As an artist, Tom Hampton has travelled full circle in his creative pursuits - beginning as a drummer, taking up guitar to explore the craft of songwriting, then finding a niche as an in-demand session player and sideman...and now, finding a fresh, new sense of enthusiasm as a recording artist.
Tom was born and raised in Savannah, Tennessee - a farming town between Memphis and Nashville, where his initial musical experiences came from the AM radio in his grandfather's pickup truck. After three summers' worth of work as a late night disc jockey at his hometown radio station (combined with a stint as a drummer in what Tom wincingly recalls as a "matching shirt country band"), Tom left Savannah for a stint in the military.
In 1993 Tom arrived in Philadelphia, where he would eventually settle into a folky, more acoustically-based style as influenced by John Gorka, Jackson Browne, and Dan Fogelberg. He utilized his own multi-instrumental talents playing acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, lap steel, mandolin and piano on his debut CD, Our Mutual Angels.
The album was first released on Longview records, a Philadelphia independent imprint - and was well-received and drew strong support among his peers and select media outlets (garnering rave reviews among several national media outlets, including a top twelve pick in Performing Songwriter magazine).
He toured behind the record incessantly, and switched management shortly after the record's release to try and "give the record legs...or at least a fighting chance," he recalls. However, he soon found that the record created more of a buzz for his skills as a musician and session player than for his craftsmanship as a writer. As a result, he spent the next few years playing on records by a multitude of artists and appearing in support of friends like Nashville songwriting legend Craig Bickhardt, Philadelphia mainstay Robert Hazard, Hooters guitarist John Lilley, Americana songsmith J.D. Malone, folksinger Tracy Grammer among others.
In 2006, Tom built a studio in the basement of his home that had seen its genesis in a smattering of equipment thrown together when Tom co-produced Blake Allen's solo debut, Ghosting. Tom took the existing pieces of the puzzle and built them into a full-fledged recording facility where he could work without a timeframe or a deadline, and also contribute tracks to other musician's recordings remotely. In time, having the equipment available on a regular basis led to the self-release of Tom's second album, Noises From The Basement - a collection of demos, cover songs and recordings done during that period.
The death of Robert Hazard in 2008, and a subsequent performance and discussion with Philadelphia radio legend Michael Tearson led to a Hazard-inspired collaboration between the two that resulted in the DJ's first ever album, Stuff That Works. It was an album featuring Tearson as performer of a handful of thematically-related cover songs, with Hampton playing the lions' share of the instruments on the record, along with Grammy-winning producer Andy Kravitz. At the culmination of the project, Tearson pointed out to Hampton that "you could probably do an album of songs written by the people you've worked with and still have some left over..." - it was an offhand comment that took root in Hampton's head, and became the seed of an ambitious double-CD project that Hampton has titled Friends and Heroes - one CD comprised entirely of songs written by artists that he has worked with personally over the years, and another made up of songs written by artists who inspired him and shaped him from a creative standpoint. In addition to songs never-before released by Dan May and Robert Hazard, the album also features songs from Marshall Tucker Band, Pure Prairie League, Richie Furay (of Buffalo Springfield and Poco), Tracy Grammer - nestled among songs from artists like Jackson Browne, Lowell George, Terry Reid, Jesse Winchester - among other artists.
"Tom is one of those rare talents - he's a guy who's able to illuminate a song from the inside out," says Tearson. "He's always focused on the song...and ironically, he shines as a player by staying out of the way of the song." "Tom is just one of those guys that fits our band," says lead vocalist Doug Gray of the Marshall Tucker Band. "A lot of guys just sit and wait for their turn to solo, but Tom plays to the band." Having spent the majority of the last year on the road with Marshall Tucker, Tom continues to be in-demand as a touring sideman and session musician. The release of this ambitious new project brings a renewed focus to his career as a performing and recording artist.