Home* Discography * Tour dates * Links * Pictures * Writings * Interview * Contact * Mailing list * Buy Tom's records
The original interview with Tom was published in Destroy The Sun (if you can read it...)
House - I was born and raised Durham, North Carolina. My folks were one
generation off the farms. My mother's family which had larger influence when I
was growing up, female and church dominated. Most of them worked in the Erwin
cotton mill and they were a stern and serious people. My father's family a
little looser. He had two brothers and they all played music. My father though
not very educated read all the time and pushed and instilled that love in me
was a dichotomy men drank and were bad and women went to church and were good.
That bare bones tenet I think stays with me even though I've distorted in my own
ways of course through all these years. I consider self somewhat atheistic and
can see anti-Christian bias much of my work (along with strong contempt for
hypocrisy of "moral" society which kind of goes along with it) Also will note schizophrenic embracing some of very things fire my angry and
creative juices (and yes the two ran concurrently for many years and
probably still do to a degree) I think that's why I am no more didactic
than I am. I usually see the other side of dilemma also. My parents argued a lot
and were basically philosophically opposites and I was oldest son and championed
basically Piedmont North Carolina a large part settled by Scotch-Irish
immigrants and a somewhat dour people. My brother doing some research found a
great grandfather on my father's side named Anguish who was listed as
being a "small man who played the fiddle and was fond of drink". I
rest my case.
do not try to color my songs one way or the other. Ideas come from wherever
ideas come. I usually run with them as I can. It's rare a song arrives
full-blown. I've got cases of verses, choruses, ideas dead where they stopped.
The rest of the story I have to find. And that's the work of writing. And I have
to be true to the story for it to work for me. That addresses some of your later
question about the state of modern music. I find it phony and manipulative.
That's what the radio demands. Stories tied up neatly with positive slant and
moralistic values. (And that's if the story says anything at all---most songs
are so stupid you can't even grant them the integrity of any intelligence)
songs I've rewritten many many times. Sometimes I'll find an early version of a
song that I've finished and maybe played for years and I can't believe how I got
from that early version I find to the song I now know.
do you think of the current stae of music in America?
I find mainstream radio unlistenable with few exceptions, country, rock, or pop. And I hate oldie or classic rock stations too though my daughter loves it and I've come to understand that it is great music and for people who haven't been listening to it for 35 years it probably is the best music they hear. Trouble is there is so much great music out in the world now. So many talented people. Hear some of it on college and NPR stations. Lot of it you just have to root out.
long have you been playing music? Who are your influences
early age was interested in writing and words and also acoustic guitar (never
went through playing in bands stage) Mind was most blown by seeing Bob Dylan in
1964 in Raleigh. He was touring with Joan Baez and walked up to stage with just
the guitar and harp and ripped through songs circa "Bringing it All
BackHome" I was also big fan of early Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and
Buffy St. Marie. Followed threads back to earlier more primitive music like Dock
Boggs, the Stanley Brothers, Charlie Poole. I think that's how I kind of evolved
the style playing the oldtimey sounding music coupled to the more poetic
beat-inspired lyrics Also have been a big fan of British/Irish folk music
through the years and I think that sound bleeds into my music from time to time.
would have to throw in major influence of moving to Nashville in the early 70's.
There's a site on the net listing NC songwriters and states I'm "living in
Nashville with all the other poets" and it is easy to knock the Nashville
that gets out to the world but for years I could go out anytime see Townes Van
Zandt, Dave Olney, Steve Young, Steve Earle, and I could go on and on. A more
immediate circle I've run with including Mark Germino, Rob Stanley, John
Allingham, among others are still unknown and in some cases couldn't care less
but have spent their whole lives writing songs that defy convention in style or
content. It's been a great town to live a life. I'd recommend it to any
songwriter who wanted nothing to do with the music industry.
started playing the guitar when I was about 15. I quit after a few years and
actually sold the guitar to Don Schlitz who went on to write "The Gambler"
for Kenny Rogers for $50 to go to Woodstock which I did though I had
no idea what it was and actually got there on Wednesday and left before the
music ever started.
was when I was in a facility for disturbing young men.
I was 21 I saw a guy playing songs he'd written and it was the first time the
concept ever occurred to me. So I bought the guitar I still play to this day and
started writing songs.
also wrote poetry and actually concentrated on that for years, publishing
hundreds and giving readings. I wrote songs only to have em to play when I went
out to the bars at night with my friends/ there were a multitude of open mics
all over town. In a way I was lucky because I didn't care I never even
considered toning them down or trying to make them conform anyone else's
definition what a good song was.