AV talks with Tom Eaton


Tom Eaton

Listen to Tom Eaton






AV: You have a new album coming out in August, and it seemed like a good time to touch base with you again. Your new album is called Weathering, tell me about the meaning of this title in relation to the music listeners will find on this album. 

TE: “Weathering” to me is about both taking on the wear of life and making it through the rough spots. Specifically for me, the album tracks the last several years of my life as I went from a very rocky place to a new chapter in life. I think a lot of what saved me and allowed me to begin again was the time I spent reconnecting with nature. The tree on the cover of the album became a touchstone for me, and I visited it almost every day for a couple of years, documenting the changing world around it in photos. So I watched it hang on through winter, and watched the green come back around it, and watched the burn of summer take the color out of things. And I was in the weather with it… freezing, getting rained or snowed on, in the mid-July scorches, and the fall breezes. I learned a lot from that tree. 

AV:  I’ve always felt that most music is personal to the artist who created it but you mentioned to me that this was a really personal album to you. Could you compare your general music output as it relates to Weathering and what makes Weathering such a personal statement for you to compose and perform?

TE:  This album is a linear, song-by-song telling of what was happening in my life. The piano is my emotional voice, and when I let the piano talk it’s as true a representation of my feelings as anything I can create. In some of the music I write, the inspiration comes from outside me. I channel nature in my very ambient work (I have several albums that explore that territory), or imagine the story of a willow tree that fell in a storm (that song is on my ghosts album). But “weathering” is my private life in music.

AV:  a world of strangers and spilling your guts when you release music like Weathering? Is that something that just comes with the territory when you’re a musician composing songs from your heart? 

TE:  I write music because I have to… I sort of go crazy if I don’t work things out that way. So I write all my music as a way to process. The way it’s going to land out in the world isn’t really a part of the process. I didn’t know when I wrote my first album (abendromen, released in 2016) that I was going to release it. Jeff Pearce (ambient guitarist extraordinaire) and Tim Story (probably my biggest influence) encouraged me to let it into the world. I’m used to letting things go now. I know the music will become public, but that doesn’t cause me to temper it in any way. For this album I decided just to be true. To tell as much of the story as I can because I think it’s relatable. It feels like what the world puts in front of us is all airbrushed and feel-good-now “content.” When you’re hurting or lost that stuff makes you feel more alone. I spent six years sleeping in my studio after my life fell apart. I had a roof over my head. So many people have it so much worse. But pretending that life isn’t hard sometimes isn’t the right answer. 

AV:  I know there are no words to your music that broadcast your secrets to the world but are you ever hesitant about releasing your compositions that, at least to you, reveal too much of your inner self & your vulnerabilities?

TE:  Not at this point. I hope I never go through another chapter like that in my life. I made it through, though. And that’s a big part of the story of the album. The resilience I learned from that little tree. And the love I found in a new life with my wife, Sarah. I never imagined my life could be as good as it is now.

AV:  Another aspect of that same thought is, do you feel that sometimes the depths of your music and your compositional confessions are missed by listeners who don’t always understand or plumb the deep recesses of the origins of the music you release?

TE:  Not at all. As soon as the music is in the world it belongs to everyone else and their experience of it, and with it, comes from their own life. I can tell people where it comes from, but it has to stand as music without the story. And so whatever someone gets from it, however someone hears it or connects with it is valid, and is right. That’s sort of the magic of instrumental music. The listener is free to inhabit the music as they need to.

AV:  The compositions of Weathering came into being over the course of a few years from 2018 to 2022. Is this typical of projects that you are working on, or was this more of an exception rather than the rule of how your music gets composed and released? Please explain.

TE:  This is definitely the exception! I’ve released several records while this one was in process. Weathering is a novel made of chapters that tell a really specific story and it took me a long time to get it to say what I wanted it to.

AV:  Back in 2018, did you say to yourself that this is the beginning of a new album called Weathering, and did you already have in mind how the music would flow? I’m sure your listeners would like to be able to see into your process of creating something like this over several years and how it all eventually comes together into a cohesive album.  

TE:  No, actually the music seems to telegraph what’s coming in my life. A thing will show up in the piano a month or two before I experience the event in life that I then realize the music was about. So I had no idea in the summer of 2018 when the first piece showed up that it was the beginning of anything. It wasn’t until early 2019 that I started to see the shape of the album, and once Sarah arrived in my life I finally saw the whole picture and the last pieces on the album arrived.

