Floating in salty waves, with Tommy Drifter.
“I just enjoy releasing energy into my guitar after a long day or when I need some headspace. The creativity just kind of shows up with a new tune or lyric and then I have to quickly decide to record it on my phone or let it go for another time. Usually fomo gets the better of me and I quickly record it!”Tommy Drifter
If appearances are anything to go by, you might assume Australian folk artist, Tommy Drifter, spends every waking hour tethered to his surfboard, or leading a sing-song around a campfire on the beach. And, that’d be a fair assumption. Though, having traded the surf town of Cronulla for Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, he’s has been paddling in musical waves over the past couple of years, delivering “coastal-bluesy folk-bush rock-vibe jamz” to the ears of his countrymen, and those further afield.
Tommy began playing guitar around 7 or 8 years old, having commandeered his fathers acoustic, and continued developing his skills throughout his high school years – regarding this period as his ‘Jack Johnson, John Butler, Xavier Rudd and Ben Harper era’.
His debut single ‘Save Me’, was released until 2020, recorded with producer Billy Otto (The Temper Trap, Gang Of Youths, Sticky Fingers, The Beautiful Girls), and showcases his silky smooth, blissed-out vocals and finger-picking acoustic style.
Despite challenges brought about by the pandemic he had a productive 2021, releasing a trio of singles; ‘Moving On’, ‘Salty Days’ and ‘On Fire’, earning his stacks of airtime on radio stations throughout Australia. Tommy will be back in the studio this year to record his EP, which we can expect to be released mid-2022.
It’s an absolute joy to have caught up with this brilliant up and coming artist… read on to hear what he’s got to say.
Hey Tommy, thanks for taking the time to talk to IAMUR! It’s a real pleasure for us. Before we get into the detail… it’s become customary to poke around the things that bring a smile and a frown to the faces of people we meet. Do you want to throw out some things that make you happy?
The beach, the bush, good times and creative vibes! Feed me dumplings!!
Yep… I could deal with a few dumplings now you’ve mentioned it! Ok, what about things that you could do without?
Leaf blowers. People that use leaf blowers. People that sell leaf blowers. The inventor of the leaf blower!! Getting woken up daily by a leaf blower…
And, now all your friends know what to buy you for your birthday! Ok, so I’d been fortunate enough to have stumbled across your music from a post on Instagram. You’ve had a good deal of radio play over in Australia, but for readers who may not have discovered you yet… can you share a bit of your background?
I grew up in Cronulla, spending most of the time in the salt water or exploring the bush. I was a very high energy kid playing in various high level sporting teams up until my late 20’s. I chose to focus on basketball in high school and pursued a goal to play College Basketball in America. I played in a high school rock band, and picked up a few gigs in the local area before the bassist’s girlfriend Yoko got involved… 10 years and many songs later I have decided to record my tunes and play them live! Here we go baby!!
How do you fill your time when you’re not making music? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I surf a lot! I still play basketball and like to keep fit and healthy. I pay my bills working in the health and fitness industry!
What first got you into music? Who are your main musical influences?
I started playing guitar when I was in early primary school. I had a few teachers here and there, most of whom couldn’t handle my energy as a kid and never came back! My writing and playing improved throughout high school learning songs by John Mayer, Jack Johnson, John Butler, ACDC, Elvis, Neil Young and Johnny Cash. I love blues, coastal folk and every now and then I even like to rock!
Obviously, guitar is your weapon of choice… what are you playing?
I have a beautiful old Fender acoustic, ‘Natalie’, which the majority of my songs are written on. Natalie has travelled with me around Australia when I was living in my van earlier in life, and has been with me through thick and thin.
You mentioned that you recently decided to record the many songs you’ve been writing over the years – can you tell us a little bit about your approach to songwriting?
Everyone’s music making methods are different, but for me a new tune usually comes in the form of a melody first, normally at 2am… I’ll then tinker with that melody for days or weeks until words finally just blurt out. Once that first line happens, it’s go time. I’ll then start adding bass, drums, more guitars, more vocals, keys and then some twang in the shape of banjo, mandolin, slide, dobro or harmonica.
Each time I record I learn a little more about the process and how to be more efficient. I’ve recorded with two producers, Billy Otto (The Temper Trap, Sticky Fingers, Gang of Youths) & Tim McArtney (Gang of Youths, Hoodoo Gurus). Both producers have had a different process in the studio which I’ve been soaking up like a sponge. This has really helped my own Demo recording process which is coming out louder, cleaner and sounding very, very nice.
The singles you’ve put out to date are immaculate. Speaking of soaking things up, you’ve mentioned a number of artists that have influenced you over the years ranging from the folky-rock-reggae sounds of Xavier Rudd to Elvis Presley’s country-rock and gospel, and from rock’n’roll legends AC/DC to Johnny Cash’s country-blues… how would you describe your music?
In one word? Coastal-Bluesy Folk-Bush Rock-Vibe Jamz…. That’s a genre right?
Definitely a genre! It describes your latest single, ‘On Fire’, perfectly. I have to say, it’s such an incredibly well produced track – can you tell us about how this song came to be, and what it means to you?
I was writing this as Australia was literally ON FIRE. We had fires all over our country burning. To top it off, we then went straight into Covid. It was a time of a lot of reflection, assessing life and restarting. This is the first recording of mine with such exposed vocals. I recorded in Hercules St (owned by Harry Vanda producer for ACDC) with producer Tim McArtney where we brought this tune to life.
If there have been any significant events or successes in your musical adventures that you are most proud of, please share some of those stories with us.
I mostly proud of taking the step out of the shadows I’ve been hiding in so long! The last couple of tracks have been getting great results on radio and streaming platforms and I’m pumped to keep that going and get more tracks out there!
Similarly, what have been the most challenging moments in your career to date?
The studio being closed due to Covid has been a real bummer. I’ve been missing opportunities to play live due to lockdowns, but that’s just more motivation to get out there now.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Check out ALL my tunes as they are quite different from each other. I hope you enjoy!
Thanks again Tommy, really looking forward to the new EP later this year, all the best for your time in the studio! Readers can find Tommy on Instagram, and all the major streaming platforms.