FEW artists have the story and back-history…
of Tom Dibb. In his trust campervan, ‘Pickle’, he embarked on a long tour of Australia and it seems appropriate, given a song-title like Hit the Road, some of that should be unveiled. In fact; that song is actually about something deeper and more common – Dibb explains the song’s origins and what his new album, Ground, Up, is all about.
Dibb talks about upcoming gigs and the albums that have impacted him most; how he transitioned from a job in London to a life in music – and where things go from here…
Hi, Tom. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! Not too shabby, thanks.
We’ve been sending signed C.D.s out to all those who preordered the new album - and plugging the new tunes off at the moment. We’re also busy booking a tour for the New Year.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Tom Dibb: singer-songwriter; campervan-dweller. I’ve been on the road for the most part of five years and it all began as a means to make a living doing what I love doing - and having a general appreciation for outdoor life and adventuring.
Hit the Road is out there. Can you talk about the song’s creation/origins?
I wrote Hit the Road a couple of years into van-life; having realised that, once we strip ourselves back to basics, most of us are far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. When we don’t have the means to pay - or rely on other people to do things for us - we can learn and evolve. We can break the mould; realise born-given potential and claim independence.
That’s what Hit The Road is all about.
It seems appropriate given your gigantic trek to Australia in your camper van! You were in ‘Pickle’ for fourteen months. What was the reason behind this mammoth feat?!
I wanted to branch out and get my songs heard across the globe...but in my own way.
I wasn’t prepared to take the route of T.V. talent shows or endless hours of social media. I’m at my best - and happiest - when I’m playing my tunes to people right there in front of me. For years, people said: “Tom.. you should be on the East coast of Oz: you’d go down so well there”. I figured it was about time I went to see. I’d drive U.K- to-Australia; playing in every country; everywhere I could en route - and use social media as a tool to share what I discover along the way.
I’d been touring the V.W. festival circuit for a couple of years when I started planning the tour - and had grown quite a following in that community because of ‘Pickle’ - so she had to be the bus that I would take across the globe.
Together, we would combine music, travel and experience new cultures…all into one epic tour. A Pickle Down Under was born.
What did you learn from your time on the road and is Melbourne, where you ended up, somewhere you can see yourself going back to?
I’ve learnt so much during my time on the road, and continue to every day, but if I were to shortlist some things learnt during the tour, they’d be:
1. You never know what’s around the corner: everything can change in a spark.
2. You don’t need to share a language in order to communicate. I got by with scraps of language when needed but I enjoyed the company of people - who became great friends with none at all. Music can also bridge gaps between people with social and cultural differences.
3. I can give you a list as long as your arm about mechanical bits. I learnt to fix on a 1989 V.W. T25.
4. You can surf on the Black Sea.
5. Eating is not always a pleasant experience…
I can certainly see myself and the boys in the band returning to Melbourne - and all of Australia - to be honest. The original music scene there is thriving and a whole lotta fun - and with such a gigantic land-mass; there’s so much left to explore…
You visited lots of other nations. What were your favourite memories and tell me about some of the experiences you had on the road?
Some of my fondest memories are those of meeting new folk, who would become friends, and experiencing the most incredible hospitality from strangers.
One that comes to mind is when I’d just arrived in Georgia - without Pickle - as she was on a ship full of military cargo crossing the Black Sea. Foot passengers were a not allowed on board. On arriving at the airport in Georgia, I sat down at the laptop to plan the details of my next move. Two guys had already tried to hurry me off in a taxi to the best hotel in town (I didn’t get a good vibe from them) - when an older gent with a calm air about him approached me.
His name was David and, with no real understanding of one another’s language, I established he was telling me his house was 500 meters from where we were. He invited me to eat, drink and rest with his family. I trusted him and, within minutes, I was hanging out with the local men (his friends) in the village centre; drinking homebrew, eating smoked cheese; sharing tobacco and laughs.
I explained to David’s daughter (who spoke some English) that I needed to be in a place further north called ‘Poti’ the next day to collect my van at the port. She told me that her father (said he) would take me there and help me to find the van.
The following day, David drove me the whole 70-K.M. trip to Poti - and would not leave my side until we found someone at the port that spoke English and could assist me. On parting, David gestured that, once I had Pickle, back I should return to his home to stay with them again - and that I did. I played them a few songs in their home as a small thank you gesture - feeling a bit bowled over by their generous spirit and immense hospitality.
I experienced many instances of such friendly human spirit during my time on the road and have many stories of peoples generosity and hospitality in the most unexpected places.
Other experiences included isolation on the road. Not seeing anyone for days, and embracing being alone while surrounded by nature and beautiful landscapes, gets a whole different set of brain cells ticking. (When I had just entered Kyrgyzstan Pickle and I climbed the Otmok Pass; 3326 meters above sea-level and camped out up in the snow - having spent the previous night in the desert). When night fell, the wind dropped and it was silent: the moon and stars reflected off the snow, lighting up the landscape. I cooked, sipped on snow-chilled vodka and thought myself to sleep.
