It’s not every day we get to ask championship surfers our Writer of the Week questions, but singer-songwriter-slash-wave-riding zen master Tom Curren has changed all that. This month, Curren released In Plain View, his debut full-length album, which marries blues, folk and rock in an appealing way. We asked Curren about every surfing band we could think of, the words he loves and hates and more.
Being a champion surfer takes discipline.Do you apply the same discipline to your music career, or does music come more effortlessly?
It takes the same kind of determination to do well, I think. It’s similar because there are times when it is effortless, as you say, but it takes work to get to that place.
You’ve said that you want your music to come across as positive. Are you still able to address darker subjects and the down side of relationships in your music?
Ultimately I want take any subject no matter how dark and have something positive without it being forced. That’s the hard part.
What are your thoughts on fellow surfer/musician’s Jack Johnson’s music?
I think Jack is one of the finest artists we have today. I’m amazed at how his music can be found on alternative rock college radio as well as airport lounges! I can’t think of anyone else who has accomplished this.
How about fellow surfer/musician’s Eddie Vedder’s music?
I love Pearl Jam. It’s also my wife’s favorite band.
What about the Beach Boys?
Beach Boys stand up really well over time, I think. A lot of their music may have had a faddish tendency but there’s some real depth also.
What was your old band, Skipping Urchins like?
We had a limited structuring approach. A lot of long instrumentals with funk and hip hop or rap.
What’s a lyric on In Plain View that you’re proud of?
“Learn to love this way for the joy it one day will repay” from “Unconditional” has some bite to it.
What’s your typical approach to songwriting?
Typically I would find a guitar part that I feel confident about, or a guitar riff and go into some lyrical phrase that has potential. I try to put down everything as fast as I can, and hopefully everything ties together nicely without loose ends. Of course it almost never happens so neatly! A big trap for me is rewriting songs too much and losing track of what you have in the first place. Sometimes, rarely though, I can have a lyric idea with the music.
Do you do any other kinds of writing besides songwriting?
Nowadays, I’ve been doing some more writing for surfing magazines, mostly about. . . yes, surfing. As well as traveling.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
There are so many! I like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney among others.
What’s the first song you ever wrote?
I wrote “Dandelion,” which is on the LP. I had this guitar part that is an open D tuning and has a kind of droning effect I came up with chorus phrase and wrote a couple of verses to complete it.
Are there any words you love or hate?
I like “lemonade.” I don’t like “crime.”
If you could co-write with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?
I don’t know about co-writing too much. Usually if I need to finish a song it’s with a closed door with no visitors. The last time I was collaborating with someone, it felt like there were so many ways to go it was impossible to get anywhere. Maybe James Taylor.
Who do you consider and underrated songwriter?
What do you consider to be the perfect song, and why?
“Send One Your Love” by Stevie Wonder. When he comes out the 3rd chorus into the vamp, and then goes into the intro part again, there is a counter melody by the backup vocalist that is just awesome.