For our 33rd Clapper Sounds Interview, we’re highlighting songwriter and composer, Mr. Tom!
Mr. Tom (@MrTom_Songwriter on Clapper) has been performing since the 80s and has quite the impressive resume. He can play fourteen instruments (and can name all of them, even more impressively!) and makes music in multiple genres. When asked to nail it into a genre, Tom says his music is a mix of acoustic, folk, and pop sounds. In this interview, we talked about his music journey, his songwriting process, his advice for new musicians, and more!
Clapper Sounds is meant to be an intimate musical experience, and we want that mission to translate into our written interviews too. Listen to his music as you read to get to know Tom and his unique sound.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you start your artist and songwriter journey?
I started playing the electric air organ, piano, and acoustic guitar when I was seven years old. In the latter 1980s to the late 1990s, I played in the cover band in the Northeast. I played the minor club venue circuit in New England and played in small venues, some of which don’t exist anymore. Then I dropped the cover band and started playing acoustic guitar and writing music. I played in some small venues, coffee houses, and whatnot. After that I kind of quit playing out and started recording commercially licensed music. I started learning about the different sizes of ukulele and the different hybrid versions. Now I’ve started playing out again in Columbia, South Carolina, just to test out some material.
I have my instrumental music, commercially licensed music that I do. When I say commercially licensed music, it’s music for overhead radio, YouTube, different media platforms, and movies and independent movies. I haven’t struck any major Motion Pictures yet, but I almost made it twice! And I started releasing 10 singles. Short acoustic, simple songs that I wrote on the baritone ukulele and I’m releasing one per month. My third one will hopefully be out in a few days is called Belly Dancer, Dance for Me.
How would you describe your musical style? Who are your biggest inspirations?
That’s a big question. So my musical styles, there’s the two types that I’m currently doing. I do all genres of music, especially being in writing commercially licensed music. The more styles, genres of music you play, the more accessible and the more profitable your business will be. But for me I love to write in on the acoustic side, indie folk, pop music.
For inspiration, off top head, a lot of 70s songwriters. Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce. And on the electronic side, because I’m Gen X, 80s New Wave pop music – Synth Wave. I can go down the whole gamut from The Cars, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode many of the basically 1980s pop bands that were out back then. I can’t say who they are because I signed an NDA, but I’ve actually worked with some of the original creators back in those days in regards to writing a song. And again, I try to paid forward those famous people help me out going forward in music by helping others out.
What is your songwriting process like?
My songwriting process starts with a chord progression on either the baritone ukulele or acoustic guitar. Those are my main instruments I’m concentrating on right now. And then I will sing a melody line with that chord progression. One secret one tip that I give people: sometimes it helps if it’s you doing alternative tuning on your instrument. Don’t tune it to a standard tuning. It forces you to come up with chords that you normally wouldn’t think about and play what you normally wouldn’t think about playing. It forces you to find chords and usually you come up with different rhythms and you come up with different possibilities. Joni Mitchell was prolific in regards to writing songs in that manner. She would tune an acoustic guitar up to sound wherever she was writing. I’m inspired by other musicians, but sometimes I’m inspired by my mood and I’ll put that into a song and go forward with that.
What are your thoughts on content creation as an artist, composer, and songwriter? How do you feel about artists having to balance their social media presence and still be committed to their art?
I’m half and half, to be honest. with you with content Creation with an artist. I never really liked social media. There’s a lot of content creators out there that are only doing it for the entertainment side of the fence. They’re not songwriters, they’re not musicians, they may have sponsorships from different brands. That’s great, I’m very happy for them. However, when you look, it’s hard to find content creators that are actually out writing music.
It’s hard balancing both, and my hats off to those content creators that can have that sort of balance. You have to try to keep your numbers up, try to keep your followers entertained. Plus you have to concentrate on the business side, you have the concentrate on going out performing, and you have to keep working on your personal branding. You’re also trying to get endorsements and sponsorships. I’m very lucky because I do have sponsorships and some endorse from companies I love.
What is your dream project?
I have opportunities all the time through the music libraries that I’m a part. At any point in time, I can submit my music to certain deals if I see them come up. I almost landed motion picture deals twice so far! But my whole thing would be to be a part of an exclusive music library that has that higher clientele that are looking for music that’s only for that music library or directly putting my music in contact a movie company. Making scores for a movie company would be awesome and that probably would be the highlight. And getting a song on nation-wide radio would be another one.
Deciding to be an artist can have its ups and downs. What advice would you give to that young artist who is just learning to play guitar, or in the first stages of being a songwriter, whose dream is to be a musician?
I could go on and on and on, but I’ll give you four. First, don’t give up. You’re gonna wanna give up multiple times, but just keep going. The second and most important thing is keep putting music out there. I wish I did things about ten years earlier. Keep pumping your music out there, because the more music you have out there, the better you’re going to be. In royalties, and in how much you’re seen. And the third thing is to play more than one instrument, if possible. Also learn and write music in more than one style and genre. If you can do that, you’ll be ahead of the game. A lot of people narrow themselves to one style of genre, and you have to expand as you keep going forward. Even if it’s a subgenre. And most importantly, stand out. Make sure that you’re unique in some way. Not just the way you look, but the way you sound. People are going to notice and remember you.
Make sure to check our recorded live session on our account Clapper Sounds and in our reels on Instagram. Enjoy the Clapper Sounds Live Session with this amazing songwriter, Mr. Tom!