Ahead of his AU Sessions performance, we sat down with Tom Stephens to discuss his favourite records and greatest influences. Tom will be performing at the Hive Bar in Erskineville on October 27th.
How old were you when you started writing your own music?
I began spending a lot of time writing in the transition period after finishing school, so probably around 18 years old. Before then I’d come up with little ditties and melodies but they never amounted to anything. Around that time I started playing guitar and reading a lot. It seemed like a natural progression to begin writing my own material.
What was the first instrument you learnt?
The trumpet. It never really interested me much though. I pleaded to my parents to get drum lessons. They weren’t keen on the idea initially but after a lot of table tapping they gave in and bought me some sticks and a practice pad. The day that I received a drum kit for my 10th birthday goes down as one of the greatest days of my life.
Tell us a little bit about your style – how did you end up falling onto this particular style?
I’d say that my music fits the folk / rock genre. I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop and reggae. Because I was playing a lot drums growing up, rhythm was the attraction for me when discovering a new artist or genre.
It wasn’t until my late teens that I started listening to folk artists like Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I respected their ability to pair their individual human experiences with words and musical textures, and aspired to do the same in a similar style. I think that when a person stands in front of a group of people with only their guitar and voice, that’s a very vulnerable position to be in. But it’s a pure form of expression that is made available through the folk genre.
Who are your influences?
I’m heavily influenced by John Martyn. He was a pioneer of the British folk scene in the mid 70’s with his percussive guitar playing and early use of electronics in his music. I’m also influenced by some of the writers that I’ve read over the years. I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickenson and her poetry.
What is your latest song/album to promote? Tell us all about it:
I have just finished tracking my debut album. It’s been a big process but very rewarding and a lot of fun. We recorded it mainly on a small farm near the Blue Mountains. It is due for release next year. The first single that I’ve released off the album, ‘What Lies in the Difference’ was released earlier this year in July.
What is your favourite record right now and why?
I’ve been smashing Scott Rudd’s ‘Lonely Life’ EP of late. It’s a beautiful record full of simple melodies and stripped back instrumentation. He recorded it mostly at home and in one take and I think you can always tell. It’s full of raw emotion. There’s a tune on the record called ‘Things That I’m Not’ that just kills me.
Who is your favourite Australian artist right now and why?
I’m a big fan of ‘Forever Son’, he’s a psych / folk artist from Melbourne. We played a show with him earlier this year on my ‘What Lies in the Difference’ tour and he’s a dude. Killer performer and writes beautiful tunes. Everyone should check out his latest release ‘Rambling Knots’, it’s a gem.
What can we expect from your live show?
I’ll be up there giving it a good crack, having a yarn and strumming some chords. Not sure what I’ll be wearing yet, haven’t decided.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Trying to stay outta trouble. Enjoying the Aussie summer, very keen for the steamy weather. I’ll also be releasing a single from the album and playing a few shows in support of that. Gotta pick one first!
The AU Sessions #009: Rin McArdle (Adelaide) + Tom Stephens
18:00 – 21:00 Tuesday October 27th
The Hive Bar
93 Erskineville Rd, Sydney
For more details about the event, check it out on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1610611499211890/