed…actually you come up with some interesting stuff when you do that…
Err…an old Les Paul gold top, a Marshall stack, an original vox AC30, an early 70s sunburst strat, a classical guitar played by Andres Segovia, acoustic guitars by Gibson and Martin, a tonne of effects pedals, a mandolin, a Bazooki, harmonicas in every key, and and and …
…and a mammoth Ludwig drum kit which I would play on my own in the garage because when you see how amazing pro drummers are it’s probably best that it’s just for my ears.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
Yeah pretty much
Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
Not so much, songs happen in different ways and at any time so I always have a pen and paper around and a way of recording an idea. I record all my ideas on my iphone these days. Sometimes I just sit and jam with guitar on my own and see what my fingers and voice want to do. When I have an idea, I’ll just think about it. Some songs speak to you very quickly but others take time. With lyrics, yeah, I think about what I’m writing about and the words come, sometimes in an hour sometimes over a few years….
Which software/recording process do you use?
I record demos on my mac but I leave all that proper recording to producers and engineers…
Would you sign with a major record company?
We’ll cross that bridge I reckon….
Do you have any new recordings planned?
Always, but you gotta focus on what you’re doing right now. I’ll go into a studio an record a few tracks now and then. I know that my subconscious is already working on the second album.
How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
All the arrangement is done by me and the production is the producer’s job although we’re talking all the time in the studio about what’s happening or what isn’t…
Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
Yeah I would love to work with other artists. It’s a magical thing sometimes. I’ve played at jazz jams in the past and at the end you totally know the people you have played with and you haven’t said a word. I think when it comes to producing I’d leave that to the guys that really know what they’re doing so I can focus on the writing and performing.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
I dunno if it gets easier, every session is different. I don’t find it difficult. I love it. Again there is a magic that can happen in the studio. Some things, you dunno where they come from. You just know they are good and that you were recording it at the time…
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
Yeah, we try to keep it real in the studio in the same way we do tat gigs.
Do you have any favourite tracks on your album?
Ha ha, I think as an artist that can change. Some tracks you can feel a little distant from now and then but that is probably saying something about what kind of head space you’re in or maybe what is happening around you at the time. Some songs mean more depending on what they’re about. Right now I’m loving the title track “Fire In The Doll’s House”…everything about it. “From now on” means a lot to me, which we’re actually giving away on my website at the moment, it’s tommoriarty.co
I remember once Joan Armatrading telling Jools Holland that as a writer your favourite song is always the last one you’ve written. There’s some truth in that and the last song I’ve written isn’t on the album….
Do you write songs/tracks only about personal experiences?
Some are but many aren’t. I write about what I see in the world today, what I read about in the papers, what I feel about that. In a sense that is personal experience but it’s not about something that just happened to me. There are a few tracks on the album like that, “Fire…”, “From now on” “Smile if you wanna get high” “Life’s a mystery” and “All you need”. I really feel we’re at a crucial time right now. There’s a lot of hatred and division in the world and most of it is from the bad blood of generations passed or leaders who fuel it for their own gain. Well fuck that. It’s time for a change. It’s time to realise that we’re one race and we’re all in this together. It’s about realising what we are and what we can be so we start thinking that yeah, we’re better than this. It’s the next giant leap for mankind and one we’ve got to take. One could say it’s a leap of faith and maybe it is, faith in us.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Some songs just take a long time, the thing is not to push it. If they’re not ready yet, they’re not ready. If a song is being difficult, you’re probably trying to hard, let it go for a bit. On the flip side, you can’t be complacent. Every line is important, every note.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
What a question! Ray Charles but that’s going to be difficult… err Dylan, Dave Grohl, Lenny Kravitz, Paul Weller, Amy Winehouse, Lady gaga
Who are your favourite songwriters?
Dylan, Kravitz, Weller, Waits, Martyn, Ben Harper, Ray LaMontagne, Thom Yorke, Eddie Vedder
Which countries have you gigged in?
UK, Ireland, France, Germany, US
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
UK, Europe, US
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
Gigging, radio play, radio appearances etc.
Online and social media stuff.
Really the fans decide how they best want to hear from you…
Do you use any websites like ‘Reverbnation’ or ‘Soundclick’?
I’m on Myspace, I’ve got a Facebook Fan Page which my Soundcloud is linked to and I’m on Twitter which I really like. I talk about the songs sometimes, stuff I see in the papers, new ideas, not just about the next gig…
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
Yeah, anything that helps artists get their music out there has got to be a good thing. And they’re good for the fans to access music. Soundcloud is cool on the basis you can make the stems from tracks available to people to they can get more involved in the music. They exist for fans as much as bands.
With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
People are coming up with stuff all the time. As soon as you think there’s nothing more, something new appears and then you wonder how you did without it….
How do you relax?
Read the papers with a long coffee
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
Best a guess is total silence and worst is some drunk pissed out of his mind in the front row. There was one gig where I sang a note and ran out of air and feinted into a wall….don’t think anybody noticed, the wall was quite close by..
Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
Not really. I played a classical piece on piano at the age of 8 in front of around 400 people. That made me nervous. Nothing else has come close since.
To calm down probably drink a pint, smoke a few cigarettes and hope that by the time I go to bed I’m not still writing in my head. That’s one thing with being a writer, you can’t switch it off when you’re tired. I find it difficult to get to sleep, sometimes I try and distract my mind with some music or TV. It’s a shame to dampen it but sometimes you just have to sleep…
What else do you do apart from being a singer/songwriter?
Well you’re kind of writing all the time but I love sport. I’ve been to a few big sporting events, world cup rugby and football, the Olympics. I love the passion and reality of it.
Would you like to be a full time working musician or are you happy with things as they are?
I pretty much just want to do just this.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
Not yet. My producer reckons there are a couple of tracks that will probably find their way into a movie.
Is it something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Just thanks to everyone for all the support, really appreciate it. Look forward to seeing you at gigs. Listings are on my website.