"I was born there and lived there until I was about eight years old," says singer/songwriter Tom Sless. "My dad's side of the family has lived in the South Jersey area since they came here from Europe in the early 1900's. They all settled in Atlantic City and I was born in Somers Point, grew up for a little bit in Ventnor then we moved to Linwood on the mainland when I was two years old. I lived there until around 2000 when my parents, siblings and I moved to Baltimore."
A current resident of the west coast, Sless has just released his debut album aptly titled "California Dream" and although he has left the Garden State the Garden State has not left him; citing the coastlines of both states and creative commonality as the reason.
"I moved to California right after college which is something I touch upon in the title track of the album. I made the decision to move because I'd always connected with L.A. specifically; something about the beach, having grown up on the beach and down the shore and the idea of there being this creative opportunity kind of all collected in this part of the country that really appealed to me. I didn't necessarily have a network in music or anything like that; it was more like if I could put myself in the position where I can be surrounded by creatives and musicians and those types of people that I would figure it out along the way. So I moved right after college and that was about six years ago."
In the 1960's and 70's, California and New York City were the places many people went to try and "Make it big" but in the current music climate, many have shifted their focus to Nashville, TN. So why buck trends and go to Los Angeles?
"I'm starting to make some more frequent trips over to Nashville and I still think that out here in L.A. there's so much of energy that it's easy to come by likeminded people and people that can help you and just build your network especially with how interconnected with tech that everyone is; everyone has a contact or a friend in Nashville that I run into in L.A. so it's kind of nice in that respect."
Sless wasn't always a full time musician; he, like many others enjoyed performing, "On the side" but then one day that all changed. "California Dream" is the result of that change and as he explains, it took some intestinal fortitude to give up security and then tenacity and some networking to get to this point.
"The album just came out the other night," he said excitedly, "It's been all over Spotify and Apple Music; it's eight songs and it's called "California Dream." It's an Americana/Folk/Rock album really and it was kind of born out of this journey of deciding to pursue music full time and quit what was at the time a career working in business and public accounting. I had been doing the music on the side and decided that I wanted to put all of my faith into my songwriting and my performing. So I started writing songs more religiously around two years ago; really trying to hone the craft and these songs on the album have their genesis around late 2018 and then we hopped in the studio in July of 2019. So over the course of about nine months, writing it, going through the experience of attending music school, being unemployed, working part time Uber driving, picking up odd jobs here and there while making the main focus the music, songwriting and performing while building my network here. So that's kind of where the album came out of as far as the life experience and I was lucky enough to get in with some communities through networking or school that everyone involved in the project was a connection from a community that I had been a part of and I was able to put together a production like this pretty quickly which was pretty amazing I think. We recorded it in a studio called "Company L.A." in Glendale and the reason that it appealed to us was that it has a really great live room and some really nice traditional vintage sounds that we could get there; a lot of great amps, a great Slingerland drum kit straight from the 70's which is hard to come by these days and it gave us that nice booming raw tone which we were trying to go for and there was also the ability to record to tape there. So we pressed every song to tape and then brought it back into the Pro Tools rig which gave us some of that nice warmth, some of that glue to bring the tracks together similar to how you would've done it 30 or 40 years ago when recording. We really wanted it to have a live feel to it, a band feel to it, have that kind of old school vintage feel while bringing the production value up to modern standards in that way; it was a great experience."
Artist's opinions of their work are varied and are never negative in nature as most feel very strong connections to their material and projects; even stating that their songs are their children. When asked if they have a particular favorite song of their own most will say "All of them" so not to show favoritism. However, Sless is different and his outlook is refreshingly honest.
"From a marketing perspective there's two songs that we're putting more energy into as far as singles go; "Taking Me Back" is track two and "Gimme The Breeze" which is track seven. On a personal level, the title track "California Dream" ties a lot together for me and was actually the last song that I wrote for the album. I knew that I wanted to call the album "California Dream" but I didn't have that eighth song. So I sat down and said to myself, I have to write this song and I touched on the experience of deciding to move to L.A. and that decision coincided with the loss of my cousin who passed away the next day after I decided that I was going to move across the country and from writing that experience down on paper for the first time, having not really tried to tackle that duality in that moment; it unlocked that song for me. The way the arrangement came out with the brass fanfare and the power that it brings; building from a soft opening to a much larger finish, that song stands out to me in that respect."
The album released on March 27 and coinciding with that Sless has a planned April 8 debut of an interactive web series on his Instagram page www.instagram.com/tomsless in lieu of a tour due to the current pandemic.
"So obviously my album release show had to be postponed, my plans to come east and do a run of shows in the Mid-Atlantic through Jersey have been pushed a bit as everyone is grappling with the reality that we are in. So what I decided to do is capitalize on the fact that we're all inside and there's a lot of people doing streaming series but the motive behind my series actually came two fold with the title being "Melodies and Remedies." The Melodies is referring to performing a song each week from the album live on the stream and talking about the inspiration, the musicality, the production and the story but the Remedies side is the part that I'm most excited about. When I was going through and writing these songs I was writing from experiences that were happening in that very moment; for instance, "Too Much On My Mind" which is the final track on the album, grappling with not having a job, going to school, trying to make ends meet, figuring out how to be a full time musician all at once. That gave me so much to think about and try to work through on a daily basis and I almost started to write these songs to help me through those moments because they were the most honest feelings that I was having; I have too much on my mind and I'm trying to work it through and have it all make sense. So with this web series I'm excited to share the perspective of what strategies and habits and practices that I've adopted that started while writing these songs that have helped me continue to grow and move forward through both good and bad times and struggles that I have with the pursuit of this dream. I'm excited to be bringing on guests each week to not only speak to the musical side of the song as they were involved in it but also to share more strategies like that and include whoever is viewing it to participate and lend any kind of perspective. Now more than ever I think a lot of people are struggling with anxiety and are unsure as well as just overall unease with how things are shaking out and not just artists or musicians either; everyone is really going through something different right now and I thought that it would be a great opportunity to lend my hand out to anyone who may be seeking an additional perspective."
Once the dust has settled and the world returns to whatever the new normal will eventually be; what is his plan going forward and why?
"Overall, in the short term once all of this has passed over I want to perform and schedule some dates to come out east and perform in the Jersey, New York, Philly and Maryland areas. I think for now I'm looking to stay in Los Angeles and continue to promote the album as much as possible and get it in front of as many eyes and ears as I can while I'm out here. I want to continue pushing on, creating every day and finding new ways to reach people. What's most important to me as far as why I'm pursuing music is to connect and share my perspective and connect with other people's perspectives and have us all learn from each other and I hope that my music can be a vehicle for that. So as much as that's possible here in L.A., I'm definitely looking forward to getting out more once this has all passed over and getting some moves to Nashville, New York, Texas as well, Austin, Dallas so that I can continue to expand and continue to meet other people who can lend their expertise and create with me."
To discover more about Tom Sless or purchase "California Dream," please visit www.tomsless.com.
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!
Sadly, there are still no events to list at this time. Please follow and support original music online and through your purchases.
Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.