“I was always really interested in words”, says Tom Leaver, the songwriter behind the Blissful Red moniker. “Ever since I was about nine or ten, I’ve always loved reading lyric sheets from the CD’s that I had. So, I started to write my own and I think I got to the point where I was about 13 or 14 and I picked the guitar up just to try and set the words to songs really cos I never thought of it as poetry or anything like that.”
Later in the interview when asked about his most recent set of lyrics, namely the, “themes and topics”, that make up his EP, ‘Playin’ At Rock Stars’, his response is a refreshingly simple one; “Everyone wants to write something relevant I guess”, he suggests. “But if you’re 34 and pretend to be 24, I think people can see through that. I suppose all you can do, lyrically, is tell the truth & hope some of it strikes a chord with people.”
And strike a chord is what, ‘Playin’ At Rock Stars’, most definitely does. Described by divideandconquer.com reviewer Jamie Funk as, “a release I wouldn’t miss out on”, the EP is particularly impressive when you consider the decidedly varied musical stylings of the 6 tracks in question; from the 70’s lounge funk of, ‘Stuck In Neutral’, to the Kurt Vile-esque guitar noodling’s of, ‘Like Layla’ and ‘Exceptionally Dumb’, ‘……Rock Stars’, is a remarkably consistent piece of work which showcases Leaver’s uncanny ability to operate effectively at either end of the alt rock spectrum. Indeed, whether he’s chopping out the coarse, post punk guitar rhythms of, ‘Wonderwheel’, or plaintively whispering his way through low key closer, ‘Catch Me’, Leaver does so in a way that draws these contrasting elements together and, according to Funk, ‘creates a unique niche for his sound.’
So, given the full band sound that permeates so much of, ‘Playin’ At Rock Stars’, why the insistence on the tag of solo project? “I think playing in a band’s one of the best things you can do, you know, socially”, Leaver confesses. “If you get a few friends that can all play a bit and have similar sorts of tastes in music, it’s probably the best thing you can do with your time, with your friends. But you know, if that’s not possible for whatever reason, then I’d rather do it on my own than play with a bunch of strangers – even if they’re all brilliant players. It just doesn’t appeal to me, playing music with strangers. To me it’s more of a social thing.”
And it’s these comments that would seem to be the most revealing – not only in terms of Leaver’s preferred ways of recording and performing but also with regards to the Blissful Red project as a whole and who and what that really entails; “I’ve worked with Andy (Yeadon) for about 10 years now……we have a similar sort of, I suppose you’d say, aesthetic when it comes to music”, Leaver suggests. “And for me, having someone like that play on my tracks is more valuable than the world’s greatest session player…… That works better for me; there’s a better feel about it you know.”
There’s a distinct lack of vanity here, a trait which can be traced all the way back to Leaver’s very first experiences as a musician and the specific aspects of it that he finds most appealing; “I never really played anybody else’s stuff, it never really struck me”, Leaver recalls. “I was always about just trying to write my own songs…… I don’t consider myself a guitarist. I’m not one for picking the instrument up and playing it for playing’s sake”, he offers.
Seriously? Is it really possible that the guitar, the ultimate instrument of any wanabee rock god and one that features so prominently and so effectively on the, ‘Playin’ At Rock Stars’ , EP, could, in Leaver’s hands, be used merely as a tool to service the song writing process; as a means to an end? “If I didn’t write songs, I don’t think I’d bother”, he deadpans.
Fortunately, for the rest of us however, he does write songs, good ones – many of which can be found on, ‘Playin’ At Rock Stars’. But something about the EP suggests that this is just the beginning, that the true realisation of Leaver’s song writing talent is still to come – an opinion reinforced by Jamie Funk in his divideandconquer.com review; “The EP flew by and felt like an appetizer”, says Funk. “I wouldn’t have minded another 2 or 3 tracks……I hope to hear more music like this in the future.”