I met with Tom Morgan, a Welsh man living in Finland since 2003 who has brought his Brit-pop influences with him for the pleasure of Finnish audiences. Alumni member of The Blonde Brunettes and The Firsts and organiser of music event Thirst Music Club, Tom is now operating under his own name solo, trio and with the full band, Caroline Street. We talked about venues, record deals, social media and more…
Describe your music for those who have never heard it.
Britpop-influenced indie music. I suppose a lot of my influences stem from the ‘Battle of Brit-pop’ in the 90s; Oasis and Blur were great and pretty much everything else I discovered in-between somehow links back to that era. There’s probably some influence from what my parents listened to, too; My dad’s favorite music was Motown and my mum enjoyed a bit of Police and Dire Straits. There’s some decent music around at the moment, but the overwhelming majority of it is rubbish. Maybe I’m just showing my age!
What are your favourite venues?
There are some good ones around; the new Korjaamon Vintti; FNT at National Theatre; Café Mascot, which I’ve know about for years but I somehow never went there until a recent gig. There’s a good vibe at Liberté, but there’s never been enough people to see the bands I’ve been to see. Semifinal is also okay, if anyone turns up.
“I have no idea know why people don’t come to gigs, it’s a total mystery.”
You’re active with social media. Does it help to bring people to gigs?
No! I’ve given up on trying to push people to come to gigs. Since I started playing my new stuff I’ve just taken what I can get at shows, if people wanna hear me, they’ll be there. What bothered me the most was poor turnouts when I was working as a promoter with Thirst Music Club. During the two years the club lasted I discovered some great bands, but almost all of them struggled to get fans to show up. It’s not only my club that suffered either, most of the promoters I’ve spoken to have the same problem. I have no idea know why people don’t come to gigs, it’s a total mystery.
On the plus side, social media has helped me to find a few new fans from around the world. There’s a group of people from New Zealand and Australia who’ve discovered me, which is fantastic. My friends back home in Wales seem to think I’m really getting somewhere so I must be doing something right.
What are your experiences with the Finnish music industry?
Limited but quite mixed. If we’re talking about Finnish music in general, I can’t stand the Iskelmä or Suomi Pop genres for the most part and mainstream Finnish pop music is bland to say the least. I’ve never understood how bands like The Rasmus have been so popular, they’re not particularly great in my opinion. Lauri’s (the Rasmus’ vocalist) recent solo stuff was horrible. The ‘stars’ who’ve been manufactured through competitions like Idols are generally pretty mediocre, although I suppose the pool is relatively small in Finland. Anna Abreu is the only contestant who ever stood out as being a complete package, but I think her label made a mistake by modeling her on Britney Spears. Then again, she’s sold a lot of records so maybe I’m wrong.
“I’ve never understood how bands like The Rasmus have been so popular.”
Believe it or not, there is some Finnish music I do enjoy; Delay Trees definitely tops the list and bands like Magenta Skycode and French Films are sounding great too. The majority of Finnish bands I like are either unsigned or have only recently been signed; Stockers!, The Spyro, Common Tones and Bill, Moray & Bill are just a few I’d recommend people check out.
When it comes to record labels and my music, I’ve sent demos out to a few places but had limited response. Universal Music and Playground Records responded positively about my songs but they went on to say that singer/songwriter stuff is almost impossible to market in Finland, even if you’re singing in Finnish.
Is the music suffering for business?
Yeah, I think so, because they won’t sign me! (laughs)
From a business perspective, the Finnish labels need to play it safe because it’s such a small market. It’s much easier for them to sell Finnish music to Finnish people so they’re not really likely to take a risk on someone like me.
What about Indie labels, are they worth trying for?
I think Indie labels are probably the way to go, but for some reason they seem to be very difficult to get in touch with. One reply I received early on was, “We only work with our friends.” That reply confused me. However, the same label, but a different A&R person, recently responded to a Caroline Street demo saying: “Sounds good & really promising! At this point, we don’t have time & resources for this. But as the stuff is so great I’d like to hear more when you get more songs done!”.
What are your plans for the future?
“A debut album is on the cards.”
I’d love to be able to make a living with music eventually, it would certainly beat sitting in front of a computer all day.
The positive comments from audiences during my first year has given me a real drive to push this music forward. The Trio and Caroline Street are providing the opportunity to be a bit more adventurous with my songwriting and some of the more recent songs are sounding really good already. I’m looking forward to developing the songs and then, more than anything else, playing them live to as many people as possible.
A debut album is on the cards and we’ve slated the end of 2012 as a release date. Caroline Street will release the album.
Once the album is out I need to make an effort to get some media coverage and to do some proper touring. I could actually do with a manager to help with finding gigs and to market the album to the media, so if any of your readers knows of anyone, they could get in touch (contact info on my website).
Would you ever try to build a name for yourself overseas?
If I’m serious about making a living from music I know I’ll have to go abroad. I’ve already got gigs lined up in Wales for the summer so that’s a good start, but I’ve always felt I need an album as an excuse to invest on touring. If things took off overseas, I wouldn’t hesitate leaving Finland to follow my dreams.
“If things took off overseas, I wouldn’t hesitate leaving Finland to follow my dreams.”
• 21.5.2012 @ Espan Lava, Helsinki (Finland) – TRIO
• 26.5.2012 @ Musiikkikahvila Sointu, Turku (Finland)
• 1.6.2012 @ Black Door, Helsinki (Finland) – CAROLINE STREET
You can listen to work by Tom Morgan on SoundCloud and check out a live video of the Tom Morgan Trio below.