This time, it’s Tommy Atkins’ turn to join us for #whatmadeyoucountry! Tommy is a UK-based singer-songwriter who has recently released Freedom, which hit #2 on the New Zealand iTunes Country Chart, #5 in the UK and has debuted in the top 10 on the LGBTQ Music Chart.
My parents listened to Shania and Alan Jackson and Martina McBride when I was growing up, so those artists were my introduction. Honey, I’m Home by Shania stands out the most to me. I just live for that double-time chorus! I loved it as a kid because it was fun and sassy, but now when I listen as an adult, I also love it because of how subversive it is. My first country gig was Dolly. I was maybe 14 or 15 years old and it blew my mind that there were literally thousands of people there who enjoyed the same music as me. Country wasn’t anywhere near as mainstream in the UK in the 2000s as it is now.
I think hearing Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter was what lit a fire in me. I just wanted to write something that beautiful and bittersweet; something that timeless. I think it’s one of the most well-crafted country songs of all time.
If I could only listen to one country album for the next ten years, it’d be Fly by the Dixie Chicks. It was one of the first country albums I fell in love with. Cowboy Take Me Away, Ready to Run, Goodbye Earl, Sin Wagon – those songs pushed the boundaries of country music lyrically while being drenched in fiddle and banjo and harmonies. That album still has a massive influence on me and I hope people can hear that in my own music.
My five influential songs are on this playlist. Sin Wagon is sassy as hell, it refers to “mattress-dancing,” and the musicianship on display is world-class. This song taught me to have fun as a writer and to just ‘go there’ lyrically. When I first heard Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You, I was hooked. I’m a sucker for a country-pop ballad with a big chorus! Again, I hope you can hear the influence of this song in my catalog. Before He Cheats is one of the first songs I learned on guitar and it has my favourite set of chord progressions of all time. Harmonically, it’s so creative and different to every other country song I’ve heard. And you just have to sing along to this one at the top of your voice, right?!
Deciding to record a cover of Freedom was a milestone for me as a country artist. It confirmed that I know what my sound is and I know how to make a song my own; that I’m not just a songwriter playing dress-up as an artist! And of course, Strawberry Wine makes the list.