Q&A with Ventura County-based Tommy Marsh of Crooked Eye Tommy -- Deep Seeded Blues and Smokey Southern Rock

"I think perseverance is the greatest tool we have to becoming successful in any endeavor. The music business is a cold and hard place and the reason we have become successful in our 50s is from my persistence and drive to make it happen. It is one thing to be talented at something, it is entirely another becoming successful using your talent. You must find the desire to push and continue to push everyday… Merely showing up will not make you a success."

Crooked Eye Tommy's experiences

Forged in the blood of brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh, Crooked Eye Tommy casts a musical spell with the depths of joy and melancholy that can only result from a lifetime of playing music together. Since first entering the music scene in Ventura County, California in 2014, Crooked Eye Tommy has been a six-time Ventura County Music Award winner, two-time International Blues Challenge (IBC) semi-finalist (2014 and 2019), and in 2020 reached the IBC finals. Their debut album, “Butterflies And Snakes,” released in 2015, earned impressive acclaim and recognition.

Crooked Eye Tommy / Photos by Bo Rothschild

Ventura County brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh formed Crooked Eye Tommy in 2010. Their new album, “Hot Coffee And Pain” (2020), contains nine blues and roots rock tracks: three covers and six originals, including a duet written by Tommy Marsh featuring Grammy nominee, Teresa James, on vocals and piano. The project was recorded at Carbonite Sound in Ojai, CA with Grammy-winning audio engineer Jason Mariani (Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford) at the helm.

Interview by Michael Limnios        Crooked Eye Tommy, 2016 interview @ blues.gr

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

If there is an influence on my views, I am not sure I would know where to start describing it. Growing up in the 60s & 70s we were all bombarded by massive amounts of fantastic music and this of course influenced me. We were raised in a small town in the Central Valley of California and were in some ways insulated from the bulk of the counterculture in California. The Music though DID absolutely connect with us and by proxy I guess we soaked up some of the culture. I would say for myself the mid to late 70s had a stronger affect on me and my views of the world than the 60s did. 

How do you describe "Hot Coffee And Pain" sound and songbook? Are there any memories from studio which you’d like to share?

As with our first album Butterflies & Snakes, Hot Coffee and Pain was recorded at Carbonite Studios in Ojai with Jason Miriani at the helm.. The story of this album is eclectic as was B&S. Having two separate singers and songwriters I think ensures that this will be the result. Paddy and I have very different styles of writing but as brothers we share many of the same influences so while our songs differ, they all have a similar origins and I think that is why our sound is unique. Recording was easier this time and I suppose this is natural. We spent more time putting this one together, so it has a little more polish that B&S. I think the story that stands out in the studio to me what when Craig Williams was recording his sax solo for Hot Coffee and Pain. He had made one pass at it already and wasn’t happy with it. We recorded a second pass and it was freaking perfect. He didn’t like it and wanted to do another one. I stopped him and said come in and listen to it. When we played it in the control room EVERYONES eyes got big including his. I think sometimes we do not realize the magic that comes out of us and it often takes someone else to show us this.

What touched (emotionally) you from Gregg & Duanne Allman, "Death Letter" and "Congo Square"?

The Allman Brothers band holds a very special place in my heart and when Gregg [assed it seemed appropriate to create an ode to them. "The Big House" is the first instrumental I have ever written, and I think it captures the essence of what those brothers were able to create and also an opportunity to show what THESE BROTHERS can create as well. Of all the songs on this album "The Big House" is the funnest to play and thrills me every time.

The Son House tune ("Death Letter") became of interest to me after hearing the great Sugaray Rayford perform it. I had heard it but it did not come to life for me until Sugar sang it. I love playing that tune… "Congo square" was a song we have been doing for a while and is one of the crowd favorites at our shows, so we were obliged to record it. It’s a great song that transports the listener to the land of VooDoo.

"Growing up in the 60s & 70s we were all bombarded by massive amounts of fantastic music and this of course influenced me. We were raised in a small town in the Central Valley of California and were in some ways insulated from the bulk of the counterculture in California." (Crooked Eye Tommy / Photo by Bo Rothschild)

Where does your creative drive come from? What characterize band's music philosophy?

For me the pain and sadness I have been through in my life is a big motivator. I had an addiction problem for many years, and it did a lot of damage to my family, my body and most certainly my soul. Coming through addiction and walking out the other side has made by appreciate each moment of each day as a gift. I try to look at the world in the positive all the time now... perhaps as a way to ward off the evil and keep the demons that haunted me for so many years at bay. I generally write from my experiences and the feelings around them.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I think perseverance is the greatest tool we have to becoming successful in any endeavor. The music business is a cold and hard place and the reason we have become successful in our 50s is from my persistence and drive to make it happen. It is one thing to be talented at something, it is entirely another becoming successful using your talent. You must find the desire to push and continue to push everyday… Merely showing up will not make you a success.

What were the reasons that California was/is the center of Blues, Rock, Psychedelic researches and experiments?

California is a special place in many ways. It was beautiful and free in the 60s and the hippie nation migrated to this sunshine & love fest. Searching for free expression and an expanded consciousness these beautiful souls found the music and its magic and wore it like a flower in their hair. Today it is not the same place it was. The music business has changed and the promise that was everywhere in the 60s is long lost in the corporate intrusion.

I will say there is some unbelievable music out there these days, but it is less of a force in our world because the POP Culture and POP music these days is driven more by the media and “tasetmakers” than by the listeners.

Crooked Eye Tommy - Home

(Crooked Eye Tommy / Photo by Bo Rothschild)

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