NewTracks New Artist: Tom Young

NewTracks New Artist: Tom Young

Aucklander Tom Young considers himself more as a songwriter or music maker than some crafty instrumentalist, but he manages to work well with the skills he does have – as showcased in his latest single Brother. December was Young’s first time to be featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation as a solo artist under his own name, however, many local music fans will recognise his face from being part of critically-acclaimed supergroup Leisure.

What other projects might we know you from?

I play in a band with my friends called Leisure, which is doing quite well. We’re just finishing off our second album so we’re all feeling very happy about that. I also make music with my fiancé under the name The Melancholies. We’ve put out two songs so far which have done well on NZ alternative radio.

How did your music evolve from your beginnings in songwriting to what it is right now?

I’ve been writing songs since I was 14, which is now half my life ago! I guess it’s just experience and also just discovering different kinds of music – digging deeper and finding out who was your favourite artist’s favourite artist. I feel like my music has always been simple and melodic though, I don’t really enjoy listening to anything too busy or technical. I don’t care how well someone can play – only how they can make me feel.

If Tom Young isn’t your real name, how did you come up with the name for this project?

Yup, it’s my real name. I wanted to put out music under my own name to force myself to be real and honest. I’ve used monikers before but just seemed to end up making music that was trendy or trying to be cooler than I really am. I’m hoping that making stuff under my own name just keeps me grounded and open.

What makes Brother stand out for you as a single?

I mostly put out Brother for my family as wasn’t thinking too hard about the ‘single’ aspect. But I think a lot of people connected with the subject matter, which carried it.

So what is the story behind Brother?

The song only took about an hour to write and record but it’s been a long time coming. My older brother passed away from cancer in 2007, which really messed up our family for a while. We had to watch this star athlete’s body slowly wither and break down as he got closer to his death. It was a very surreal experience (as anyone who has been around that will know). It was so emotionally overwhelming I had to close up in order to move through it. But once your heart is closed like that it’s so hard to get it back open again – it’s something I still struggle with.

To deal with the grief, anger and depression I ventured off to a meditation camp called Vipassana. It helped me more than I can describe. It made clear the ever-changing nature of life and helped me move through a massive chunk of leftover emotion I didn’t even know I had hidden away.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I really like the line “…trying to hold what can’t be held”. It’s saying that nothing in our lives is ever truly ours. Everything / everyone in your life is borrowed and temporary and needs to be valued and respected as such.

Who else did you work on the single with and where? 

I wrote / recorded the song at home and it was mixed by Josh Fountain at Golden Age studios. Josh is an absolute legend as anyone who has worked with him will know. He’s got such a fast workflow that it’s hard to keep up with the guy!

Describe in one sentence what you want listeners to take away from this song.

People always take different things from songs, but I guess not to take anyone or anything for granted.

In general, how do you work out what song will make a good single?

I still don’t really know. It’s way too easy to get too close to your own music and lose perspective. I would say show people whose taste you trust – that helps you get out of your own head and also to think more laterally.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I’ve 90% written an album for this project and almost written an album for The Melancholies and will begin live shows for both projects. Leisure’s got a new single coming out early February too which we are excited about. I’m also playing guitar in my friend Alistair Deverick’s group called Boycrush. We have some shows coming up early March as part of the Fringe Festival, which will feature a full dance set from Dance Plant Collective.

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

I love Joel Flyger’s new stuff he’s releasing under J. Flyger, it’s quite different from my stuff but I think there’s something similar going on atmospherically – especially Tomi Honda. Another track would be Foxycontin by Roy Irwin. He’s put out two really good solo records in the past couple of years full of these great, simple lo-fi tunes. Really good songwriting and vibe. Last I’m just going to say Lydia by Fur Patrol , just because it’s such a good song.

Have any of your previous applications not been funded or included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I’m actually new to the funding world with this song being my first application. So I’m very grateful to be included. Being involved with a project like Leisure has definitely helped. I guess NZ On Air just want to know that you’re working hard and aren’t going to take the piss with the money they give you.

Was there any NZOA criteria you struggled with in the application? 

There are a lot of things I had done – but just not under my own name. So it really helped when I realised things I had done under different names could be referenced and used for the application process.

How can we find you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram at @tom_yung and on Facebook at I had Twitter but I hated it, haha.

Any last words?

Thank you!

support nzm