pics berni coffin
"His voice soared like a lark, in fact it was a delight throughout.. Tom conjured up little-known but thoroughly riveting songs, writing down tradition for today, the thoroughly modern troubadour.. Wonderful! What a personable and entertaining performer Tom Bliss is! We were treated to an evening of chat, humour and fine, fine music, that made us all feel as though we were guests in Tom's front room.. he's one of the best singer/songwriters we've had the pleasure of booking."
Tom Bliss has been compared as a writer with Steve Knightly, Steve Tilston, Jez Lowe, and even Bruce Springsteen(!) with many songs already being mistakenly credited as Trad Arr. His sympathy and enthusiasm for ancient musical forms and language, and his understanding of the craft of songwriting, from show tunes to hymns to pop, coupled with dilligent research and attention to detail, made him one of the handful of performers on the folk circuit today whose work is admired by modernist and traditionalist alike.
Between 1999 and 2009 he built a solid reputation as a pro performer first with Slide, then with duo partner Tom Napper, playing folk clubs, theatres, arts centres, village halls and festivals - increasingly as a headline act - throughout the UK. While still touring both with Tom and with their quartet The Pipers Sons, Tom Bliss then developed a career as a solo artist, because some of his finest songs (and traditional interpretations) work most powerfully with just one voice, (with or without an accomanying instrument). And the freedom to develop phrasing and dynamics within the mood of the material often permitted a more intense, intimate delivery then could be achieved even with musicians as sympathetic as TN, TT and CP. Tom's also written many excellent songs that have never made it into the duo or quartet sets for one reason or another, and working alone let him present new material as soon as it was ready - so solo gig audiences were often the first to hear a new 'classic.'
Born in Guildford, Tom started writing songs at a very early age. His family still sing 'We Belong To A Butterfly-Catching Army,' which he 'composed' aged just 3! He himself still sings songs he wrote at school, where he played in bands with John Elliott, Andy Pask - of Landscape ('Einstein A Go-go') and The Bill theme music fame - and sax virtuoso Dave Roach. (Tom also also acted in plays alongside future stars Peter Woodward and Philip Franks).
On leaving school, he began playing folk clubs around Surrey and London, then made his first solo radio broadcasts in New Zealand in 73. But in 77, while at Leeds Poly, he heard Ian Dury for the first time and immediately forsook his acoustic guitar for a plexiglas Les Paul and eye make-up. His first band, Joy Stick and The Cockpits, played punk, but combos of many styles followed. Short stints on keyboards with The Squares (Sire stable-mates of The Undertones and The Rezillos) and Agony Column (who recorded for Back Door and did two Peel Sessions) were followed by the very successful Pinups, which secured a deal with Pete Waterman (and a coveted place on the Radio One playlist). The big time beckoned, but when the other three members all missed a key recording session (each for a different, increasingly bizarre reason), the band - and the contract - dissolved.
Tom then spent many years developing his songwriting and forming bands, and experimenting with styles, including folk, folk-reggae, rock, funk, indie, grunge, electronic, acoustic - you name it. These included Vandals in Africa, The Fireflies, The Rapid Ohs, The Runners, and the long-serving Pearl Divers. Members at various times included Pete Earle (now drumming for Bayou Gumbo), Ian Nicholls (the fiddler behind The Bluegrass College), Nick Pepper (now 'sticksman' with The Duncan McFarlane Band), Country Dave Lee (also with The Ukrainians), Pam McFarlane (Dunc's Good Lady), Dave Bowie (long-standing bass for Snake Davis, then Sketch with Maggie Boyle and Gary Boyle, and Steve Tilston, and also Burden of Paradise with Snakey, Mark Creswell and Helen Watson).
Throughout this time Tom was working in television. First as a scriptwriter, then as a director - and doing much of his own production, camerawork and even editing. This power allowed him to appoint any composer he chose - so he often chose himself. Over the years he wrote and produced many pieces for broadcast, corporate, film, museum/installation and sell-through programmes.
Tom finally returned to his folk roots in the mid 90s after a chance meeting at Yorkshire TV with Steve Fairholme of Otley Folk Club and Festival Fame (now also with Dunc's band). Together they formed Behind The Wall (which also featured John Layton later in Slide, Jon Rust from Agony Column, Pete Earle later in Bayou Gumbo, Philip Cockerham and Diane King). This convinced Tom that traditionally-based music was what he should have been doing all along. His next band was Belladonna with Dave Bowie and Rod Taylor (of Charange del Norte), then came the 'mighty' Slide. which produced two excellent albums. But the other guys all had day jobs which made touring difficult, so Tom got together with Tom Napper and set off to introduce his songs to the nation! The Toms did actually sound like more than two people, but Tom B missed having a proper band to write for - which is why they formed The Pipers Sons in 2005.
Tom and his family live, spiritually at least, on the tiny island of Alderney in the Channel Islands (where Blisses have been semi-domiciled since 1957) - but for practical touring, work and school reasons they're based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, during term time. (The house is available to hire when not in use by the family).