Stewart Fenwick's Interview with...Tom Clelland
Lanarkshire's Tom Clelland has been getting his music heard in all sort of strange places since Spit & Polish Records released his "Little Stories" album earlier this year. Radio stations from Australia to the Faroes have been playing his personal songs, as well as Radio Three!

Tom is by no means, a new kid on the block, but claims to be "a genuine late starter"."In my twenties", he recalled. "I spent a lot of time with work and family, and then I came to a point I finally .said. What About Me? Maybe I should be spending time on things I fancied doing. Also I think I got really bored with television and movies, and books. I wanted to try something new. A lot of things came together, and I started to write songs, and meet a few people, and that was just a few years ago".

Tom's big break came, whilst waiting in a queue to get Willie Nelson's autograph at The Usher Hall in Edinburgh, when he started chatting with Francis McDonald and John Miller of The Radio Sweethearts.
"It was one of those fortuitous meetings", as he remembered. " Francis had just started up Shoe-shine Records, and John was just getting the band going. I went along to see The Radio Sweethearts. It wasn't like going along to see other Scottish Country bands, because here was a bunch of guys writing their own stuff, and who had a real love of the music. It was so inspiring."

"Somewhere about three years ago". Tom explains, "it all started to work. I really like writing and it's like someone turned on the tap, because the words just kept pouring out since then."

"One of the most liberating things was listening to other people talk about their writing. One who influenced me a lot was Dougie MacLean. He said, I get an idea and just let it flow. Don't try to write it into an artist, or style - just let it find its way. I've taken that approach ever since."

"I've ended up with a few songs that are just a bit odd", he admits, "But I end up with lots of ideas, to keep me writing".

One other fellow songwriter that has made a major influence on Tom was Guy Clark. Tom opens his concerts, and indeed, the CD with a song called "I Wish I Could Write Like Old Guy Clark". "Believe me, it was the easiest thing to write", he says. "I was listening to Guy Clark's "Keepers" album, the live album. It was about 7am on a Saturday morning. I had got up to do some work on the computer, and was just sitting there thinking that how I wish I could write songs like that. I picked up the guitar, and the lyrics just flew out. The song was written in two hours".

There are 13 songs on "Little Stories", which Tom says all , in some way , relate to him, "I think that happens with people's first albums". The track which has picked up most radio play across Europe, is a true reflection, not only on Tom, but also Country music fans who have listened to the music on the radio since the 1950's, long before commercial radio. "Country Music Once Again", has Tom reminiscing about listening to the radio late at night. "I had a big old Bakellite radio in my bedroom when I was a kid", he fondly remembered. "I'd put the radio on, and it would stay on all night. I think I absorbed a lot of Country music from it. One of the stations I'd listen to was AFN in Germany. I really wasn't much interested in what happened before midnight, when they had a really good Country music program - the kind of Country I like - Hank Snow, Hank Williams. Doc Watson. It stuck with me -I loved that.". "The song really started off there. What the song
is all about is me growing up. drifting off into other forms of music, then drifting back into Country music. It's in my roots, as is Scots folk music - I love both, but AFN certainly inspired me from early on".
Tom Clelland may not yet be hitting the airwaves of AFN. but stations all over Europe, and as far away as New Zealand (and not forgetting Radio 3) are sharing Tom's "Little Stories" with listeners.
© 2004 Country Music & Dance Scotland