RGM Introducing – Tom Masters Interview

Hi Tom, welcome to the virtual interview room today, tell me a little bit about you and what you like doing for fun?

Away from my music happenings, I’m do love my badminton (rock and roll I know) I’ve played since I was about 13, representing Yorkshire on multiple occasions but these days I just like going for a session playing a few games with my pals I’ve met at various clubs over the years.

I am also quite the avid Pokemon trainer and I have been smashing out Pokemon Go a lot over the course of this year. When lockdown properly started, it gave me an actual incentive to go outside on walks. Nothing better than popping down to the local park or walking through town and out of no where there’s a bloody whack-off Pokemon right in front of you (virtually on a screen obviously) I would also like to inform everyone that I am incredibly dedicated to being the worlds best Pokemon trainer. No matter the weather or terrain, I will always brave even the harshest of conditions to catch them all.

Also love chilling with my cat Woody. He’s a full on boyo, the henchest cat you’ve ever seen and my best mate. I’ve got him trained now that if I put a cushion from the sofa on my lap and pat it, he comes sprinting towards me and lays down on the cushion for a nap.

Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?

Not as such within an interview, and I am not necessarily sick of it. Instead I would say it makes me laugh just as much every time. I can guarantee that at whatever gig I play, a punter will undoubtedly approach the stage, or shout from the audience “scuse me/oiiii, is that a wig or your real hair???” Which I of course go onto to clarify that it is my real hair. And no, its not permed and its naturally curly and all the other details that go with it.
However, this hasn’t stopped a few confident folk from getting up close and personal to attempt to literally pull my ‘wig’ from my head, which naturally, hurts bloody loads. It’s all good fun though and I am sure they mean no harm. My hair has served me well anyway, it has certainly become a bit of a statement inadvertently and people recognise me because of my hairstyle. Nothing wrong with having a stand-out feature to be remembered by, especially in this industry I find myself in.

What made you decide to start a band / become an artist?

I was in a pop/punk covers band playing lead/rhythm guitar when I was 14 and thiswas my first experience of gigging. That disbanded and I realised there was a pretty big hole in my life without performing. Got my acoustic out and started practicing to get to a point where I could sing and play on my own. I will confirm when I’ve mastered this because 8 years down the line I am still having trouble lol.

What is the unsigned scene in Barnsley like at the minute?

There’s honestly so many amazing things going on in our little town and I am proud to be from there. The music scene is no exception. Firstly the quality of the live music scene and the musicians immersed in it is insane, and there’s also such diversity with so many different genres and styles of acts. All you need as proof of this is to attend Barnsley Live, an annual inner-city festival held in pubs, bars and clubs all over town hosting all the amazing artists and bands the town has to offer, as well as acts further afield. I was gutted 2020 couldn’t go ahead due to the pandemic, however the organisers hosted a virtual festival which was a brilliant consolation and I was fortunate enough to be in that lineup.

What good bands are coming out of Barnsley at the minute?
Jeeez there are so many to choose from. For the last few years, a band who have been making some absolute bangers, as well as waves in the various music scenes up and sown the north are Twenty Eighth Club. I had the pleasure of supporting them a while back at The Old School House Venue in Barnsley (sadly closed now, SUPPORT INDEPENDENT LIVE MUSIC VENUES) and the band have gone from strength to strength since. Such a good bunch of lads too and it’s a pleasure to know them.

On the Singer/Songwriter front, I am very privileged to be such good friends with none other than the extremely talented Toby Burton. That boy’s songs get you in the feels alright. He’s also one of the nicest blokes I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and he has been a very supportive figure personally to me as I embark on my music career.

Another name I would like to mention is a girl with vocal pipes like you’ve never heard or witnessed before called Hannah Rowe. The things that girl can do with her voice are out of this world. An insanely gifted singer who is capable of doing vocal runs that my mind can’t even comprehend and all at the same time, she is so so modest and humble. Such a good combination to have and a rare one in my opinion as well. She’s on her way to doing some big things mark my words.

