On the Record: Bill Toms | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

On the Record: Bill Toms

The singer-songwriter and former Houserockers guitarist talks about his new album, Memphis

On the Record: Bill Toms
Photo Courtesy of Yannick Beauvalet

Bill Toms spent almost 20 years as lead guitarist in Joe Grushecky's band, the Houserockers. More recently, he's toured and recorded solo, and with his band, Hard Rain. This week he releases his latest full-length, Memphis.


Why Memphis?

I started to explore the characters on the album, and I realized that most of these characters have a Southern personality to them. Memphis is maybe the ultimate Southern town when it comes to music and styles of music – the blues and soul music. 

You worked very closely with Nashville musician Will Kimbrough on this album; how did that come together? 

I met Will through my manager. The songs I had written, I gave him a demo and he said, "This is a very soulful record, Southern soul music." And he thought Will would be a perfect fit. And when I did talk to Will about the project, we realized that not only are we really close to the same age, but we grew up listening to the same music. We were really influenced by the older soul music -- Stax, you know. Stuff that comes out of Muscle Shoals. 

One theme that struck me when listening to this album is restlessness. 

I've felt very restless all my life. Maybe that's why I became a musician. Even as a young person, I don't think I embraced the idea of staying in one place and working 9 to 5. I don't think it's even restless in a physical sense only; I think it's restlessness inside my soul. Always asking more questions than I have answers to.


BILL TOMS CD release. With John Allaire. 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 24. Frankie & Georgie's, 5832 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill. $10-12. 412-422-5027

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