By Aaron Wagner
British country artist Tommy Atkins is making the most of this year, continuing his momentum with his debut EP, Kiss Me Cowboy.
Featuring four songs, Atkins demonstrates his ability to write a true country type of song. In an era, especially in the UK, where country music continues to evolve into a modern-country sound, Atkins goes back to his roots with his story telling and his vocals.
We caught up with him to chat about the artists he grew up with, the impact he hopes his music has, and of course the recent EP project from him.
Raised On It: What music artists did you grow up with?
Tommy: I grew up on 90s country and 80s pop. I loved Shania, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride; my dad had an Alan Jackson cassette tape in the car. Those albums really stuck with me. I remember Wham’s greatest hits and all those Now That’s What I Call Music! compilations too. I still listen to all that music on a daily basis!
Raised On It: The UK isn’t known for country music, so what drew you to the country format?
Tommy: I think I just gravitated towards it as a kid. I was lucky enough to hear it through my parents and grandparents, and I just preferred it to what was playing on pop radio. As I hit my teens, I guess country music was how I processed all the new feelings that were coming about too. Some kids turn to heavy metal or emo, I turned to country!
Raised On It: What was your goal when you set out to make your EP, Kiss Me Cowboy?
Tommy: To show people what I’m all about! I love fiddle and steel and harmonies and that’s evident on every song. I’m an openly gay man, so of course there are openly gay lyrics in several of the songs. And I think this EP presents the cornerstones of my upcoming debut album: there’s some fun, 90s leaning country on there, there’s plenty of fiddle and steel, and all of the songs relate to my life intimately.
Raised On It: Was there a theme you were going for?
Tommy: Yes! I like to think of this EP as ‘context.’ All these songs relate to my late teens and early twenties. Looking back, they all present key moments that helped shape my attitudes towards life and love. There was some real heartache back then and there was certainly some dysfunction – even if that dysfunction was fun at the time! On the rest of the album, you’ll get to hear songs that relate to my late twenties and the person I’ve grown into today. I can’t promise all of the dysfunction is gone, but there’s certainly a lot more light and happiness and I think you’ll hear that in the songs.
Raised On It: Which song is your favorite? I know that’s tough, but is there one that you hold a little closer as it means something more to you?
Tommy: I’d have to say “Wild in the Wind.” It was inspired by a dear friend of mine who passed a few years back. Even though it’s quite an emotional song, I’m so thankful that I get to sing it for the rest of my life, because every time I do, I think of him.
Raised On It: What has the response been like so far? Both as far as the success of it, but also what fans are saying about it?
Tommy: It’s been awesome. It hit #1 on the iTunes Country Charts both here in the UK and New Zealand and the title track has become my fifth consecutive top 5 single, which is just crazy. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and radio have really embraced all of the songs too. The response from my fans has been so heart-warming. I love receiving messages from people telling me how they relate to the songs. That connection is the best thing about being a musician. The title track has definitely received the biggest response from my queer fanbase. I wish I’d had access to openly gay country music when I was growing up, so I’m super proud to be providing that for some of the kids out there today.
Raised On It: What do you love most about making music?
Tommy: The connection with fans! I just love hearing how people relate to the songs. I love hearing their stories and about the people they love. Country music just draws that out of people because when it’s good, it’s real.
FAST MONEY QUESTIONS
Dream Collab: Shania Twain
Favorite album: Fly by The Chicks
Favorite venue to play: The Bluebird Cafe
Favorite concert you’ve been to: Front Row at Little Big Town – so much fun!
Song you wish you wrote: Recently, I’d have to say “More Hearts Than Mine” by Ingrid Andress.