This interview originally appeared on musicnewsnashville.com.
Singer / songwriter / guitarist Tommy Womack has been kicking around Nashville for the better part of three decades, as a member of Government Cheese, of the Bis-quits (which were briefly signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy label), and of DADDY, with guitarist Will Kimbrough and other hot Nashville players. He also played bass for a while with Todd Snider, and travels as a solo acoustic act that plays songwriter festivals and pubs of the world. And he also plays electric shows with his current band, the Rush to Judgment.
Womack’s fans around the world log onto his website ( www.tommywomack.net ) each Monday morning to see what Womack is going to muse about in his “Monday Morning Cup of Coffee” video blog. Rick Moore recently spoke with Womack as he was winding down from a trip abroad and planning dates in Nashville, Michigan, New York and more.
Tommy, you recently played in Ireland, England and Holland for a couple weeks and seem to have as big a following there as you do in the States. How is that, and what’s the difference in audiences there versus, say, Florida or Iowa?
The English are far more polite. They come to listen and they don’t talk while you play. You can play the quieter songs, the longer ones, and they don’t mind. And when they like a song, they applaud but with a certain restraint, and none of the hooting and “yee-hah” you might get from an American audience. Also, they love American music maybe more than Americans do. I suppose that’s been true for years and years.
You’ve worked for many years with guitarist Will Kimbrough, who is noted for his work with Emmylou, Rodney Crowell and others; you wrote Jimmy Buffett’s “Nobody From Nowhere” with him. Is he just pretty much an old buddy when you work together, or do you still tend to be impressed with his instrumental skills?
Impressed, intimidated, yes and yes. I wonder sometimes why in the world he has anything to do with me. Technically, he can play rings around me, and yet he apparently enjoys our guitar playing together. If there is one thing that might be why the two of us work together is that I DON’T have his level of chops. It’s not two Albert Lees in a catfight onstage. Will’s blowing people away with his lead work and I’m keeping it real on the rhythm.
You seem to be as busy as ever these days, recording, touring, writing books and even doing the occasional show with your old post-punk Nashville band Government Cheese. What’s the secret, or are you still trying to figure it out yourself?
There is no secret, and it looks busier than it is. I spend a whole lot of time watching television. I guess, when I DO work, I work pretty hard. That must be what it is. I just want to leave a mark, I guess. I want to be known for having done something. Ego trip maybe.
What new bands or writers are you listening to these days?
I bought the Alabama Shakes record. That’s nice. Listened to it a few times. Cody Chestnutt’s record is really good. St. Paul and the Broken Bones are really good. They don’t have a record out yet but they’ll turn some heads when they do.
An Americana band on the way up is the Womack Family Band, an Ohio group that named themselves after you because of their affinity for your music. Have you met those guys, and how does it make you feel that someone would named themselves after you?
What’s funny is that I’ve known of that band for a while and just thought there was a Womack in the band. I met one or two of them when we both played the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, maybe 2, 3, 4 years ago. I don’t know why they did it but I get a kick out of it. You know what I said about leaving a mark? I guess that’s one.
Your young son Nathan jams with you on your website. You’ve obviously taught him a thing or two about music, but what has he taught you?
He’s 14, soon to be 15. He hears music like a young person does – more visceral, doesn’t think about it too much. If he likes it, he likes it, and if he doesn’t he doesn’t spend any time trying to “get” it like I would just so I can respect what the artist is trying to do. He doesn’t care about any of that crap. He’s way more Buddhist about it. No mind. Just listen and enjoy. He’s reminded me how great Led Zeppelin is, and he’s introduced me to Green Day.