The songwriting apple doesn’t fall far from the songwriting tree.
For fans of the late music legend John Prine, there is another generation to begin following.
That’s right, Tommy Prine, son of John, is a songwriter at heart and he’s set for his first tour in 2022.
Speaking with The Boston Globe, the 26-year-old Tommy said music makes him feel “the most like who I am.” And yet to go into it full-time “felt like an insurmountable mountain. Why would I even bother trying if my dad is who he is?”
Yet, he’s found a way.
His father passed away at 73 years old in 2020 from COVID-19. Since then the smooth-singing Tommy has begun to make his way. He knows he must sing—even though by doing so he is “acknowledging the size of [John’s] shoes.”
Today, while he has no official finished album to sell (though, he’s working on it) and he is not on Spotify, Tommy says he’s still something of a work-in-progress.
He told The Boston Globe: “I’m still figuring out all the business stuff. As far as I thought was making an album.”
Tommy, however, does have some songs posted to YouTube. And he isn’t afraid to throw in some of his dad’s songs when he plays live, he says
“I’m a very new artist. I know whenever I sell more than 40 or 50 tickets, it’s because of who I am,” he says. “I know that people want to hear a couple of dad’s songs. I love playing them, too. I’m not the only person who covers John Prine.”
Tommy is the youngest of two sons, the offspring of John and his wife Fiona Whelan Prine. Tommy, who grew up in Nashville, is also siblings with Jody, the son of Fiona, whom John also adopted. Jody now runs John’s Oh Boy Records.
Tommy first picked up a six-string at 10 years old. He picked up his dad’s finger-picking style. He liked metal at first but then later found a new favorite: Jason Isbell.
“That was a turning point,” says Tommy. “That’s when I had a fresh ear to listen to my dad’s music.”
And Isbell recently acknowledged Tommy’s love of his music on Twitter, writing, “We love that Tommy”
Tommy began acclimating himself to the life by playing on the road with John, selling merch, and occasionally performing on stage. That’s when he “caught the bug.”
But years later when his father had to go into the hospital, Tommy wasn’t allowed to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions. When his father went in, Tommy never saw him again.
“My mom got to be with him when he passed,” adds Tommy. “It was pretty traumatic.”
Tommy wrote on Facebook two years after his father had passed, “Hey Dad, It’s two years today since you left. A lot has happened since then. Savannah [his girlfriend] and I are getting married soon . . . I started doing what you did too. It sucks sometimes because I have so many questions . . . [and you’re] the one person that would know what to say.”
Tommy had proposed to Savannah in Ireland, with his father’s wedding ring. The two met in Nashville at 13 years old.
Dad would be proud.
See HERE for Tommy’s complete list of tour dates, which continues today (April 18) in Philadelphia and, as of now, concludes in July in Canada.
Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association