Here’s an article from a recent Connacht Tribune by Jimi McDonnell.
Talented Tom takes new tack with ‘Float your Blues Away’
The Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell
Multi-instrumentalist Tom Portman will celebrate the launch of his third solo album with a show in The Townhouse Bar, Spanish Parade in the city on Friday, July 5. The release is called Float your Blues Away and is something of a change of direction for Tom.
“This one’s slightly different from the last two I brought out,” he says. “It’s a lot more song based than the last album, there are also quite a few bluesy numbers, whereas the last one featured a lot more traditional pieces, instrumental guitar music.
“On this one the dobro and guitar feature strongly. There are songs I’ve written during the course of making the album, and a piece I wrote when I was in India.”
Tom Portman plays lap-steel, dobro, acoustic and electric guitar. For this album, did he follow the muse or make a conscious decision to write songs?
“It was a deliberate choice,” he says. “I’ve got so many pieces that I’d like to record, but it was also trying to see what would sound good together. Which pieces would work, and which pieces I’d want to play this year.”
This focus has left Portman with a lot of spare material. He’ll spend the summer plugging Float your Blues Away – including some shows in Poland – but he also has an eye on future projects.
“I’ve written quite a few folk songs and some instrumentals which are almost classically based, but they wouldn’t suit this album,” he says. “I’ve also written some pieces for an electric ensemble which will be coming out at a later date.”
Although recording in a plush studio might sound ideal, for most artists it’s just not financially feasible. And, with advances in modern technology, it’s no longer necessary. Tom Portman is glad to have gone the DIY route.
“I recorded pretty much all of it at home in Menlo [village, on the east side of Galway City],” he says. “I’m not mixing it; I’m taking it to an outside studio for that. But the actual recording has all been done at home; it’s great to have the equipment to do that.”
While recording at home has its advantages, it also means projects can run and run. How did Tom decide when Float your Blues Away was ready?
“With the last albums, I left it a bit more open-ended,” he says. “You know, when it was ready, it was ready. With this one, I set myself a two-month deadline to get everything recorded, because I had everything written. Apart from a few bits – you get inspired, ‘oh yeah, I think this’ll work!’.
Did Tom find that giving himself a self-imposed deadline helped him to be more creative?
“Definitely,” he says. “I wanted to try it as an approach. I really time-managed the project, making decisions about when certain things needed to be done. [It was] a new way of working for me. It definitely helps, but it’s quite an intense way of working as well. I really had to block off the time and say no to other projects, to make sure I got the recordings done.”
Tom Portman is also a member of The Bahh Band, a six-piece with a grá for Indian music. In mid-January they embarked on a month long tour of India. Tom came back energised from the tour, and finished Float your Blues Away.
“Since I came back from India, I haven’t been doing that much gigging, so it gave me more time to put into the recording,” he says. “Now, the mixing’s getting finished off, and the printing, and also silly season’s starting in the summer with gigging. Trying to juggle everything!”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune