By James Keller
For Tom Wilson, making music is more than just a creative outlet–it’s a safety blanket.
"I think in a lot of ways, music has really been my salvation to freedom," begins the former Junkhouse frontman. "I would’ve gotten myself into a lot more trouble than I did in life had I not had something to really concentrate on."
And as Wilson prepares for a vacation to Atlantic City before his new tour, he holds this idea close at hand.
"Just to keep me out of trouble I’m bringing a sketch pad and a notebook I can work in," he says.
Wilson has certainly been too busy to get into trouble throughout his musical career, occupying himself with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Junkhouse and writing his first solo record, Planet Love. The new record is more than just another career shift.
With it’s blend of upbeat electric-folk tracks like "Satellite," to slow ambient ballads like "The Right Thing," Wilson offers fans a mix of sounds dramatically different from his days with hit-makers Junkhouse.
"I wouldn’t compare it to Junk-house," says Wilson, trying to dispel the obvious connections that will be drawn. "It’s me. The same guy writing and singing the songs, but I’m in a different head space and I’m in a different place now."
Another key difference is how Wilson prepares to present himself to fans and audiences, embarking on a strictly acoustic tour rather than bringing an entire band.
"I have a hit that’s going into the top 10 right now," says Wilson of Planet Love’s first single, "Dig It." "But I’m refusing to go out with a band and reproduce it. I’m doing a 45 minute set that doesn’t concentrate on trying to bang Planet Love down people’s throats."
Wilson’s main motivation for this shift, a concern that he feels had a integral role in the breakdown of Junkhouse three years ago, is a lack of connection with audiences. By only pushing their top 40 singles, bands often don’t give people a chance to really get to know the artist they are listening to.
"Like Matchbox 20–I fucking hate that band," says Wilson as an example of artists relying on their hits to carry their careers. "I think when people discover artists for themselves, then they have a chance to grow with the artist’s career."
This is Wilson’s main goal with the new album, the new tour and how he will conduct himself.
"I’m kind of introducing people to me," says Wilson, pointing to the format of the upcoming tour. "[I’m] trying to break down the barriers of communication between me and the audience, by showing up with an acoustic guitar and not playing the record."
Another way Wilson is letting the public in is through art–although he is quick to downplay the significance of his work.
Wilson’s biggest problem with his art hogging the front seat, as with radio singles or anything else he does, is that he wants to avoid labels.
“I’m also a father, an ex-addict and I’m also a pretty good painter,” says Wilson. “I also do work around my house so am I a carpenter, too? It’s all just stuff that I do.”