Slough born singer songwriter and camper van dweller, Tom Dibb is currently in the process of putting the final touches on his first ever full-length record at Bedfordshire's Grand Chapel Studios following an epic musical adventure that took Tom from London to Melbourne overland creating an LP that speaks of his unique experiences during his 18 months on the road.
We spoke to Tom Dibb about his new single ‘Hit The Road’.
How would you describe your new song?
It’s got an acoustic vibe like most of my tracks but it’s folk mixed in with country, with a bit of pop in there, and it’s a story about hitting the road, whichever way you can, be it car, foot or bicycle. Just going out and exploring and breaking the ties with all the things that hold us back sometimes.
Can you tell us a bit about your campervan and the journey you’ve had?
It was a bit of an experiment really to see if one could get original songs heard across the world without huge budgets, massive record labels or talent shows. I thought I’d go and do it the only way I knew how which was to drive and play live to everyone I met along the way, and I ended up in twenty-four countries doing 21,750 miles overland [with] an awful lots of wild experiences and lots of cool people!
That must have been a great adventure for you to be on?
Absolutely! I feel really privileged to have been able to do it [and] I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it weren’t for a trusty VW camper van and to the people who supported me on the way around and beforehand. I did a crowdfunding Kickstarter, [with] merchandise sales, and if it wasn’t for all those people then I wouldn’t have got as far as quickly as I did!
It’s probably difficult to sum up a whole journey into one soundbite, but did you a favourite moment on the road?
I’ve been asked this is a few times and I’ve kind of dwindled it down to something like a few countries I’d love to go back to as I didn’t spend enough time there. One of the most enjoyable experiences when I think back wasn’t the places I would have thought where there was a big music scene and I was playing all the time, it was actually when going through central Asia and the desert, spending so much time on my own reflecting on life gone by, and what I was seeing day to day, seeing how different people lived and how the cultures are and how people are living today, and how they deal with day-to-day life, just interacting with folk. Without that kind of opportunity, or the experience of travel, you’d never get to see how they live, or them how I live and the music that I make and the music they make. After reflecting on it for a while that was one of the most amazing parts of it.
How did the journey transform itself into an album?
I wrote the song ‘Hit The Road’ prior to the journey. Having come up with the idea of the tour, which was called ‘The Pickle Down Under’, as the van is called ‘Pickle’ and the tour was to Australia. I’d come up with this project over a few jars with an old mate of mine in a North London pub about two-and-a-half years before I left. The song followed that a year or so later but then it became very relevant for the tour and I was doing videos in each country and the track became a backing track to that. And then it had to go on the album. The album’s called ‘Ground Up’ and it’s about my life from when I first started writing to planning the tour to songs I wrote during the project to when I got back earlier this year to record. There are literally songs there from the ground up.
Was it useful to do that journey as a backdrop to ground yourself for the album?
Absolutely. I thought maybe I would write a lot more whilst I was doing the tour. I ended up doing about two or three songs [so] there were songs prior to the journey itself and then songs from the early days of writing. I never like to put myself under too much pressure, especially with the driving and keeping the van running, and keeping myself running and sorting out the logistics of the project, like boarding passes, visas and shipping. It didn’t leave me with as quite as much time to write as I’d hoped. The album has become, rather than just a story of the Australian tour, but a story of my tour from the age of twenty-one when I began writing, living in London and writing, work full time in a phone shop, kind of scraping things together, to then moving into a camper van and living life of a touring museum, again trying to keep things tied together, then leaving home for the Australian tour and trying to do what I always wanted to do, and love doing, and stay afloat whilst doing so and branching out as much as possible!
Your journey has also been picked up in print hasn’t it?
The VW community, the camper van and beetle community, is huge and they’ve played a massive role in my music and keeping me going. I started doing camper van festivals a few years ago and now a lot of the festivals I visit are Volkswagen festivals. I ended up getting up with Just Campers who are a parts company and Camper and Commercial magazine who’ve just done part one of ‘The Pickle Down Under’, my adventures down under.
What was it like making the video for ‘Hit The Road’?
It was an alright idea and it was definitely good fun doing it. It pretty much involves Pickle and me and the boys from the back playing on the roof rack in a field [and] driving along, with an awful lot of cows, and there are cut-aways to us playing in Grantchapel Studios where the album was recorded. It was quite the jolly!
Have you got any live gigs coming up?
There are a few gigs coming up. I’m actually heading to into Porthmadog this weekend, Black Rock Sands, to do the Final Countdown, which is one of the final VW festivals of the season, then I’m doing a support gig for a friend of mine called Danny Gruff which is on the 15th October at the Camden Assembly. Other than that I’m doing a lot of street performing, which I love doing. I’ve found it’s a great way of reaching out to a wider audience and playing to new people. I’ve got some Christmas fayres and then at the beginning of the new year myself and the boys from the band are doing an album launch tour. We haven’t done it the usual way around but because we are a small team the way things have turned out is get the album out and then in the new year, when everyone is back together and we’ve got some more power in the system, we’re going to head up potentially as far as Scotland and Newcastle, plus Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London, so doing a full UK tour for the album.
How would you describe your live sound?
It’s quite varied. I do an awful lot of shows solo acoustic, and the duo, trio and everything up to a full band. It’s an acoustic vibe. A lot of my songs come across as stories, with reggae, roots, blues and Americana, everything I’ve ever listened to in there. It can be chilled and can be high-powered too!
Finally what are your ambitions for the next six months?
I probably spend two-thirds of my life now in the camper van and the rest of the time I’m in the studio! We’ve already started work on some other tracks for a potential EP release around Christmas or new year. We’re looking at doing a video for a second single off the album. There’s pipe dreams of some other epic tours to try and reach out and get my songs heard across the world. I’m going to have to hold fire on that for another year or so and see how we go and just keep making music really!
For more information visit www.tomdibb.com or facebook.com/tomdibbmusic.