Alternative Friday

helping to spread the word about impressive new & under the radar musicians

Pic by @joelhirstphoto

County Durham based Tom Smith is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and radio DJ, and to date he’s supported such luminaries as The Charlatans, Shed Seven, James Bay, and Catfish & the Bottlemen. Quite impressive for someone who’s only 14!

All this is despite having to live with a life limiting condition – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – which means he was born, and continues to function, with only half a working heart. So read on to find out more about Tom himself, his music, the kazoo, and being the least flexible human ever!

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~ You’re an accomplished guitarist, so when did you first pick one up, and do you come from a musical family?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 6. My dad is/was friends with the lads in a band called Detroit Social Club. Chris, Dale, and occasionally Bondy (now in Catfish & The Bottlemen) used to come over every Tuesday, to drink beer, play football, play Kabaddi, and teach music. And it was amazing. I used to practice guitar, keys, and drums all the time so that I could learn harder and better stuff. Loved it.

~ How would you best describe your music for those who may not have come across it yet?
My music is a cross between Radiohead and Robert Plant (in my dreams, ha).

~ You’ve got a strong following, so how did you first get your music heard & spread to a wider audience, and how did those prestigious gigs come about?
Most of my big gigs have been on the back of recording a cover of one of the main act’s tunes. They seemed to get a lot of views and it’s got me a lot of followers. They were amazing experiences. Tim Burgess in particular was amazing as I played at a lot of festivals because of him and Tim Peaks Diner. James Bay is really supportive, and Shed Seven were unbelievable. I love Slow Readers Club too, so to meet them and support them was fantastic.

~ Which famous song by another artist would you love to have written yourself?
Sometimes It Snows In April by Prince is pure perfection, my favourite song by far. I also love Friends by Led Zeppelin, what a tune!!!

~ Can you tip any other bands or musicians local to you in the North East that you recommend we check out?
Locally I love the new song by White Legs called Cut It Away, and Motherland are great live.

~ You love football, but your condition means you can’t play it as much as you’d possibly prefer, however are there any other less physical sports you enjoy and can take part in?
I’m obsessed with football (I’m watching Sunderland ‘Til I Die on Netflix whilst writing this) but I can’t really do sports at all. I live with only half a heart so I get shattered quickly. I’m wiped out after every gig!

~ Fast forward a few years and imagine you’re on a UK nationwide tour… which famous person would you love to have to drive the tour bus?
I would definitely have Sam Fender as my tour bus driver. I’ve played a few gigs with him, and he came to see me play at the Surf Cafe in Tynemouth once and told me that one day he’d like his job to be handing me plectrums on tour. He can drive the bus as well 😂.

~ You also host a radio show at Spark Sunderland, so tell us more?
When the last presenter of Spark Sunderlands Local Music Show decided to move on I was asked if I was interested in having a go at presenting. I’d never even thought about doing it but I absolutely love it, I get to hear some really talented local musicians and honestly it’s just getting more fun as I gain confidence. We only play bands and artists from the North East.

~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
I’m virtually a professional at FIFA 😂 but other than that I spend all my spare time on music. I’m now into creating demo’s and unusual sounds. I’d happily spend everything on another guitar or instrument. I love it.

~ Ok, so if you took up a new instrument, what would you choose?
I would love to learn the harp, it’s the most beautiful sounding instrument ever. Or the kazoo!

~ If you could have a superpower for a day, what would it be?
I’d have an elastic body so I could grow taller for the day because I’m tiny, and I’m also the least flexible human ever.

~ And finally… what have you got planned for 2019?
I’m going to try and record a new tune a month, I’ve got a couple of things I’m not allowed to mention that are quite exciting, but other than that I’m banned from doing anything that would make it seem like it’s my job so I can’t go on tour. My parents say I’m too young at the minute and I have plenty of time, and to only do things if I enjoy them, but if I get asked and it’s interesting we normally say yes. I’d like to try and play in Leeds again because I loved Live at Leeds back in May.

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