TOMMY HOMONYM is a late-blooming artist, following the leads of Susan Boyle, Clementine Hunter and Grandma Moses. Tommy specializes in both original songs and inventive covers of pop and rock tunes, which he arranges and produces in collaboration with trusted friends who are real, as opposed to late-blooming, musicians.
Critics have compared Tommy’s sound to David Bowie, Roxy Music, Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon.
The reclusive Tommy records his music in an attic in New Jersey, and also claims to inhabit the “milder, more fashionable” end of the Asperger’s continuum. “I want to be like Temple Grandin, but with songs instead of cows,” he says.
Does this mean he wants to slaughter them mercifully? “No, it means I want to lead them into heaven so they never know what hit them,” he says.
Tommy's single "Irresistible" earned a growing international following, particularly in the United States, Israel, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Tommy dislikes traveling, and is pleased to visit these places virtually, while keeping his shoes on.
Tommy's first album, Uglier Than You, was released October 1, 2013 and is available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon (actual CDs will also be available through the Amazon on Demand service). Uglier Than You features nine original songs, along with “”What’s There to Eat?”, the opening tune, written by Austin singer-songwriter Christine Cochran.
The video for "Irresistible," created by filmmaker George Wada, was an official selection of the Dallas VideoFest for 2013 and can be viewed on YouTube and Vimeo. The video inserts Tommy into the public-domain Hollywood movie Charade, where he follows Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant through the streets, tunnels and cafes of 1963 Paris.
Tommy also plans to soon release a collection of cover songs, including pieces written by the English Beat, Lisa Germano, Devo and Joni Mitchell. Tommy enjoys combining other writers' songs into unexpected medleys from disparate sources, such as the Pet Shop Boys and the Carpenters, whose songs he mashed up in his first single, “Indefinite Leave to Remain/For All We Know.” The medley, which features Tommy backed by his possibly imaginary band, the Solitunes, is also available on iTunes.
Tommy has long nurtured dreams of making music, but only in middle age has the scope of his gift, not to mention the scope of his age, become clear. He reveals his age as “Forever 51, like the store.” When told the shop is actually called Forever 21, Tommy says, “Well, either way, we’re kidding ourselves.”
With the clock ticking, Tommy has now gathered the moxie to emerge as a self-described “idiot savant” of music. “Actually it was accomplished musicians who described me that way,” Tommy says. “Though sometimes they left out the ‘savant’ part.”
Tommy claims to be bisexual, though no woman has so far come forward to corroborate this assertion. “I’ve had great loves of both sexes and of several races,” Tommy maintains. “They all had short hair, though, now that I think about it. I do love short hair.”
In performance, as in life, Tommy prefers to keep sexual identity flexible. His empathy with both sexes and all orientations, as well as most major ethnic groups, lets Tommy explore his musical sensibility by revisiting both hallowed and sometimes lesser-known songs by his favorite artists.
Tommy describes his musical gestation as “a persistent vegetative state. There was all this stuff happening inside, but I couldn’t move.”
Tommy admits he was sometimes tempted to pull his own plug, enduring years of drudgery and malaise as a freelance copy editor, theater usher, cat sitter and dog walker, singing in secret all the while, now and then both thrilled and thrown off balance by the effusive compliments of the occasional few who happened to overhear him singing when he thought he was alone.
But he despaired of expressing his vocal talent, even though it seemed to strengthen as he aged, and then more as he aged more.
Tommy had repeatedly learned, forgotten, re-learned and re-forgotten how to read music, and as a youngster had struggled with the piano, the guitar, and, most traumatically, the Flutophone, a plastic teaching wind instrument he fumbled with in grade school, and credits with instilling his ongoing dread of touching musical instruments that are not computers.
Given that dread, the idea of becoming a musician seemed preposterous. So Tommy set the notion aside for decades. “Don’t I have enough problems?” he recalls telling himself. “Do I need a whole new world of ‘No’?”
In the digital age, however, Tommy realized that an idiot savant, and even, indeed, an idiot, had access to the tools needed to realize a musical vision based on his natural ability, using technology to share it with people who actually know what they’re doing, without annoying them more than was necessary.
But even though he’s found the courage to share his impressive gift and emerge from his cocoon, Tommy says he’s still “slightly vegetative.” He has had a lifelong struggle with depression, chronic clumsiness and his checkbook ledger. “My voice box is the only part of my body that I really like,” he says. “And my hair. It’s gray and getting grayer by the minute, but it’s nice and thick and it’s all over my head. Though a man my age keeping his hair is a sign of low testosterone, I think.”
Tommy keeps his private life for the most part hidden. “It’s small and easy to hide,” he says. He does acknowledge such non-musical interests as mammals of all sizes, yesterday’s newspaper, laundry, and cooking when done by others.
Tommy also enjoys staring at transit maps, motionless reptiles and the spin cycle, and so has long suspected he may be “at least partly autistic, maybe Scandinavian-autistic.” Still, he has never had any clinical test that might confirm the presence of the disorder. “Either way it came out, it would kill a dream,” says Tommy. “I mean, if I’m autistic, that’s a drag, but it explains a lot. But if I’m not, that means I have to come up with my own explanation.”
And what of his name? “Well, Tommy Pseudonym was a little obvious.” But he also liked the idea of homonyms, of words that sound the same and look the same but have two different meanings. “Plus, I like all the o’s, m’s and y’s, and the big ‘HOMO’ in the middle,” he says.
Although Tommy doesn’t do many funny songs, he leavens his performances with humorous patter with his colleagues and audience, providing a varied, indeed bipolar, experience that smoothly blends out-loud laughter and crushing melancholy.
But Tommy takes his music seriously. “Songs are like emotional stem cells,” he says. “They can go anywhere, become anything, create and be created by anybody. When I’m singing, or listening to someone sing or play, I go to that place where life woke up and found itself.”
Tommy is rumored to be the alter ego of the writer Tom Sime, who denies the association but openly accepts royalties on Tommy’s behalf.
Tommy Homonym’s tracks