Ambient jazz musician Tom Pearo has made a name for himself in the Burlington, VT area and beyond in the last decade. Fresh off the release of his debut album, called Headspace, Pearo is poised to introduce the masses to his first music video, also called “Headspace.”
The video for “Headspace” is a thoughtful, slow-paced meditation taking the viewer via Pearo himself from the hustle and bustle of city life to a fantastic woodland trek and purely sweet conclusion. Fat snowflakes fall languorously from the sky, matching the music’s wintry mood- rolling cymbals, plaintive violin, and Pearo’s own guitar work. Directed by Kayhll Cooper, the video is full of contemplative moments that perfectly match the music that it accompanies. At the beginning of the almost 8-minute-long video, the camera rests on Pearo’s face as he clearly ruminates on something. The viewer is invited to imagine what he could be thinking about, as he makes tea, gets dressed, carries a suitcase across a snowy Burlington street, drives to an undisclosed location in the forest. Furtive, fleeting shots of another pair of eyes aid in solving the mystery. Take some time for yourself and watch the whole mini-movie at the link below:
LMNR had the chance to catch up with Tom Pearo via email before his video release party at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington on Friday, February 8th.
LMNR: Tell me a bit about your early life. You mention growing up on a remote island in Northern Vermont in your bio- how did this shape you and your worldview? Do you have any fond memories you’d like to share?
TP: I remember from early childhood looking up at the night sky and having this feeling of awe, seeing so many stars. The more you stared, the more appeared. I remember watching snowfall so heavy all you could see what white, like you were in the middle of a real-life snowglobe. I remember catching so many fireflies in a mason jar that the jar was like a lantern. I remember playing in the woods, and using my imagination. All these memories are very dear to me and had a huge impact on my character.
LMNR: How did majoring in Physics with a minor in Mathematics [at UVM] shape how you create music?
TP: I have always been good at math and science, and numbers mean something more to me than most people I might imagine. Numbers to me are alive, are colors, are music. The classes and teachers I had at UVM really had a profound philosophical and spiritual effect on me, I would say a large part of my personal belief system is rooted in mathematics. My favorite classes were Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, totally mind blowing and hugely impactful on me. I like to say that mathematics is the language of the universe, and physics is poetry made from that language. But I would mention, I don’t believe that mathematics is everything. Just like yin and yang, there is light, and there is darkness. Not one without the other, nothing is known without things that are unknown.
LMNR: What other acts have you been associated with? Burlington is quite the hotspot for musical talent.
TP: My first band in college that really toured and got a little notice was a quirky acoustic duo called That Toga Band. We later electrified part of the band and added an amazing drummer, and rebranded ourselves Squid City. We released our debut record, Welcome to Squid City, in 2012, and I still listen to it and LOVE it. It was the first recording I made where I would listen back and be like “yes, this is what I want to sound like!”. Seven years later I still love the record. But, like all things, the band moved in different directions and eventually stopped performing. A few years passed and I was lucky to meet Abbie Morin, an amazing indie artist from NH. I recorded on her first album Shadowproof and ended up joining her band for about 2 years, including doing a 3 month US tour where we played over 40 shows in about 33 states. It was one of the best times of my life. She now plays with Caroline Rose and her own band Hammydown, and we still stay in touch. Recently I have been performing and co-producing the Burlington artist Ivamae alongside some of Vermont’s best talent, including Urion Hackney of the band Rough Francis. Ivamae has one of the most incredible voices I have ever heard, and I have literally fallen out of my chair listening to her. I couldn’t count on my hand the number of times I have shed a tear to her music. She’s going places. We just successfully finished a $10,000 Kickstarter for her first album and are in the middle of recording it now.
LMNR: Tell our readers about your wildest time on the road, or something special that happened.
TP: I mean, this story is legendary. It is based around one of the most famous recording studios in the world, the aptly named Fame recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There’s an amazing documentary on Netflix about Fame and the legacy of Muscle Shoals, literally thousands of gold records came from this town from the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Jerry Garcia, I mean it goes on, and on, and on. Anyways, we are on our way to NOLA for a show and I make sure that we pass thru Muscle Shoals and stop by Fame, just to take a picture in front of it or something. We get to the town and, to be frank, the town is very run down. It’s one of those old southern towns that just feels like time forgot about it. Closed strip malls, check cashing, bail bond, pawn shops. We drive around and can’t find the studio. We finally find it and it’s in a little plaza and looks like a Pizza Hut from the outside. We had heard it was closed for renovations so we got out of the car and took a picture in front of it, and were about to leave when I decided to just walk around a bit. I get to the front door and there’s a piece of paper on it that says “studio tours M – F 11am – 6pm” or something like that. I think, huh, and push on the door. It opens!
We walk inside Fame studios and all of a sudden we’re in. Gold records hang on the walls and there’s a few people behind a desk. The receptionist asks us if he can help us, we tell him we’re a band from Vermont just on our way to NOLA for a gig and we wanted to just see Fame. As I’m chatting with him, a dude with dark sunglasses in the far back turns around and says, “Vermont, huh? So you must like Phish.” I said that, yes, I used to listen to Phish a lot and actually Page was one of my regulars at the restaurant I worked at, and that Page in fact had sat me down and talked with me for like 10 minutes when he heard I was leaving the restaurant to go on tour. (That’s another amazing story!) The dude says that Phish recorded the horns for their last record at Fame and then he said this…..”Would you like to see the studios?” I almost peed. YES. YES WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE STUDIOS. So dude gives us a private, behind the scenes tour. We walk into Studio A and dude says “This is where the Allman Brothers first formed.” I mean you could FEEL the musical history in this room. The hairs on my arms are standing up just thinking about it. We walk into Studio B, where R-E-S-P-E-C-T was recorded. The Wurlitzer that Ray Charles had played on was there. I asked about it, dude confirmed that yes, that was the one, and then asked me if I wanted to play it. So I played the same freaking Wurlitzer that Ray Charles had played! I almost died. But wait, there’s MORE.
Then we go into the control room of Studio A, Fame recording studios. As I’m scrambling for things to talk to dude about, who, by the way, turns out the be the Head Engineer, my eyes run over the recording console and as I’m asking him about the console, I see four little letters I’ll never forget….N-E-V-E. Neve. The Ferrari of consoles. The Mona Lisa of Recording Equipment. Before I can even register this, all of a sudden, OUR RECORD COMES ON in the control room. Shadowproof, the album we had just finished recording, starts playing. Abbie had given him a CD when she first introduced herself and he had sneakily put it on and now it was going thru the Neve console and out thru the speakers, the same speakers that Etta James, Aretha Franklin, the Grateful Dead…..I mean AHHHHHH! And then he started asking us about the record, and he seemed to genuinely like it because he left in on for like 4 or 5 entire songs. We probably hung out for over an hour. We walked out the door, back out into this ghost of a town, feeling completely surreal. We took another picture in front of Fame, got in our 1995 Volvo Wagon and headed to NOLA for our gig that night. After we got to NOLA, Abbie told me I was driving like 90 mph the whole way. I didn’t notice.
LMNR: How would you describe “ambient jazz” to an alien who just crash-landed on Earth and was super curious about your music?
TP: I would set up a vintage Twin Reverb on a mountainside and turn everything up to 10, and play a huge open G chord for like two hours. I might play some other notes too, but not many.
LMNR: I’ve noticed that, while listening to your music, I tend to go on a journey even when I’m just sitting still. How do you do that? Alternatively, where does your music take *you*? Do you listen to it or is it merely a creative process?
TP: I have recognized that my music is a vehicle for your mood, a vehicle that takes you on an inner journey. My music is spiritual. I am spiritual. My music takes me to a meditative state, a state of quietude, a state where two hours can pass or two minutes can pass. I believe my listeners share this experience, and it is this unifying experience that I seek to bring to my audience. I seek to devolve the barriers between performer and audience, and bring everyone into a state of peaceful listening. I really want to do good in this world, and the music that I make seeks to do just that. How do I do it? There’s a million things that go into the music I make, but at the heart of it is staying true to myself. I am not good at covering other peoples music. I am good at being myself, and playing my music. I am original. Not to say I don’t have influences, absolutely, but I have always been aware of the pitfalls of mimicry. I value originality very highly, and since 2004 I have pursued original music and kept moving in my own direction. I am very, very process oriented and I have developed systems that allow me to really play and record what is in my head, heart and being. That being said, if something feels stagnant or isn’t working anymore, I get rid of it. I am very minimalistic, not only in my music, but my life. I can’t stand clutter. When my space is cluttered, my mind is cluttered. When my space is clean, my mind is clean, and I can clearly see the path that I want to walk. It’s not everyday, but I’m working at it.
LMNR: What’s up next on your musical docket?
TP: 2019 is shaping up to be a great musical year for me. I’m working on my next record as we speak, and am aiming to have a single out by May. I have some really cool shows coming up with some of my local musical heros, namely a residency at the Light Club Lamp Shop with Zack Dupont in late March / early April. I’m planning on gigging a lot this summer and fall, and am sending out festival booking emails as we speak. I plan to continue to work with Kayhl Cooper on more epic music videos and press content. Exciting!
LMNR: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
TP: I’d really like to thank all my friends, family and fans who listen to this music and give me support and the feedback I need to keep going. As much fun as jamming in my studio is, it’s nothing compared to the feeling I get when I look into the crowd and see smiling familiar faces that are just blissed out and feeling the music. The goal for me is always love, and there’s no one without two, and there’s no me without you! Sorry, that’s pretty corny. OK, bye!