(KLCTN Premiere) Tom Young – Brother

By Kian McHugh

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“Music is just whatever man. That’s the beauty I think. Sound and intention (or not).” – Tom Young

I firmly believe that vulnerability is pertinent to the success of a singer/songwriter. This calls for tapping into the darkest corners of one’s mind and converting those twisted findings into a melody, lyric, or song title. Tom Young is something of a musical genius in my books, as he has tackled a devastating topic in both his track Brother and in a discussion with The K. In addition to his solo work which will remain the focus of this piece, Tom has a dark indie project with his fiancée called The Melancholies and he’s a member of the extremely popular, Auckland-based 5 man pseudo-boy band LEISURE. With two side-projects to mask himself behind, Tom’s decision to use his own name “was definitely a conscious decision.”

Before this project I’d always released music under monikers; maybe to protect myself or to perhaps even get away from myself. But none of the projects really stuck, and I think it’s because I just couldn’t see myself doing them long term. I had pretty much a whole “chill r&b” album written – but then thought to myself, “am I really going to want to be chill r&b guy in 2-3 years time?”

I threw out a bunch of music and started from scratch. The project really started to take shape after my fiancée and I went on a holiday to the South Island of New Zealand. We drove around in a campervan together and pretty much had no cell phone service. It was basically just us and our immediate surroundings for nearly 2 weeks. Really stripped back living. I wrote t­he song “Me and My Girl” on that trip and thought “oh, I could do something like this”.

This track- Me and My Girl– is part of Tom’s debut 2-track EP which he released on August 31st which also features the track MeltMe and My Girl has since garnered well over half a million streams on Spotify and counting. In listening to the track, I immediately felt transported to a different time and place: I now realize it to be, quite simply, Tom’s time and place. Visually, I imagine Tom’s time and place to be something out of a Wes Anderson film- perfectly centered and unapologetically entranced by the moment itself.

It’s not a deliberate thing, it’s kinda always been there in most things I write. I like it when things are sort of simple and meditative and not overly demanding of the listener. I listen to a lot of ambient music too which I guess tends to soak in. I think the holiday mentioned [previously] set the scene a little too- (it’s pretty much where all of the outdoor shots of Lord of the Rings were filmed).

Where Me and My Girl packs a punch filled with nostalgia and could influence one to re-visit pictures of them and a past lover, Brother relies on catharsis to shape a narrative that is equal parts sad and therapeutic. Tom is so brutally honest in his experience as a human, despite his loss being something only he has experienced. Lyrics such as “I ran away to meditation camps like they were bandaids” cut deep into any listener’s desire to simply feel alright.

I recorded the song at home and my friend mixed it for me in about half an hour. The song itself only took an hour to write but it’s been churning away in the back of my mind for a long time. My older brother died of cancer in 2007 when he was 21, which safe to say fucked the family up. It was strange seeing his body slowly change and break down as he got closer to death. It’s taken a long, long time to process. A couple of years went by and I just found myself sinking more and more into anger and depression. I decided to go to this meditation retreat called Vipassana that my friend Sam (who writes under BOYBOY) told me about. Looking back now, I think he wanted to send me there as his guinea pig lol. For 10 days you can’t talk, make eye contact, read, write or orgasm, you just do this meditation practice for 10 hours a day. I had some massive breakthroughs there, which really helped me process his death. I also helped me come to terms with the idea of ‘change’ itself and see that everything in our lives is lent to us and must one day be returned back.

As Tom continues to maneuver his way through life and multiple projects, I fear not that he lose any sense of his authenticity. Granted, can something or someone truly authentic lose their integral nature? Perhaps in a major industry town like Los Angeles- yes, definitely- or the starkly different music scene in New Zealand could have an effect.

I guess it’s hard to say, I haven’t been in either place for more than a few days. There is a lot more hustle going on in those places than where I am for sure. But all I know is I don’t really like the city. I get too confused with other peoples vibes I think. I tend to lose my center when there’s too much happening around me.

I’ve got an album in the can, I’m just figuring out how to go about putting it out. It’s quite an overwhelming process to think about when it’s only me doing everything. I’ve started to think about how I could do shows, the idea of ‘a guy and his acoustic guitar’ doesn’t exactly turn me on so I’m looking at ways I can make it interesting and unique.

Success is relative, music is subjective, and everyone is just trying to figure themselves out- no matter how much you’ve got going on or who you are to anyone else. The key to success according to Tom, readers of the K, “Figure out what’s important to you and make time for it.”

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