This week we were able to catch up with Tom Dibb, campervan adventure and singer/songwriter all about the release of his record Ground Up.
Congratulations on the release of your debut album, Ground Up, how has it been making it?
Thanks Kindly, Its been a long time in the making really, if we’re going from writing through to release. There’s songs from my earliest writing days that I never had the opportunity to record, to works of recent months, and tales of all the adventures in between, hence the title ‘Ground Up’.
From the recording point of view its been a pretty quick turn over and a delight. The novelty of being in a recording studio has always worn quick with me, but Grand Chapel Studios has an awesome creative atmosphere, and a wonderful team, making you feel right at home. The Boys I’ve been playing with for the past few years who have shared times on the road with me, bring a subtle magic to the stories. It really felt everyone understood the songs, and was riding the same way, making it a pleasure.
Was most of this done on the road?
I’ve lived on the road for the majority of the past five years, and even before full time van life I would spend every opportunity off in the Bus. A lot of the inspiration for songs off ‘Ground Up’ came from my personal endeavours during the transition from full time employment to self employed musician, (which was less than smooth), and I’d spend hours parked by the river in London reflecting. On the other end you’ve got one of the newest tracks featuring back ground audio I recorded in the middle of the Kazak Dessert, so yea, the road holds a fair amount of blame for the making of the album.
You’ve been on what must be one of the most unique tours any artist has been on, 24 countries in a campervan. How did that idea come about?
3 to 7 pints with a friend in a North London pub.
I’ve found many a marvellous idea are spawned in a pub over a few jars, just most of them fade by dawn… however this one held fast.
It had been a year on the road in the UK performing everywhere I could and it had been really hard, I was making a living out of music and that alone was massively rewarding.
I wanted to progress and get my songs heard by people across the world but do it in a way that suited me, no tv talent shows, no you tube phenomena. These thoughts sparked conversations and brainstorming that night in the pub and I’d decided I would drive to Australia in ‘Pickle’ (the camper van) sharing songs, learning about other cultures, and making little videos as I went. I didn’t know how then, but I knew I would.
And how was that? Did much go awry during that?
It was 2 years in planning and preparation, I wasn’t well traveled and I’d never driven outside the UK never mind across 3 continents.
Political climates across the globe are ever changing, and were growing particularly fragile when I started planning the journey.
I couldn’t get visas for Iran and Pakistan so once making my through Europe I went across the Black Sea to Georgia, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian to Kazakhstan on to Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and then shipped to Australia.
There was no shortage of obstacles along the way… a lot of which were mechanical, but armed with a roof box full of spares, a Haynes manual and luck on my side most were cleared with out too many tears.
I had the hair-raising task of crossing the Taklamakan Desert, Western China, overnight in a sand storm. The 500km journey could easily have gone very wrong. Luckily I had met some other travellers from China and was one of three vehicles crossing (my van was the oldest being a 1989 VW T25… the others modern 4x4s) if not for their tail lights to follow I’d certainly have lost the road and got stuck, which isn’t an option in a sandstorm in the middle of a desert night. Temperatures soar during the day and water/ food supplies would have run out. Although slow and nerve-wracking we were relieved to reach the Northern edge of the Taklamakan by sun rise, both ‘Pickle’ and I in need of rest and some breakfast (which can be an interesting experience in China).
Language barriers were challenging through many countries, but its amazing how you can communicate with out sharing words that sound the same. Music seemed to translate well enough for all I spent time with everywhere.
Which crowd/show do you remember the most from all of those?
I spent almost two weeks in Kyrgyzstans capital Bishkek, waiting on a replacement clutch to arrive.
I managed to get an impromptu show at a bar, which lead to an interview (in Russian, but translated) and performance on their national TV breakfast show, which lead to a show at a festival. Big stage event, backed by my own Kyrgyz band, with lots of cameras and cd signings. All very, very serial.
Your van is not only your home, but a way of taking music globally, just what does this van mean to you?
The old girl’s become a bit of a fifth limb really. Since the day I picked her up, nine years ago in Gosport, having finished work, drawn out all the money I had and got the train down there, people have said why don’t you get rid of that piece of junk and get a decent van? Well I’ve only ever bought things I intended on keeping and I’d like to see some fancy new van teach me what I’ve learnt and travel 21750 miles with me over some of the wildest terrain I’ll ever know on the same set of tyres.
What’s your favourite track from Ground Up, what do you want fans to think after listening to this album?
One of the tracks that really resonates at the moment is ‘You Cant Take Our Souls’. It’s the most recent composition on the album and was written during my time in Central Asia. I spent a lot of time on my own during this part of the tour giving me the opportunity to reflect upon the folk I’d met. People from all strokes of life differ in so many ways but all have the same underlying qualities. No matter how many material things they had they were proud, they worked hard for it, and it was theirs, and it didn’t matter what I looked like, where I was from or what I believed in, they wanted to share it all with me.
Like I said earlier I was lucky and I can only speak from my experiences, but from what I’ve seen, there is peace everywhere. The common folk are not at war with one another. It’s the big dogs involved with politics, power hungry and full of greed that create what the media sees as a whole country’s ‘current attitude’.
After listening to ‘Ground Up’ I’d like people to think “Well flip a monkey, that was really rather good! I might get one for my Mum”
What can we expect next?
I have a small team working on a pilot for a documentary mini series about ‘A Pickle Down Under’ (the UK to Aus project). The plan is to pitch it to TV. Keep an eye out for that…
In the meantime there’ll be a second single release and video out January 2018, a UK tour late January to early Feb, and we are getting back in to the studio as soon as that’s all done to create the next EP or Album. Good times ahead.
There are pipeline dreams of the next big adventure tour, maybe to South Africa or the Americas and I’ve flirted with the idea of a book too. Keeping busy!
Check out the video for ‘Hit The Road’ here: