In the opening moments of Tom Misch ‘s debut album ‘Geography,’ a trumpeter by the name of Roy Hargrove reflects on the value of a musician. “You have to do this because you love it. And it doesn’t matter if you broke, you still gon’ do it,” he says, before concluding that artists are a “mirror of society.”
London’s 23-year-old guitarist, violinist, producer and vocalist, Tom Misch, may be reluctant to offer himself as a mirror of today’s society, but still, the soulful devotion to his work is undeniable as fans across the world have found refuge in his jazzy, hip-hop influenced rhythms often catalyzed by his punctual guitar.
On Tuesday night, accompanied by a full band that included two drummers, a bassist, keyboardist, guitarist and violinist, Misch turned Ace of Spades into a sanctuary, with a few of Sacramento’s most promising musicians in attendance–likely fans of a musician that reflects their integral passion for creating soundscapes. While Misch admits his knowledge of Sacramento goes no further than the visuals in ‘Lady Bird,’ — which he “really liked” — his first show in the city made for an interesting picture of an artist who does not consider himself “a particularly spiritual person,” despite creating spiritual experiences with his music.
“I think my relationship to music — it’s kind of literally just like, I love the sound of music,” said Misch, in the hours prior to Tuesday’s show. “Sounds kind of obvious, but like, you know what I mean? I love harmony chords and like I think people often say I’ve got an old soul when it comes to music, but I think it’s just, the music I listen to is quite soulful I guess, you know? So it’s like I just absorb that stuff.”
Earlier in his career, Misch was heavily influenced by American producer J Dilla, whose sample-based hip-hop production has influenced a whole generation to follow suit. As Misch has grown with Dilla’s example, his interests have spanned into many generations of music, both old and new.
“Earth Wind and Fire, Changed, this group called Changed, just loads of like disco stuff,” said Misch. “I love this producer called POMO. I love a lot of Anderson .Paak stuff, the records he does, you know, the dancey records as well. I love ‘Dang!,’ — Mac Miller — I love that tune, just that kind of stuff, you know?”
Misch is part of a rare breed of artists who came to benefit from the independent Soundcloud platform. As a jazz school dropout, his abilities to produce without fine-tuning his sentiments were especially beneficial in an era where new music is craved on the regular. Showcased on his 2017 EP ‘5 Day Mischon,’ which was accompanied by a YouTube series, his ability to guide a variety of artists into his realm of sound appeared to come ever so naturally within a five day span — the results, a modern classic.
However, outside of the studio, the producer is still finding his own gauge of stage presence, for as much as he can make a room full of strangers dance, his own person remains mostly still during the live show. For this, he says he would like to start dance lessons at some point, with his love for hip-hop and disco in mind. As his discography has progressed with more rhythms to dance to, his career is set to develop as vividly as many of his contemporaries have accomplished.
Perhaps most interestingly, while Misch is clearly the main benefactor of his career, his ability to work with lesser-known artists — such as Sam Wills, Carmody, Novelist and Jordan Rakei — could be his strongest suit as an artist. In fact, he welcomes the idea of not being the center of attention as his mind stems from a collaborative background.
Coming from a family full of creative energy, where his mother is an artist, father is a forensic psychiatrist that plays the violin, sister Laura plays the saxophone and sings, and sister Polly is an actress, Misch admits an active part of his upbringing was the open discussion of feelings. For this reason, his family is included in much of his work, as his mom created the album cover for ‘Geography’ and his sisters have both been featured across his body of work.
For all of the accomplishments they get to share, it would seem his father’s instillment of hard work and high expectations, something he believes stems from his German-Jewish background, has been a struggle for Misch.
“I’m the opposite actually,” said Misch. “Like, I want to do less, and have more time to just chill, you know? I love making music, but I also love doing nothing, you know just having to like–it’s good to be busy–but you know I enjoy just chilling out.”
These days, Misch is continuously having to adjust to new changes as the fruits of his abilities begin to take shape. Similar to Frank Ocean’s capacity to become a recluse and release his own music at any given moment, it would be no surprise to see Misch take the same route with his career. While Ocean hits us emotionally with his lyrics, Misch builds landscapes with his music, where his lack of lyrical assertion is complimented by a listener’s imagination. And while Ocean’s lyricism has always been present, it took some years for him to find a new sound he felt comfortable enough to share with the world, just as Misch may take some time to share a more poignant arsenal of stories within the realm of sound he has created.
“I’ve adjusted to it, but it’s constantly changing,” said Misch. “I’m getting bigger it seems, so it’s kind of like, you adjust to it, but then things get more intense.”
Although he is certainly the center of attention, both in conversation and during his live show, Misch never appears to be fully in tune with the moment that lies before him, as he is likely focused on the tune inside his head.
“I’m definitely a day dreamer, not quite with it most of the time,” said Misch. “My head’s probably elsewhere, you know?”
Wherever that may be, his fans are surely eager to follow.
For more information on everything Tom Misch, including his remaining 2018 tour dates, visit TomMisch.com.
Photos by Cesar Alexander.