SOUNDCHECK: Thomas Oliver
Thomas Oliver is a singer-songwriter, Weissenborn lap-steel guitarist, and multi-talented guitar player from Wellington, New Zealand, that combines the blues, soul, and rock for one strong and compelling sound. I came across his music after watching EstÃ¨re‘s performances during the Aston Road Sessions (see it in my Soundcheck post), because he was one of the three artists who performed during this 2014 live event. I clicked play on his “Lead Me On / What Can I Say” performance, and was wholly captivated by his one-man-band star performance, his silky-smooth vocals that blended folk and soul, and his strong and poignant songwriting, while he masterfully played his guitar. Wheeeeew, yes!
Before I share with you those Aston Road Sessions, that basically put me onto this guy, let me take it back for a minute. He was initially in a band calledThe Thomas Oliver Band, where their debut album, titled Baby, I’ll Play, was awarded “iTunes Best Blues & Roots Album of 2011”. He is also recognized as a leading player of the Weissenborn lap-slide guitar–which, is no surprise to me. In 2013, he released the first full-length, all instrumental, all Weissenborn album, titled Beneath The Weissenborn.
[divider]THE ASTON ROAD SESSIONS[/divider]
Last year, in May, Aston Road put together an event called the Aston Road Sessions. Over the course of 3 days, the sessions were recorded and filmed in front of a live audience, in Wellington, at the Blue Barn Studios. Each night featured their managed artists: EstÃ¨re, Louis Baker, and Thomas Oliver (these other two, I will talk about in upcoming Soundchecks of their own). They each performed a selection of new and previously recorded songs.
He goes from gently flicking and sliding against the Weissenborn strings in “Lead Me On” to tapping and knocking against its wooden body to kick off “What I Can Say”. The emotion that comes through in his playing is strong and vibrant, it’s like he’s playing right there in front of you. Through this performance alone, he showcases his ease of transitioning between sweet blues and growling, rock-inspired vocals. Whew, Thomas Oliver, you are an outstanding musician.
“Boy” is a tender and emotional song that tells a story about a boy becoming a man, by recalling painful life events that changed his life. His powerfully written lyrics, passionate delivery, and deep country-blues vocals really drive this personal song to touch your heart, and will maybe make you feel a little sad–it did for me, anyway. Of course, much like all these sessions, he’s accompanied by his lap-steel guitar, and a Boss RC-505 Loop Station that he taps with his foot.
Thomas Oliver does covers a stunning James Blake song called “I Am Sold”. With similar seductive vocals that occasionally hit high-pitched whispery notes, I’m fascinated by this one, too. It starts out by showing him recording different notes and sounds from his lap-steel guitar, into the loop machine that he taps with his foot throughout this song. Shortly after that, he gets right into this stunning rendition. Watch it now.
[divider]BENEATH THE WEISSENBORN ALBUM[/divider]
“I was 7 years old when Jurassic Park was released. I went to see it at the movies about 5 times. Even at the age of 7, I was absolutely enamoured by the music. The main reason I kept going back to see it was so that I could hear the music again. It would be another 3 years before I would even touch a guitar, but the Jurassic Park score touched me deeply as soon as I heard it. It was the soundtrack to a very special time in the lives of many kids such as myself; for the first time, dinosaurs were alive, and our fascinations were entertained! But more than that, it was an incredibly beautiful piece of music. The melody stuck in my head for 20 years before I finally owned it myself. And when I bought it recently, it was like being reunited with a long lost friend, and I played it over and over and over again, as loud as I could, thrusting my arms into the air in the middle of my lounge room. Every time I listen to it, still I just can’t believe how good it is. It remains my favourite film score ever. So I decided to arrange it for my favourite instrument ever, the Weissenborn. Thank you, John Williams, for such an incredible piece of music.” – Thomas Oliver
At the end of 2013, he covered a song called “International You Day“, originally by Tony Sly, from the California-based punk band No Use For A Name.
Now that I’ve introduced you to Thomas Oliver, find him at any of the links below and follow his journey!