Tom is a strong and soulful performer of new, original acoustic blues. He combines the raw power of Son House with the dense hypnotic rhythms of Howlin’ Wolf and the barrel-chested roar of the old blues belters; taking audiences on a journey from the Delta to the Download.
Here’s a recent Q&A with this fine musician:
What can you tell us about your role in this year’s Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival?
I’m doing two things. Firstly, I am hosting the new acoustic stage at The Little Theatre. The acoustic stage is traditionally one of the best daytime stages in the festival, so I am very excited about the way that we are developing it in a new venue and with a new spin on the performers we are presenting. Secondly, I am performing with my electric band at the Hippodrome on Friday night, which is a serious honour.
What kind of set can we expect at the Hippodrome?
I’m very interested in driving things forward. We’ve been working on new material which comes from the blues, but tries to take it somewhere new for the 21 st century. The heartbeat of blues music and blues culture is development, inclusion and change, and I think our new material reflects that.
What helped in your decision process when choosing the artists to perform at your acoustic showcase at the Little Theatre?
I looked for anyone who was pushing the envelope with blues. There are some frankly astonishing performers who have breathed life into the music at the festival over the last 20 or so years, and so this year I wanted to present new artists who added to that tradition. So, whilst there are some familiar faces like Lucy Zirins, TJ Norton and Dave Arcari, there are also some artists who are getting their Colne debut – The Delta Ladies, Jack Blackman… and several others. The thing that they all have in common is that they each bring their own unique take to the blues – interpreting it, working firmly within the tradition – but evolving.
What is your musical background?
I started out as a drummer! I was very lucky that where I used to live in Surrey, it was full of the old players from the 1960s – they call it the Rockbroker Belt. I loved drums but one day I wanted to write a song, and so had to learn to play guitar in order to make that happen… and I’m still learning!
Who do you look up to as an artist?
That’s a simple question with a complicated answer. Frankly, anyone that makes me feel something is someone I look up to, because they’re doing what I think music should do – reaching out and communicating. So clearly the greatest artists do that consistently – I still adore the music of Muddy Waters and Son House, but Susan Tedeschi does it, Rag & Bone Man does it, Katie Bradley, Kyla Brox… so many people do it so often and so well.
Which one of your songs means the most to you?
That’s like asking about favourite children, isn’t it? They all mean things for different reasons. I always open with ‘How Long Has It Been,’ because that was a song that guided me through a difficult time of change in my life. Some of them I have sung as my friends were laid to rest, so that’s a way of bringing the joy of knowing them into a show. Without wanting to dodge the question they all mean that I get to connect with an audience, just in different ways, and so I am grateful to all of the songs for that.
What kind of music were you brought up listening to?
There was Boney M, Billy Idol, Bob Marley and Stax playing in our house! There was a certain amount of reggae going on, but as soon as I could choose I gravitated towards the blues and to soul.
It was Eric Clapton, the Doors, The Beatles, The Stranglers and the Stones that led me back to the blues; I go back and forth into the past and future from there.
What’s been the most memorable time of your musical career?
The most memorable time is now. I’m astonished at the last 10 years, I really am. I’ve been able to travel around the world and meet some incredible people and musicians. It makes me a bit dizzy to think of all the playing, singing and just the talented and generous people I have met – musicians, organisers, audiences – just terrific. It’s like someone threw a switch in the middle of 2007 and everything just snapped into action, it’s amazing! I get to play music I love with my best friends, to audiences who want to hear it, in places that I love to be. What could be better than that?
Tom Attah and The Bad Man Clan play The Hippodrome, Colne on Friday 25th August on the same bill as Lachy Doley (Australia) and Ian Siegal (Netherlands).