Live & Direct with Tommy Malone

 

The spirited New Orleans native and accomplished folk singer-songwriter, Tommy Malone joined Rosemary Welsch and WYEP members in a Live & Direct Session on April 14, 2014. Malone played songs from his new album, Poor Boy, released April 29, 2014. The album cover art is a picture of Malone’s father when he was a baby donning the signature “Malone Scowl.” Poor Boy is a tribute to his father, who endured a rough life growing up.

Malone kicked off the Live & Direct Session with the ninth track from his new album, “Crazy Little Johnny.” The song is based on a true story, so he jokingly admitted that he changed some names to protect himself. Malone is not only a musician, but also a true storyteller. His empathy for the character of Johnny—a hopeless man—comes across through his tender and sorrowful vocal tone. “Crazy Little Johnny” sounds like an age-old folk song with the acoustic guitar finger picking style.

Rosemary observed, “There is a lot of Tommy Malone history that comes through this album maybe in more ways than your past solo releases have.” Malone responded, “I suppose…some of it’s current, some of it was dug out of the closest and dusted off and redone. I guess it’s a product of getting older—you start to reflect a little when the years start to add up and you’re figuring out if you’ve done anything worthwhile…I try to write things that go to a deep spot.” He achieves a level of depth because he is able to convey a wide range of emotions in his music.  

Malone played the sixth track on his new album, “Bumblebee.” He joked that the best part of writing the song was “trying to rhyme camouflage…have you ever tried to rhyme camouflage? Well we did! And I came up with decoupage.” “Bumblebee” is sung with a belty blues style and includes guitar riffs that mimic the buzzing of a bee. 

Malone has a strong personal connection to his hometown. He was raised just outside of New Orleans and has lived there ever since. He grew up in a non-musical family and has grown to have an “intense relationship with music,” but it hasn’t always been that way. As a child, he displayed a great interest in visual art: “I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was a little boy, but when my brother started bringing guitars in, the pencil went out the window.” He started playing guitar at the age of fourteen or fifteen and he has “never turned back.” At the age of seventeen, he got his first gig playing country-rock music on Bourbon Street. In 1987, he became a member of the band The Subdudes and served as their primary songwriter. 

“What makes New Orleans different than any city?” Rosemary asked Malone. “Geographical, heat, food, music…heat’s a big one because it makes people move slow—you’re forced to relax.” Malone’s love for both his hometown and music comes across through his energy, passion, and pleasant sense of humor.   

 

Lisa Fierstein, WYEP Music & Programming Intern 

 

Set-list:

- Crazy Little Johnny

- Pretty Pearls

- Bumble Bee

- Natural Born Days