EXCLUSIVE: Tom Stephens – ‘Nowhere To Roam’ single release and Q & A
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on June 19, 2014
We are very excited to present an exclusive early release of upcoming singer-songwriter Tom Stephens’ new single, Nowhere To Roam, which will be officially released later in the week.
A hauntingly beautiful track, Nowhere to Roam will take you on an emotional journey – lyrically and musically. His voice is organic and smooth, and the instrumentation (which includes cello and violin) is subtle yet sweeping, and deeply evocative.
Next month, Tom will be embarking on an Australian tour alongside upright bassist Cameron Whipp (formerly of Angus & Julia Stone.)
Well, without further ado, we bring to you the exclusive first listen of Tom Stephens, Nowhere To Roam
Pretty amazing stuff, right?
We thought so. And we wanted to get to know Tom a little better too, so we asked him a few questions…
1. Hi Tom, thanks for doing this Q & A. What are you up to today?
Hi Lauren, thanks for having me. I’ve got a pretty cruisy one lined up. Been playing drums on a friend of mine’s record so in the studio today, got a few tracks to finish off. Probably going to go for a rock climb after that with a few mates – beautiful day for it.
2. When did you first start playing music? How did it all happen?
I grew up in a pretty musical family. Both my parents and my older sister play keys. My younger sister shreds on the cello. They all sing so practicing harmonies together was a family activity. Music was always around the house growing up. I was always encouraged to listen to different genres and play different instruments. My first instrument was the trumpet but after a few lessons I realised it wasn’t for me. I always wanted to play the drums so I hustled hard at convincing Mum and Dad and after a while they hooked me up with some lessons. I started playing guitar further down the line and got into song writing.
3. How many instruments do you play?
I dabble in a lot of different instruments but I’d confidently say that I play the drums and the guitar (haha). Drumming was always the focus growing up. I play drums in another band and teach as well which is good fun. I’ve also got a real passion for the didgeridoo. I think it’s a big privilege to play an instrument so steeped in history.
4. Tell us about the first gig you ever played…
It was at a small bar in Surry Hills. I was so nervous the whole day leading up to it. There was heavy traffic coming from home I was half an hour late to my set and rocked up all flustered. It was the first time that I’d sang in front of someone other than a few mates. I came off stage buzzing. It was liberating to share my bedroom creations with a room of strangers. Was also stoked on the free meal that I got afterwards for playing.
5. Do you have a process for song writing? For instance, do your lyrics come first, or the music?
It’s a mixed bag. Sometimes the lyrics come first; sometimes the guitar part and then the lyrics come later. I’ve had times where I’ve written a piece of poetry and its then turned into a melody. Sometimes a drum groove is the catalyst. The exciting part of song writing is that the creative process is so fluid and open to personal interpretation.
6. How long did it take to record Nowhere To Roam? What was the recording experience like?
We recorded it in one night at a studio in Annandale called ‘Vienna People’. The overall recording experience was really positive. We recorded the majority of the track live. My bassist Cam and I were in one room and my drummer Miles was in another room. Cam wrote the string parts and we laid them down later on along with the keys and some extra guitars. It makes a big difference having a positive team of people around you in the studio who are all vibing on your music and confident in your ability. Sometimes it can be high pressure and a demanding process. I think the team that were involved in the recording process of Nowhere to Roam all played a part in the final recording.
7. What are some of your biggest musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of 90s hip hop and reggae. That really shaped my drumming style and I think that my drumming style has influenced my approach to the guitar and in turn my song writing process. I think the biggest songwriters that have influenced my own song writing are Nick Drake and John Martyn. They were both game changers in their time. Nick Drake with his lyrical style and intricate opening tuned guitar parts and John Martyn with his percussive approach to the instrument.
8. What about some non-musical influences?
I’m influenced by a lot of writers. I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickinson and her poetry. I’m also really influenced by Emerson, Herman Hesse and Thoreau. I think that all these writers have a strong appreciation for nature and emphasise that we can learn so much from our natural world. I think these guys have really shaped my creative process and intention.
9. Speaking of non-musical things, what are your favourite things to do when you aren’t playing music?
Anything outdoors and to do with physical movement and I’m a happy man. I read a lot as well. I’ve gotten into cooking recently and been vibing hard on that. I’ll cook you up a mean green vego curry.
10. You’re heading out on tour next month – where are you most excited to play, and why?
I’m really keen to play in Brissy at a place called ‘Room60’. It’s a really small venue, probably only holds around 50 people so its intimate but it’s a sweet vibe. My sister lives in Brissy as well so keen to see her and hang out. Also really keen for a house show that we have lined up in Forster. Ainsley Farrell and Dylan Orsborn are coming along to support me on the tour so really looking forward to seeing them play. Got a few songs lined up that we’re going to play together which will be fun as well.
11. You’re bringing a bassist with you on the tour – will you play a totally stripped back set, or will any extra beats or instruments be pre-recorded/played through a laptop etc?
Yeah Cam Whipp is coming along and playing the upright bass. He’s been playing with me for a while now. The man burns on the bass. We’ll be playing as a duo for all the shows on the tour. He’s also a solid chef so that comes in handy when on the road.
12. If you could collaborate on a song with anyone, who would you choose and why?
I’d love to collab with someone out of the folk genre, possibly someone like Q-Tip or Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote. They’re both groove monsters. I think that I’d appreciate working with someone who tackles the creative process from a different angle, something different than the acoustic guitar and vocal thing that I know.
13. What two songs by other artists would you like to cover?
I’d love to have a shot at a Bonnie Prince Billy tune called ‘The Eagle and the Hawk’. It’s a real haunting tune, which he sings acapella. I’ve always wanted to put together a cover of ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell, one of my favourite songs of all time.
14. After the tour, what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
After the tour I’m releasing a music video for Nowhere to Roam and then a full length EP somewhere down the line. Hopefully play a lot of shows around then and travel about. Heading to Arnhem Land in September, which I’m really stoked about. Finishing Uni as well in November. Good times ahead!
Tom Stephens 2014 Tour Dates
Thurs July 10 – FBi Social, Sydney
Fri July 11 – The Aztec, Forster
Sat July 12 – Private House Show, Forster
Sun July 13 – Goldfish, Hunter Valley
Fri July 18 – Byron Bay (TBA)
Sat July 19 – Taps, Sunshine Coast
Sun July 20 – Room 60, Brisbane