Tom “TJ” Walker is a phenomenal West Sussex country guitarist, vocalist and composer, who grew up as a multi-instrumentalist in a musical British family. He learned the banjo ukulele alongside his dad in a traditional jazz band from the age of 4 and then at 7 years old, picked up the guitar.
Tom then played in the school “Big Band” and although he enjoyed jazz, he was also influenced by his father’s record collection, which included discs by Rod Stewart and the Beatles. But as a guitarist he admits, “My main influences, even early on, were Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton in Cream and, of course, Hendrix.”
As for the influences of country music, he says: “My dad had a Glen Campbell Woolworth’s cassette in his car. My sister and I laughed at the funny man on the cover, with his side-parted hair, neatly trimmed beard and beige blazer. He looked more like a geography teacher than a pop star, but we loved his music and I went to see Glen in concert three times.”
Listening to Glen introduced him to Jimmy Webb, the composer of “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” and it was through reading Jimmy’s book (Tunesmith) that made him aware of the process to songwriting.
By 15, he’d started to work with professional bands, and went on to perform all over the world, including at top-tier venues like the Albert Hall and O2 Arena.
After studying the history of art at Goldsmith’s College, Tom dropped into the world of the holiday camp, cabaret-style show-bands, working as a guitarist for the “house” at the Pontins, Butlins and Haven camps around the U.K. It was at Haven that he met his wife to be.
A life-changing experience in the Arizona desert (on his long-postponed honeymoon!) changed Tom’s course.
He explains “At a cook-out at the Grand Canyon ranch… my wife suddenly announced, to all-and-sundry, seated around the campfire: “My husband plays. Do you mind if he has a go?” I’d been a performer all my life, yet was still caught out by her request.
I think she dropped me in it, but do you know what? When I picked up the cowboy’s guitar and I began to fingerpick those country songs, suddenly everything made sense. I realized — under the flickering stars, and perhaps with a cheerful sense of relief — that I had finally found a destiny I could be content with.”
This led Tom to decide not to hide his talent under a bushel but to follow his long-hidden-away passion for Country music and reinvent himself as a country-rock artist.
Now known as TJ Walker, he has since gone on to build up a rich repertoire of original Country and Americana material, and to write and record his debut album, playing all the instruments, recording and producing the album himself in his studio at home.
Between February and April of 2019, TJ released 3 acoustic singles, “I Want You Back”, “All I Am” and “When The Party’s Over”, plus his 6 track EP ‘Acoustic Covers Vol 1, which includes 3 instrumental versions of the songs.
Personally, I dislike U2, but TJ’s version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a brilliant cover, which in my opinion, supersedes the original.
On August 9, Walker then dropped the lead single to his debut album, which was finally released on November 15.
TJ says, “Long Game, …a story within a story: a father tells a tale of the problems he’s experienced owning a luxury car. At first, the song appears to be about the car, but as the story plays out, it becomes clear there’s more than meets the eye.
“What’s more, the guitar solo in this song is one of my favourites on the album.”
TJ says that he like songs to have a story or a twist, or both. “I think of them as, a small window through which you can watch a scene play out in somebody’s life: that, combined with the right musical backdrop for the scene, is what makes Country and Americana music so powerful.”
“Cowboy Outta Me” was the second single released from the forthcoming album, which paints a picture of being under the stars in the middle of nowhere with the girl of your dreams with Tom Petty on the stereo.
TJ says: “It has the slide guitar intro (another nod to Tom Petty), a strummed Martin guitar and pedal steel to give it that sound I love.”
Speaking about the album, TJ explained how he tries to keep his songs as entertaining as possible in several different ways, while also opening up on the instrumental side of things.
“The Long Game contains 10 songs that I’m very proud of, combining the influences and funky Country grooves of The Band, Brothers Osborne and Little Feat with the stories and imagery of my favourite lyricists like Jason Isbell and Lowell George.
He says “I’ve done my best to make the songs thought-provoking, interesting and funny, combined with exciting playing and production. On ‘The Long Game’, I’ve played all the instruments myself, using the technology to allow me to not just layer-up parts in isolation, but playing and reacting to the other instruments as if it were a live band playing together in a room — like a time-lapsed jam-session. The song contains my favourite elements of a country song. There are road songs, love songs, sentimental songs, outlaw grooves, acoustic laments; along with the stories, the guitar plays a big part – there’s chicken-pickin’, slide guitar, pedal steel, flat-picked acoustic and even some banjo!
You may have already heard other music he’s written as his writing credits include the Radio 1 Live Lounge theme, BBC 6 Music themes and beds tracks (Craig Charles, Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley), Virgin Radio, Smooth Radio and many other radio stations across the globe as well as TV themes on ABC in Australia (all written with On The Sly Productions).
Also, another of TJ’s tracks, “Walk Away”, can be heard in the 2019 movie “Killer Anonymous” starring Gary Oldman and Jessica Alba.
TJ Walker tells us here at the BCA that he is currently writing and releasing songs (about 1 a month) which he started in lockdown, recording remotely with his band.
He says: “I’ve currently had over 100K streams on Spotify and like everyone, we hope to get gigging again as soon as possible. My latest single, “Halfway to Somewhere”, was released on July 17. I did a video during lockdown and the only camera operators available at the time were my 7 and 11-year-old daughters, see if you can spot which bits they filmed!! https://youtu.be/0TQ9fkJvrZ4
Also during lockdown I wrote and recorded a song for my daughters to sing about being stuck at home – it’s not Country but it’s a bit of fun!
The BCA would like to thank TJ Walker for his time and wish him further success in the years to come.
As always, the BCA would like to thank our artiste for their time and wish them continued success.
Links – https://www.iamtjwalker.com
To find out where you can hear TJ Walker being showcased all this week, check out http://britishcountryairplay.co.uk/artiste-of-the-week/