What’s your favourite song right now from another band?

Me being indecisive (a running theme) I can’t pick one. But I can narrow it down to 3 to compromise. My favourite 3 songs right now are as follows.
⁃ James Bay: Chew On My Heart
⁃ Holly Humberstone: Falling Asleep At The Wheel
⁃ FINNEAS: Let’s Fall in Love for the Night

What support is out there for new artists in Barnsley?

BYC: I can quite easily say I would not be where I am today, doing what I do if it
wasn’t for the Barnsley Youth Choir. I joined the choir when I was 15, with very little actual singing experience. The sad and annoying thing is that I have always loved to sing. But I think on a sub-conscious level I was always too afraid to actually follow that passion. Even now there is still such a huge stigma around boys and singing, particularly choral singing. I think I just needed the time to finally know myself and who I wanted to be.

I really try my best wherever my music takes me to reassure lads that them wanting to sing is a wonderful thing. It fills me with massive pride that I am now the Tenor/Bass section leader in the choir and I am part of a big group of lads there who all sing unapologetically and with nothing but enthusiasm and heart. Joining the choir was hands down the best thing I have ever done. I have made friends for life, sang all over the world and improved as a musician and more importantly as a human being as a result of being involved. The organisation has shown me immense support as I embark on my music career and I will forever be grateful to them.

EnRich: EnRich are a local charity in Barnsley, set up in memory of Richard Tolson who sadly passed away back in 2013 due to a rare form of cancer. Richard was Head of Music and Performing Arts at Barnsley College, notably mentoring Arctic Monkeys on a Music Technology course. Their careers took off shortly after completing the course. The charity set up in his name aims to promote any and all specialisms in performing and creative arts. I have personally received such generous support from EnRich over the years and I am incredibly grateful to them for it.

How easy or difficult do you find picking up new fans to come to your gigs?

I think this is something a lot of independent artists have to work really hard at doing at the best of times. But I find greatest levels of success come through direct communication with people and word of mouth. So if I play a gig, I really go out of my way to head around the venue and have a chat with everyone who caught my set. It might start with general chat about how there night has been, or where they’re from, or where they plan on heading next after this venue.

Typically these chats allow myself and the other people to comfortably fall into a chat about whatever and it ignites a personal connection between myself and them. Off the back of this I can reach out to get them to check me out on social media so they can keep up with what I am doing/where I am gigging soon. Making it personal and breaking that fourth wall between me on the stage as the artist and them out front in the audience I feel really helps with solidifying a genuine link between the two of us. I think this increases the likelihood of me being able to reach out in future to ask if they fancy coming down to another gig.

Who is inspiring you at the minute?
Again, I’ve got a few names to rattle off for ya.
⁃ James Bay is someone who still does and always has inspired me. Big fat guitar riffs, class voice, and a bit of a rockstar in my eyes.
⁃ Dermott Kennedy since his arrival onto the mainstream music scene has become an artist who I admire massively. The man is a genius lyricist and I can only dream of hopefully being anywhere near his level of intellect when it comes to writing such poetic, heartfelt words as well as pairing that with some brilliant music and melodies.

⁃ FINNEAS is the newest influence of mine out of these names I have listed. I have only just properly had a listen to his album Blood Harmony and jeeez was I blown away. I can only describe it as a alt-pop masterclass body of work. The lyrics, the production, the songwriting. I cant sing its praises or recommend it enough that everyone should go and check it out. The songs are so diverse from one another yet the album is still so cohesive and well thought out, which I think is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve.

What useless talent do you have/ party trick?

Don’t ask how I discovered I can do this because I truly can’t remember (and I am not sure if I want to) but the skin at the bottom of my neck/top of my chest is stretchy enough that it can reach my mouth and I can hold it there with my teeth lmaoo. My theory behind my body being capable of doing this is because when I was younger I was slightly fatter but then I had a growth spurt and it all kind of distributed around my body, which as a result maybe left me with some excess skin. (I’m going to regret sharing this information aren’t I)

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

Barnsley Live with my full band behind me. There is truly no better feeling than
packing out a pub with friends, family and music lovers in your hometown, playing your original music and people genuinely engaging and digging what you’re doing. I am used to playing solo mostly so experiencing the full sound of my music is always such a brilliant feeling on stage.

What was the worst experience on stage?

Luckily I have had a somewhat pleasant gigging experience over the years. However, one moment I recall is one that I am afraid to admit as a northerner. Everyone knows that the Arctic Monkeys are a legendary band, and us northern lot worship them especially. When I was 14 I was part of a Saturday morning music club at my high school. At the end of every term we would do a showcase for parents/friends etc. It was my first time fronting a band and I was singing and playing Electric Guitar in the iconic Mardy Bum. I don’t get nervous at all anymore, but back then they use to cripple me. Shakes, sweating, dry-mouth, the lot! It was going alright until I absolutely froze and entirely forgot the words to the second verse I am ashamed to say, considering I am such a big fan of them. I froze entirely and then somehow pulled it back and returned to rocking out in the second chorus. Funny to look back on, mortifying to go through at the time. I have never and will never forget the words to that song again.

Best drink to have on stage?

I’m incredibly boring. 99% of the time you will only catch me with a big old pint of
water. I find if I drink anything stronger (especially the alcoholic bevs) my voice finds it way harder to sing, despite the confidence boost provided by the booze. However, does it count as being rock and roll if I sink at least 5+ pints of water every gig I play? (I go to the loo a lot when I am gigging lol)

Tell us a funny story from backstage?

A story that at the time was traumatic but all ended well I am happy to report. Barnsley Live Festival last year. I was headlining with my band at The White Bear. A slight misunderstanding between myself and the promoters resulted in my drummer not having cymbal stands because I thought they were provided. A lot of DIY was taking place trying to fashion make shift cymbal stands out of drumsticks and whatever else we could find. Nothing was working despite our best efforts so I then proceeded to ring every drummer I knew in a 1 mile radius as they were all in town for the festival asking if they had their stands handy and available to let me borrow me their cymbal stands. I had to go outside to call as the pub was crazy loud and of course, the heavens opened and it banged it down with a storm like I have never seen. Luckily I had some luck and my friend Dom legged it to the pub with his stands and me, my drummer and the performance were saved. The gig all went smoothly and I couldn’t have asked for a better show. Alls well that ends well right?

Best gig you’ve been to that you weren’t playing?

James Bay – One of my biggest influences and favourite artists of mine. I went all the way down to London last year by myself to watch him play a one off gig at The Palladium. I think being in the audience in such an iconic venue, watching an artist who you are so in awe of is simply just a very special thing. I have been so inspired by his discography for such a long time, and having watched so many videos on YouTube etc so I could witness his clear stage presence and electric atmosphere he ignites at his gigs. So to finally have the chance to experience all those feelings in a live setting at one of his gigs made it a night I will never forget. Also attending this gig alone was actually something I don’t regret at all. It allowed me just to fully immerse myself in the music with no distractions.

Bruno Mars 24kMagic tour was unbelievable. The musicianship, showmanship, band, multi-instrumentalist frontman Bruno himself. Everything was so polished.

Muse Drones Tour: So theatrical and the set design was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Of course the atmosphere was electric and for a trio, the sound they made was huge.

(Big up to my sister Rosie for buying me tickets for both Bruno Mars and Muse)
Tom Odell Jubilee Road Tour: One of my favourite singer/songwriters of all time. Saw him on his very first tour as a somewhat new artist. The next time round, now with 3 albums under his belt the man transformed. The songs, the vocal, the commanding stage presence jumping on his piano. I knew I was going to love the gig due to his music but his stage presence elevated that enjoyment for me to another level. For a piano playing singer/songwriter, that man can really put on a show.

