Q&A Scene: Thomas Oliver

Tell us about your new single/ album/ showcase gig at AWME?
I just released a song called ‘If I Move To Mars’, which is about moving to Mars with someone you love. It’s a bit of a fun song on the surface, but it’s also about the concept of moving to Mars, which is actually fast becoming a reality right now. I’ll be performing solo at the AWME showcase, bringing a Weissenborn lap-slide guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a loop station. It’s a fairly organic set, sometimes very delicate, but will get pretty thick and intense at times, too.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
[pullquote]I’ll be performing solo at the AWME showcase, bringing a Weissenborn lap-slide guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a loop station. [/pullquote]Given that there’s quite a bit of variation in my set, there would definitely be at least four components to the meal. My music is pretty bare and honest, too, so it would be something natural and healthy, but satisfying at the same time. I’m seeing a nice cut of steak with cracked pepper and flakey see salt, served with garlic mashed potato, a green salad with vinaigrette, and a cold beer. But I think that the Weissenborn in particular makes my music a bit different or unique, so perhaps there would have to be an interesting sauce or jus to go with it, but I can’t quite think what it would be as I’m all of a sudden very hungry.

Which of your songs resonate most strongly and why?
People always seem to get struck by my song, ‘Boy’. It’s essentially a song about growing up, but, more specifically, growing up and trying to work out at which point I became an adult. The verses tell stories of things that have happened throughout my life, like being in love with a girl I couldn’t have, or getting beaten up and robbed by four guys who jumped out of a car, and the choruses ask if I became a man at one of these points, or is manhood just a simple numbers game? I just find it interesting that most cultures in the world have a definitive coming of age, but western culture in general doesn’t seem to. People always seem to relate to this song, and perhaps that’s because most adults still feel the same as they did when they were teenagers!

Tell us a quick, on the road, anecdote.
I once toured with Xavier Rudd, and was traveling around the country in a rental car with my manager, Cushla. She had asked me to keep costs down wherever possible because the budget for the tour was pretty tight. She had been very thoughtful in using cost-cutting tactics when booking accommodation and travel etc, so that I would at least take some money from the tour, and not end up in the red (as touring can be expensive, for anyone who doesn’t know that already!). I had broken my ankle about 8 months prior the tour, and had some ankle exercises assigned to me by my physiotherapist, one of which involved forcing my foot to bend upwards. I was sitting in the passenger seat as we traveled so I decided to do my exercises by forcing my foot into the gap between the dashboard and the windscreen and applying pressure to encourage my foot to bend upwards.

“Be careful, you’ll break the windscreen,” Cushla would say. “Nah, it’s all good,” I would dismiss.

And then one time, sure enough, I pushed too hard, and within a split second, an almighty crack drew itself right across the windscreen, like a tree with many branches. My jaw dropped and I turned wide-eyed to Cushla, absolutely TERRIFIED. I had just blown the whole tour budget (that she had worked so hard to preserve) on one little act of stupidity. I braced myself to be grilled. I actually was seriously scared of how she might react! Haha. Her face froze for a second or two. She processed what had just happened. Looked at me, and then the windscreen, then me. At that point, something snapped and she threw her head back and burst into the most delightful fit of hysterical laughter, and it just went on and on and on, which had me in stitches as well, so we sat there for a good five minutes just cracking up. I can still feel that joyous sense of relief now!

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I love to observe people and understand people. Often, the people who come into my life seem to inspire songs, whether they be a girl I know intimately, or a little boy on a plane who played hide and seek with me through the seats. I have a deep love for people, and I think that often comes through in my songwriting.

Which song do you wish you wrote?
Comfortably Numb.

What’s do you expect to get out of AWME this year?
I hope to meet and connect with artists and delegates alike, and to gain opportunities to perform at festivals that I perhaps wouldn’t have if it weren’t for AWME, particularly in Canada and Australia. I’ll be releasing an album next year and will be touring it, so I hope that AWME can help me reach further with that, in terms of new bookings and networks.

What’s your scene?
I love to check out local music – whether it’s folk, blues, jazz, drum & bass, whatever – I love to check out what’s going on, musically, in my home town, Wellington. In my free time, I go skateboarding. Skating helps to free my mind when I’ve been cooped up in the studio for too long, or need a break when on the road. I love good coffee, good beer, and good people.

About Thomas Oliver

Thomas Oliver-sm Thomas Oliver is internationally recognised as one of the leading players of the Weissenborn lap-steel guitar and a multi-talented guitarist, song writer and singer.

In 2013 Oliver released the first full-length, all instrumental, all Weissenborn album, titled “Beneath The Weissenborn”. The album debuted at #6 in the NZ charts, received 5* reviews and sold out shows across the nation.

He joins Leo Kotke, Ry Cooder and Michael Hedges as someone who has made buying a guitar album a must – ***** Stuff.co.nz

Oliver recently released ‘International You Day’, a tribute to Tony Sly from California punk band No

Use For A Name, which gives us a sneak peak in to the recordings that Oliver is working on. Oliver says we can expect a deep and sonically rich impression, with organic instruments alongside messages.

With over half a million views on YouTube, he has developed an international audience from his home base in New Zealand that will see him play shows in Australia and Europe in 2014.

Oliver’s ability to write stirring lyrics and move between sweet melodic and grunty vocals has also earned him a reputation as a vocalist in Drum & Bass, having collaborated with some of the most respected producers, including Black Sun Empire, Rido and Concord Dawn, and boasting releases on prestigious labels, including Goldie’s own Metalheadz.

His previous band, The Thomas Oliver Band, released their debut LP in 2011 to critical acclaim, debuting at #12 in the New Zealand, #1 in the iTunes Blues Charts in NZ and Australia and won Best New Zealand Blues and Roots album.

About Mandy Hall 838 Articles
Mandy is a music photographer & writer. She runs Mandy Hall Media, which includes Photography, Social Media marketing, PR & Graphic Design for the music industry. She is also a web developer - she created and supports this website.

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