Dirty Dozen: Tommy Hale

Tommy Hale, 2016Recorded in Wiltshire, England, with his friends from acclaimed alt-country outfits The Snakes and The Redlands Palomino Company,  Tommy’s third record as a solo artist – draws on a wealth of musical styles, from gospel-tinged soul and country duetting to delicate pop balladry and driving rock ’n’ roll, while at its centre sits its author’s unmistakable voice a multi-faceted solo performer and respected face on the Dallas music scene.

Tell us about yourself and what you do?

My name is Tommy Hale from Dallas, Texas and I sing songs.

How did you start out?

The first time a girl expressed any interest in me playing music I was hooked. I suppose that has remained as my fuel to this day.

What is your current release/future release?

The current release is called “Magnificent Bastard”.  I recorded it in Wiltshire with Simon George Moor producing and I feel it’s the best album I’ve been associated with to date.

What is the best part of being a singer/song writer?

The absolute best part is when someone makes one of my song ‘their song”. It has a personal meaning to someone or their relationship and they let me know what the song means to them from their interpretation to how it’s involved in their life. That’s incredibly humbling and makes all of the rejection and tedium we endure more than worth it.

What is your most significant moment yet?

Life is full of so many enormous significant moments, it’s difficult to pick only one. My son being born, 9/11, the unexpected death of close friends, etc. all these things were significant in my path to trying to express myself artistically. I always feel when I put out an album that it will be the last one I ever do. I’m empty at the time, all the significant moments have been expressed. Then a whole new batch pop up and make themselves available to be dealt with.  I’m not sure where they come from or why they feel obligated to wait in line.

What are your biggest musical influences?

Growing up with great comedy was a big influence on my music. Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, & George Carlin sparked my imagination as a child and made me want to perform and present my view on the world. Growing up in Texas, musically it was a great time then too. It wasn’t uncommon to hear Willie Nelson, Harry Nilsson & Aerosmith in one day. Willie is a huge influence on me from his amazing songwriting to his incessant work ethic. It will be a historic day of mourning in Texas if he ever passes on to the next plane.

What venue/gig do you most want to play?

I suppose the first inclination would be to say something like the Cotton Bowl in Dallas but the true answer is wherever people are paying attention and part of the gig. I’d much rather play for a handful of people that were participating than to play at the Cotton Bowl and see someone yawn or check their phone in the front row.

What is your best/favourite song you have written?

I haven’t got a clue if it’s the best but the most difficult song and the one that’s the most important to me now is “Save Me (The Ballad of Odell Barnes Jr.). I grew up in post-segregation Texas with forced school integration just fully beginning as I began elementary school. The (white) powers that be in my town shut down the African-American school that was on “the wrong side of the tracks” although it was brand new. They bussed the kids across town to the other schools. We had 2 kids that were bussed in in each class., never more, never less. I became friends with Odell when I was around 12 and remained friends with him until school was finished and I went on to college. Odell was a kind boy who became increasing mean to others as he grew up. He was always nice to me and protective of me as I was smaller than the other kids and not exactly cut out for fighting. I found out years later that he had been executed for murder and I was crushed. The Pope as well as many others came to his defence but it did no good. George Bush was then governor of Texas, running for President and needed to show he was “tough on crime”.  I’ve tried to cram that story and my feelings about it into the song. I’m not sure if I did it justice in any way or not.

What is your favourite album of this year?

I’m not sure I have a favorite but I’m currently listening to Nick Cave’s “Skeleton Tree”.  It makes me incredibly uncomfortable since the recent death of his son hangs over every song. I rarely make it through the entire album.  I’m certainly glad every  thing I listen to doesn’t have that effect but it sure makes for good art on this one. I’m not sure if it’s incredibly brave on his part, narcissistic or the diary of a man who just trying to cope.  It’s not every day an album affects me.

What does the next six months have in store for you?

It’s going to be a busy 6 months! I’ve been working on a Christmas song, we’re going to play a few shows in support of Magnificent Bastard and continue writing new songs.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Bending someone’s ear about the new songs I wrote. This is what I do and I’m not sure I’m qualified for any thing else.

What is the best thing about Americana-UK?

A website with singer-songwriter reviews AND the new Teenage Fanclub video?!?! What’s not to love?

Author: Rudie Humphrey

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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