AV:  Looking at the song titles and listening to the album, it almost feels like a therapy session you went through as you dealt with the downs and ups of your life over the last few years. Is your music/compositions cathartic when it revolves around understanding where you were in your life and how you came through the whole process into the light of a new day?


TE:  The “downs and ups” is exactly right! Ending in a good place was the thing I never saw coming. Yes, my piano music is definitely cathartic. The piano knows things about me that I don’t. I’m still trying to shorten the time between what my subconscious and the instrument seem to be able to connect with and what I can actually understand in my conscious mind. 

AV:  On Weathering, you wrote, performed, produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered the album, and you also played piano, basses, guitars, synthesizers, accordion, and percussion. Do you approach these functions as independent of one another, or do they all flow together when you’re in the middle of a project such as this?

TE:  On this album, the piano came first in every song. I take videos of my piano improvs, and all these songs started as improvs that I caught on video. I guess that’s where I get out of the way the most… where the door to my emotional existence is most open. Then I shape the piano parts into something more complete and record the piano. After that it’s all coloring in the emotions. The vibes played an important part on this record, as did the accordion, which is mostly doubled with a reedy synth sound and takes the lead at times in most of the songs. Bass is always a part of my voice, too. And of course I love the textures of milky synths and ambient guitars.

This album has a lot of distorted electric guitars sitting in the background. I think that maybe that’s the voice of tension, the places I’m really uncomfortable. I’m working on the balances of the colors as I go, and where the piano is the lead and where other things step forward, so I’m mixing some as I progress. Eventually all the notes are there and I can just work on the balances and sounds, so it turns into me mixing. And then mastering is much later, after I’ve gotten away from all the micro choices and can start to relate to it as music again.

AV:  Since the album was in the creation stage for several years, how do you know that any given song you’ve composed or are in the process of composing would end up on Weathering and not on some other unnamed project that was yet to be determined?

TE:  The pieces on the album seem to be about specific moments in or parts of my “down and up” as you put it. Because the album happened over such a long period of time, I was able to get a little distance on things and hear what the songs were song-ing about. There were pieces that didn’t make the album because they didn’t connect in the same way, and there remain a number of ideas that arrived in that time that still need a good home. I thought I had it just right finally and got to mastering and had to move a song in the order (“the empty page”) because I realized I hadn’t understood what it was about.

AV:  At the end of creating an album like Weathering, do you feel lighter inside at having worked out some of those issues via the music you recorded and released into the world?

TE:  Yes! It’s funny that the day after I finished the mastering of the album I sat down at the piano and my song “Shelter” arrived almost fully formed and was done completely in a day. It was a gift for finishing the other work, and the result of a clear headspace. It’s probably Sarah’s favorite song of mine (sorry, weathering).

AV:  When it comes to your music, and perhaps the music of Weathering in particular, are you a perfectionist in regard to when you feel a piece of your music is ready for your listeners to hear?

TE:  I think so, but I think it’s about feeling as much as anything. It just has to feel right, and sometimes quirky things feel right. One of the great lessons from working with Will Ackerman for so long was learning to let things happen that are not exactly what you might have intended but that are actually more true because they ARE what happened. So as long as I’m not bumped out of the moment at any time, I’m good.

AV:  Over the past few years, what have you learned about yourself and your music as you continue your musical journey into the future?

TE:  I think I’m getting better at finding peace. I’m certainly more aware of how fortunate I am to get to do what I do and where I get to do it. I spend my life helping people make good albums, making my own music, and hanging out in the NH countryside with Sarah. Pretty amazing.

AV:  Regarding the Weathering album, what would you most like to hear from your listeners as feedback on what they thought of your compositions?

TE:  I actively work against having expectations in that regard. Whatever people hear and feel is their thing and if I can make something that they find a connection with, that’s amazing.

AV:  Are you happy with what Weathering became from 2018 to 2022 and what are your feelings as you prepare to release it into the wild around the beginning of August 2023?

TE:  I am happy with it, yes. I think it’s the most true thing I’ve ever made and I’m trying to be as honest as I can be about where it came from. The album starts in the dark and arrives in a place of real peace, and that’s where I live today. Maybe the album will help someone else see the light at the end of their own path. Maybe it will provide some company as they sit in their own unknowing. Maybe it is, at the end of the day, just about hope.

AV:  I think your fans will be quite pleased with Weathering when it starts streaming in its entirety come August 4. I'm sure that Weathering will affirm that your music will continue to be an important part of the ambient music scene in the years to come. Best wishes with this release and I hope everyone finds it as moving as I did. Thanks for your time and your thoughts regarding your music.


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