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Tom Curren recently released his newest LP, a four-song compilation entitled "Summerland Road." For those that have been living under a barnacle encrusted rock for the last 30 years, Curren is to surfing what Johnny Cash is to music, the essence of cool, a figure transcends generations and style. So when Curren's record label approached ESPN surfing to see if we'd be interesting in teaming up for an exclusive premiere of his video for "Summerland Road" of course we jumped at the chance. Folky and airy, yet filled with complexity and thoughtfulness, Curren's musical abilities are not to be denied. Directed by Chris Malloy, produced by Tim Lynch and Tieneke Pavesic with FARM LEAGUE, the video is a pleasant jaunt down the back roads of Santa Barbara County, Curren's home turf. The following is a conversation we had with the three-time ASP world champ late last summer. Enjoy. The full-length album is scheduled to drop early next year, the LP is available for download on iTunes.
You play drums, guitar, bass, the keys, can you talk a little about experimenting with different instruments and how you've evolved into a multi-instrumentalist?
Well, I was just able to record at home. I had some recording equipment with two different channels, so I was able to record a guitar track and then I would record a bass track, and then percussion. All the time I was learning about engineering because it's another really interesting part of music. Nowadays it's a lot easier because it's all digital, but to be able to be able to play bass, guitar and drums on the same track was something that I was enjoying a lot.
So how does the songwriting process begin for you?
Songwriting is something that's really interesting. It's another thing that I'm really interested in getting better at. It's really hard to do. Sometimes you can work at it and barely progress, and then sometimes it comes together really quick. Over the years I've learned a little bit about how I can write better songs, and that's kind of where I'm at today. I just want to keep improving on my guitar playing and songwriting.
There's a story Willie Nelson tells about writing songs to and from shows in Austin, Texas, where do you find the time or space to write?
The thing about songwriting is you really have to put a lot into it. To do anything well you have to put a lot into it, be serious about it, work at, and a lot of times when you're working on an idea you come up against an impasse. So you try and get away from it, maybe go surfing or something, and then the idea flows better. So it's a little bit of both; plugging away at something and then taking a break and stepping away from it. I find a lot of times I'll be out in the water and things start to come together out there. To me songwriting is fascinating. I'm fascinated with really good songs. I try and emulate the songwriters that I like, at the same time there's so much about music that's very personal. You can go so many different directions.
Who are some of the songwriters you pay attention to? What's on your iPod?
Well, I have all kinds of music that I like, but kind of mostly listen to the standard format song structures that we're all familiar with. Any artist that does that well is somebody that I really like. I don't think I have a particular genre that I go with all the time. I don't know that much hip hop. I like it, but I don't have it on my iPod.
Can you talk about how the new album came about? How did it all come together?
It's some songs that I've been working on for awhile. Some of the songs are several years in the making and some are more recent. I was fortunate enough to meet some really good people that have been helping me produce the album and are really making it all happen. It's been a lot of fun working with really good studio musicians in L.A. We just kind of went in with the songs, worked on them a little bit and were in the studio after that. We got to where we were happy with them, did a few overdubs and then that's it. It's a simpler process than previous albums I've worked on.
Music can be a very personal thing, what's you're motivation for sharing your songs with the world?
What motivates me for this I think is it's just something I personally love to do. I love to write songs. I love to play music. I've convinced myself that they're good enough to share. Some of them are personal, so that makes me a little uncomfortable, at the same time I like to play music, I like to play in a band and it's just something that happens in that process. It's a big step to put your music out there. I think, for me, doing this album has been interesting because I've been working on some of these songs for a long time, I know them really well, I've been hearing them a lot, and so to put them out there is sort of a test. Having heard them so much they're good enough for me, but I'm curious to see how the reaction is. I'm looking forward to doing some touring and rehearsing with the band.