An hour or so after dropping off, I heard a rustling from outside. I had left some tins in a bag, under the van, rather than on the roof-rack - as I was not expecting much wildlife this high up. When I opened the sliding door; I saw a mountain fox disappear into the white. Being this close to a creature, that survives in such a harsh environment, was pretty special.
Ground, Up, your album, was released later last month. What themes and topics inspired the album?
Ground, Up is inspired by a lot of themes that, all together, tell a story of development and learning. There are points-of-view from my life a few years ago in London - relationship experiences, self-battles in times of personal change; thoughts on political climates, paths of discovery and tales from the road.
You used to work in London doing a regular job. Was there that moment you had enough and had to get out? What was the final realisation/point that you knew music was a better path?
The six-month stepping-stone of a job had turned in to a six-year one; attempting to build some form of musical career alongside. I was doing some gigs with one of the coffee shop companies and took a couple of weeks’ holiday to do a south-west coastal tour of them. I’d had ‘Pickle’ for a few years already and, so, I packed her up with the necessary gear for gigging and we set off to the coast.
I started off in Brighton and continued west; busking in-between cafe gigs and occasionally hitting-up impromptu opportunities to play my songs in harbor-town pubs. Just over half-way into the tour; I thought about how long I had before I was back at work – and, while doing so, I also thought about what I was doing. I was having a blast; sharing my music; meeting new people, making new opportunities; camping out in my van and making enough money to keep myself going.
I never went back to my old life in London…and that was almost six years ago.
Who are the musicians that inspired you when you were younger?
My old dear used to listen to Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading. I still listen to them today so I guess that’s the earliest: moving on to Bob Marley, Counting Crows; David Gray in my early-to-mid-teens and then Jack Johnson; Ben Harper and John Butler in my late-teens/early-twenties when I really started writing.
It seems, given the year you have had, there must be more material in your mind! Are you thinking ahead to another album/E.P.?
Absolutely. The Chapel Dog Records team, the boys in my band and I have already started recording the next E.P./album - and I’m working on a few fresh ideas, now. We’re looking at getting back into the studio January 2018 - for a potential spring release.
We’ll see how the tunes go…
IN THIS PHOTO: Craig Atkins
Who are the new artists you suggest we check out?
There’s quite a few Australian artists I met over there that are certainly worth a look.
Mr. Craig Atkins toured with us on percussion but is an awesome multi-instrumentalist and songwriter.
Tristan O’Meara makes didgeridoos and sings with a rare passion on songs with a Roots, Folk and Blues flavour.
Phil & Tilly - from the Isle of Wight - currently tour the East Coast as an acoustic duo, Upright Bass - guitar and awesome harmonies giving Byron Bay a taste of U.K. Surf-Folk.
This dude’s not new by any means but he took me under his wing - and if you like a dirty Blues with a husky Tom Waits-kinda vocal then The Mason Rack Band are a must-see. Awesome musicians; wicked-cool guys and man do they put on a show.
Do you have gigs coming up? Where can we come and catch you play?
In late-Jan/early-Feb 2018; my band and I will be out touring the new album, Ground Up. We’re currently booking gigs from Leeds down to London, including the 1st Feb at Mr Wolfs (Bristol) and 8th Feb at The Stables (Milton Keynes).
As for the rest of this year; I’m keeping it close to friends and family and getting my feet back on familiar ground. I’ll be hitting the streets busking - and the markets. I’ll be playing at Knebworth’s Christmas fair on the 12th November in Hertfordshire - amongst other dates (for a full gig-list, see my website: www.tomdibb.com).
I’ll be doing a few little old pub shows too - to enjoy an English run-up to Christmas.
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
I was given this album at a pivotal point in my life and, somehow, it made things make sense. It will always resonate with me…
Natty - Man Like I
I bought this album the summer I went off on that cafe tour (that changed my life).
Incubus - Morning View
I was seventeen when I got in my first band, ‘Kipdenooi’ influenced by Incubus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Those were my first writing days - and a couple of the best years of my life so far. If it wasn’t for that band, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
It all depends on what you’re doing it for.
If you’re in it for the same reasons as I am, then be yourself; take influence but never feel the need to replicate. Keep pushing on: there will be good and bad times throughout but that’s what makes it real. Trust your gut. It’ll take a while to learn how to do this (I still am) but it’s always right once you can differentiate some instincts and feelings from others.
Play as much as you can. The more you play, the more opportunities will arise.
Christmas is approaching. Do you have plans already or will you be busy working?
Yeah. We’ll be working as usual. Christmas is the private party season for me - and playing those is always a hoot.
There are some Christmas-fair gigs on the run-up to the festivities - and the boys and I are playing New Years’. Other than that; it’ll be preparations for the New Year and enjoying a few days with friends and family…good-old English Christmas-style.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Keb' Mo' - Victims of Comfort
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