Lewis Capaldi: The Wardrobe: Was for Live at Leeds Ones to Watch and he was closing proceedings. The room wasn’t at capacity and it only holds 300 approx. I’d say there were 100 people there. It was right at the start of his rise to fame and I’ve followed him ever since. I knew I’d witnessed something special that night, look what he’s gone onto achieve since.

Who would you like to duet with?

How could I ever pick one?!? Such a hard question as there are obviously so many
greats that have inspired me over the years. I am going to have to say Queen. Simply because they are my earliest memory of music. Brian May was the reason I wanted to pick up a guitar in the first place and Freddie Mercury is undoubtedly one of the best frontmen to have ever graced our planet.

What goes into your favourite sandwich?
Very much depends on whether its a hot or cold sandwich. Either way, a big fan of the carbohydrate goodness of a sarnie.
Hot: Sausage, Egg, Mushroom and Tomato from the Sandwich shop up the road from me. Banging scran always from there.

Cold: Probably something like chicken with coleslaw. Could also sub out the coleslaw for tomato and some pesto if I was fortunate to have some knocking around somewhere.

What advice would you give someone going into the music industry?

Sounds very simple and maybe a bit cliche but just be kind, polite and respectful to everyone you come into contact with. Whether it be fans, promoters, producers or whoever you may cross paths with on this journey throughout your music career. It truly doesn’t cost anything to just be nice to people and I believe if you can just maintain being a decent, genuine human being it will pay off for you somewhere down the line.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Hands down would tell a younger Tom Masters to do and follow whatever makes him happy. People come and go and the ones who love, care and appreciate you for who you are will be the ones who will stick around, and the only people you will need. Unfortunately you cannot please everyone in this life no matter how hard you try. As long as what you are doing isn’t you actively negatively impacting on someone’s life, you should do as you please. To sum up, YOU DO YOU + be nice to people, even if they aren’t necessarily nice to you. The alternative is a waste of energy, energy that could be expended better elsewhere.

What makes you stand out as a band?

I think the most obvious one for me would have to be my hair. Being a white guy in the middle of Barnsley with a big old Afro certainly catches people’s attention. My hair was an accident in truth. I grew it out when I was like 15 because I wanted to straighten it to channel my pop-punk heroes at the time. As my music tastes changed, so did my hair when I realised it was super curly. I just decided to leave it and let it do its own thing. I’ve had this look ever since. It certainly helps people remember who I am. It’s always “that lad with the big hair who sang there” from various people up and down.

Right now, whats pissing you of the most? (Cant say the virus 🙂

Being 5 months into a lockdown and believing I would be capable of finally growing a thick, filled in beard at the mature age of 22. How wrong was I? Don’t get me wrong I have made progress but there’s some patches still taunting me. My Dad has a sick beard and I just wanna get on that man’s level. Don’t worry I will keep you updated any time a new hair sprouts on my chin.

I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?

I’ve been trying for absolutely ages to conjure up and combine the elusive duo of sadboi lyrics with bop-like, banger-esque (words I’ve made up lol) and I think Separate Ways is the closest I’ve come yet. You know how it is, everyone these days loves a tune they can have a dance and vibe to but also have tears streaming uncontrollably down their face due it being a sad song.

It’s a song about two people in a relationship who come to the mutual agreement that its best if they go ‘separate ways’. So despite it being a pretty bleak , sad topic, I wanted to write from a relatively realistic and slightly optimistic perspective, understanding that in truth it is for the best these two people no longer being as one. It isnt about anybody or any real life relationship drama I’ve had, it was merely me coming up with the situation and writing a song about it. It might be sub-consciously about people around me who are or have been in relationships that were clearly not working, and the frustration of witnessing something clearly toxic and unhealthy for them and mewishing they both just escape the denial they find theirselves in and do the right thing by ending it.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Would like to express how much I bloody love my Mum, Dad and Sister for always
believing in my music and for constantly showing their unwavering love and support towards me in everything I do. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch to call family.

Also big love to all my wonderful friends who get behind me and my music. I am
massively grateful to every single one of you legends!

Thanks for joining us today folks, all the best and keep in touch.