I never thought that I would write about Tommy, but here we are. I’m not going to talk about our relationship. Too much happened and didn’t happen to tell that tale coherently. Maybe one day, if I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I’ll open a bottle of whiskey and that Pandora’s box, but this is not that day. Today, what I will talk about is that Tommy Simms was the best singer/songwriter that I have ever known.
Tommy turns his Alvarez into his bitch. I am a junkie for a heartfelt melody, and he was my supplier. That may have been one of the reasons why I stuck in that relationship for longer than I should have. For a time, I think I may have been his muse, so that’s probably one of the reasons why he stuck with me for longer than he should have. I am addicted to stripped down songwriting and I’ve never seen someone do what he can do with an acoustic guitar. He can make it sound like there are two guitars playing, while simultaneously setting your soul aflame with his vulnerable voice and charismatic ways that seems to pull at everyones heart strings.
I always knew how special his music was, and the fact that I still thought so, even after being heartbroken, confirms that I wasn’t just a fan because he was my boyfriend. I was his number one fan because I saw him at his best. Tommy alone with an acoustic guitar is where the magic happens. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to witness the behind the scenes footage of him sitting on a dilapidated couch with heavy eyes that always had some secret behind them, strumming through minor chords and humming new melodies under the pale moonlight. And those songs would fill the room and find their way into your bloodstream.
I don’t think he ever liked his songs as much as I did. He always seemed pretty nonchalant about his talent, and never used it as much as I felt that he should have. Years later, and I think only now do I kind of understand that it wasn’t so much that he was apathetic, but maybe he was just tired. I knew him after he had already put everything he had into music. I’m not sure, but I think that he had got his ass kicked by trying to “make it” and that tends to deteriorate your soul. It happened to me. It’s like a cancer. It spreads. In less than a year, I went from 100% identifying as being an artist, to 0% thinking like an artist. I once saw artistic inspiration in everything, and in a matter of months, I lost it all. When your dreams keep getting shut down by the rat race, it’s very discouraging, and I think that may have been where Tommy was at while I knew him. However, even without his whole heart in it, Tommy had more talent in an EP, than I probably do in my complete portfolio.
One of the reasons I say that is because he can write a song for every style. If you ask Tommy to write you a pop song, a rap beat, a doo-wap, a country tune… he will do it in a few minutes. That was always one of the more impressive things about him. So it’s a real shame that he never quite figured out how to wholly utilize his natural abilities. Society is just not conducive to artists.
Tommy’s recordings are fine, but they absolutely do not do him justice. He is best live because half of the experience is him. He’s got this allure on stage and it’s like a sudden spell that cloaks the room. No one knows exactly why they’re suddenly entranced, but they are. However, he only has half of the qualities required to be known. He has the talent and the charisma, which is the recipe for greatness. Unfortunately though, he’s lacking in work ethic and has a tendency to burn bridges. That may be the main reason why he’s not in a recording studio with Steve Albini at this very moment.
What inspired this random musing, is a video I just watched of him. I have been cleaning out and organizing my digital closet over the last few days, and I came across this old video that I had forgotten about. I recorded this years ago when he was playing a small show in Savannah, Georgia. We were living together at the time and I remember that he hadn’t done a show in a while. Please read the written guide I have provided below as you watch. It’s all worth seeing and hearing.
The first song is called New Accents and it was always one of his most popular. I believe that he wrote this one with Josh Greenburg and I’m pretty sure he wrote quite a few of his songs with Josh, so I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due. Josh is probably the best musician I know and I suspect that he has perfect pitch, but I’ve never asked.
He was surrounded by close friends, so in the beginning, you can tell that he is kind of nervous. But at minute marker 1:15, you can hear those nerves dissipate and he becomes more comfortable. This is why I believe that live music is the most powerful form of art. It’s a direct interpretation of someone’s soul in real time.
I never asked him about song lyrics. As long as I live, I will never ask a songwriter the meaning behind the lyrics they write. I think it’s far too personal. Yes, he was my boyfriend, but there are still privacy lines that shouldn’t be treaded through. I can guess what some of the lyrics are about, but I never confirmed any of these speculations. I know that mingled within these songs that he wrote while I was around, are words that other girls would know the meaning to, and that’s where being in a relationship with a musician gets ugly. I was similar though, so I’m sure it wasn’t easy being with someone like me either.
10:49- Tin Lizzy is possibly the best song he has ever written. No idea what it’s about and never asked.
14:30- Timmer! The boy who is in that shot, I have very fond memories of. One of my favorite times with Tommy was the winter of 2009. I think it was 2009 anyway. He was living with me in Savannah, Georgia and most of our friends went home for the holidays but me, Tommy and Tim stuck around. It’s one of those slices of life where everyone involved probably remembers it differently. Tommy and Tim’s memories of that time are most likely different from how I remember it. When I think about it, I feel this odd little temporary family built between three early twenty-something year-olds. Tim never left his house, so Tommy and I would walk down the road to his place and we would all drink NOS energy drinks together in the morning, then switch over to beer at night, and talk and laugh and dream up ideas that we knew deep down we would never create. In hindsight, it felt like our own little secret world. None of us really keep in touch anymore, but we had December of 2009 together and it was something to be cherished.
20:34- He starts with that build up and you can feel it. From here until the end, this is the epitome of Tommy in his element.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe Tommy and I just aligned in some fucked up telepathic, artistic way. I always said that if Tommy and I used the same medium, we would create the same art. My true art was dance. Dance and choreography was the only thing that I was ever really good at. If he was a dancer, I think he would choreograph like me. I choreographed movement and he choreographed notes. And if I was a songwriter, I think that I would write like him.
The climax of his studio recordings was “Homeboys.” He nailed it with the recording of that song and I was very proud of him. I have it, but I am not sure that he ever formally released it, so I don’t want to throw it online. Here is a fucking beautiful live performance of it however that I just found:
Tommy, I always thought that How It Feels would be great solo live if you can figure out how to make it work.