Just how does a solo artist in today’s world maintain such a successful career and continue to sell out venue’s in 2022? Being original, being true to the music and most importantly, by being yourself. I spoke with Tommy Fleming earlier today and one thing which remains with me from our conversation is his saying, ‘I’m me trying to be me’. There’s no attempt at copying someone else or trying to be someone else with Tommy Fleming. You just get Tommy Fleming and that has proved more than enough for 30 years.
30 years is a long time in the music business. Tommy is still the only solo artist, and he’s Irish, to have played the Bord Gáis theatre more times that any other artist. He admits this is one of the highlights of his career to date. And what an achievement that is.
Fleming has been playing his music to audiences world wide for 30 years now. He puts a lot of his success down to ‘never being able to be pigeonholed’. He does the music his way and he makes it his own. Tommy has covered classics in rock, pop, country, classic and folk. The man has sung everything. He told me, ‘I’ve tried all different kinds of music. I know when not to sing a song, and I know when to. I can tell a song when it doesn’t suit me.’ Now, if only all artists could say that!!!
I asked Tommy how it feels to have been singing and performing for such a long time? He tells me, ‘At times it feels like only 10 years, and at others it feels like 50.’ All in a good way he assures me however. During lockdown he says he did a lot of reflecting. ‘I looked back on sounds and some I wondered how I ever did them! But they were right at the time and I had to let them out.’ They’re all part of the process that has led Tommy Fleming to be the success he is today, 30 years on.
Tommy also did a lot of new things in lockdown. Not only did he learn to speak Irish (not quite fluent yet, but with a little practice…..who knows?) He bought a campervan and it has hardly had time to stop! But he also put to use some equipment he already had, but hadn’t used. Equipment like a camera he hadn’t taken a photo with; a new macbook…..and when he built an editing studio, he began editing his own recordings, and from all that came The Tavern Tunes. These followed the Jeep Tunes and the Garage Tunes. He didn’t stop at all and used the time to be creative in ways he hadn’t dared attempt before.
When I asked Tommy how he feels about returning to Derry, he simply said: ‘I love Derry. I’ve been playing sold out shows there for near 18 years. I love the whole team at the Millennium Form, and am looking forward to seeing the gang, including Paddy backstage.’ Clearly he’s no stranger to the city, and no doubt the city will welcome him with open arms as he returns to play the forum on 25th February in just a few weeks time.
Tommy’s most recent collection of music, ‘All These Years‘, a 3 CD compilation, can be bought at https://tommyfleming.com/shop/ and you really will get to hear just why he is still singing strong if not stronger than ever, after all these years.
Talking to Tommy Fleming you don’t realise you’re talking to a real music star. A music star that really is part of Ireland’s music hall of fame. He’s up there with the best, if not ‘the’ best. But what’s different about Tommy Fleming is that he likes who he is. He believes in who he is. That’s what I took from my chat with him today. I found someone who truly tries to just be himself and in no way attempts to be someone else. And as his Dad taught him, ‘if the glass is half empty, get a smaller glass’. Be positive and be happy with being you. The world needs more people like the gentleman that is Tommy Fleming.
To book Tommy Fleming at Derry’s Millennium Forum go to https://www.millenniumforum.co.uk/ or call 028 7126 4455. You really won’t be disappointed.