Tomo: 'A Youthful Take on Love and Madness'
Updated: Apr 14
Singer/songwriter Tomo has been drawn to folk since he started writing music as a way to vent out what he felt, he believes it is the music that connects with his emotions, and the best way for him to externalise them.
The hardships he went through and his journey of discovery from Newcastle to Bristol are what have defined his sound over the past year. He has released several singles and an EP, Wayward Son, since the pandemic hit in 2020.
We had the opportunity to chat through Zoom a couple of weeks ago and discussed a range of topics, from his songwriting process, seeing music as a viable career, and how he discovered his voice.
How did you turn music from a therapeutic experience into a career?
After leaving Newcastle, I worked setting up marquees for a year. It was very good for me ‘cause it forced me to go out and do something physical. At the same time, I was experimenting with my music.
It was a very slow process, it took me a while to get to the point where I decided that this is something I want to pursue. My friends told me that my music wasn’t bad as I was starting to get a grasp of the production aspect.
Around March of last year I decided to put some stuff out on Spotify, just to see what would happen. People actually started to listen, it all just happened. I didn’t really expect it, but it was cool. It was cool!
Did you play around with other genres, or did you go straight into the acoustic, indie-folk sound you’ve got going?
Well, when I started playing music it was through piano. I didn’t start playing guitar till I was like seventeen or eighteen. I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and I wanted to be able to finger-pick like him.
Before the guitar I was playing a lot of classical music on the piano and writing ballads. The guitar enabled me to be able to play what I play right now.
Has there been a big change to how you write songs since lockdown?
The first lockdown was a very productive period for me, I wrote more songs than I had ever written before. I just sat down and wrote for hours. There’s a lot of stuff that I haven’t released, and some stuff that isn’t good.
Sometimes when I sit down, I don’t know what I’m writing about; words just flow out of me. It is after I’m done and I look at it all together that I realize where the song is going. I’m starting to run out of material because my songs focus a lot on the experiences I have, and it’s been a while since I’ve had no experiences. I’m looking forward for this lockdown to be over so that I can get some new stuff going.
Out of the singles you’ve released which one is your favorite?
Oh, that’s an interesting one… I think, maybe, ‘Coffee Cups and Cigarettes’. I was experimenting with a lo-fi production, and I think with it I finally got the hang of it. It’s still quite raw, but I started to have a bit of more control over what I was doing.
What is that song about?
I guess it’s sort of about the end of relationships. When I was putting it out I described it as a youthful take on love and madness. It plays with the idea of mental health inside of a relationship, it talks about a needy relationship.
The song is not that personal, it came out of me playing around with the imagery of coffee, cigarettes, wine and early mornings. I pieced together from that and people seem to quite like it.
How is it that you end up deciding which songs are good and which aren’t? Given that you’re producing it all yourself, isn’t it hard to see your own work as bad?
I usually send early demos of my songs to my girlfriend, friends and family, and I can tell by the way they say things about it if they really like it or not. It has become quite intuitive now that I’ve written and produced a lot more songs, but it is not an exact science.
For the Wayward Son EP my favorite song was ‘Sacred Heart’, and when I released it people didn’t really seem to like it. So it is definitely a struggle, sometimes the things you really like about your own work aren’t that appealing to others.
It’s a bit hard when you’re working alone, but it does give me a creative freedom that I really enjoy. I like working on my own when it comes to music.
You’ve been releasing music constantly which is great for listeners but are you planning on releasing more singles, another EP or even an LP?
That’s something I’ve been thinking about because growing up the artists I listened to released their music through albums. I would like to do an album, but I think the way people consume music nowadays has changed.
I think the majority of people aren’t going to listen to a whole album, especially because I’m not that well established yet. So, I think that while I’m still building an audience it makes sense to keep releasing singles regularly.
I would like to release an album, but for this year I’m going to focus on the singles. I’m aiming for one a month this year.
Did you think you’d get here with your music?
It never crossed my mind… I have dreams, but when you start producing and writing your first songs sound awful. I never really think it would happen, I guess I just got lucky. It was one song that changed it all. Now I have people form different parts of the world messaging me saying that they love my music. It’s pretty surreal.