Sydney musician Tomi Gray (of popular Newtown-based band The Ruckus) is almost half way through a massive creative challenge – to write 100 demo songs over 100 days!
Every 24 hours Tomi uploads a new track to his Facebook page accompanied by visuals.
Tomatrax caught up with Tomi to talk about his latest project.
You’re half way through your challenge to write 100 demos in 100 days, how has that been going?
It’s a roller coaster. I have always had a tendency of jumping into grandiose undertakings without perhaps the full amount of preparation they deserve. This can be both a blessing and a curse as it sees me thrusting myself fairly consistently outside my comfort zone and into new realms of possibilities and experience but can also be hugely disruptive to everything else in my orbit. A better approach may have been to prepare a bunch of songs leading up to this project like mini quiches on a cooking show that I could drip feed out over the 100 day period, still giving me the freedom to do things like groceries or sleep.
What made you decide to take on this challenge?
I think I was really bored. I was bored with this city. Bored with doing the same things and seeing the same results. I found that I was making excuses for myself not being in the position I feel I should be. Not as a musician or in the pursuit of any sort of accolades or credibility, but in the way that I found I was stuck in a cycle leading nowhere in every aspect of my life. In order to exist outside of a system of operation I do not agree with, I have to become willing to fully commit to an alternative. Those alternatives often offer little to no ‘security’, which may or may not be a real thing. This project for me is simply a step in an opposing direction from where I don’t wish to be. I hope that makes sense.
Have there been any times where you wrote more than one song in a day so that you could take a day off?
As I write this I am actually a few days behind the mark. Its amazing to see how life reacts to your actions. Since going tunnel vision on this project at the start of the year I’ve been receiving amazing opportunities seemingly from nowhere. Ironic how bringing my focus to entirely one thing has put me in a position to receive these outside experiences. Maybe it’s the universe’s funny way of testing me to see if I’ll cave on my intention, or maybe its just that the act of operating within my integrity as a daily practice that is reaping positive results. Whatever it is, at this point I have not been fortunate enough to find myself with a day off as I am 100% committed to fulfilling my intention to create 100 demos within this 100 day period.
Do you have any ideas on the types of songs you want to cover over the second half of the challenge?
I have no clue. I approach each song, each day from a complete zero mark. I have a constant stream of thoughts and concepts playing out in my head and my life so they are there to inspire me but as far as planning out the songs I don’t feel that is a necessary part of this particular project. I would like to spend more time expanding on some of the ideas I’m having with songs but feel that would be best left for when I am living in the desert in a van with my gear and no watch.
Have you taken on any different approach when writing a song every day than then you have written music in the past?
The biggest challenge for me is attempting to not over-critique absolutely every facet of everything I do. That is always where I tend to trip myself up. I start scrutinising things from the perspective of “will this translate to people as they listen? Will they understand what I am trying to say, will I be understood?” Realising that that was such a huge factor in the process of me creating was a really important thing for me to look at and let go. I’m trying to return to my original intention with music. That is, the thing that drew me to it as a child. If that means that I’m creating things that nobody else in the world appreciates but I am proud of, then so be it.
You are also part of the band The Ruckus, how does being in a band compare to performing solo?
It is a hugely fortunate person that gets the opportunity to find a group of people to create music with on a regular basis. I think it is taken for granted by a lot of ‘musicians’ how rare it is to find another human being who you click with on that ‘no words needed’ musical level. It is an unfortunate sign of the times that the driving force behind most bands forming is rarely the love of music. I consider myself a hugely lucky man to have music in my life and am grateful for the opportunity to share that with my friends or enjoy it alone.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
There is no template. In the past I have looked at writing a song as the militant act of sitting with a guitar and bashing out chords and melodies until something sticks, which can be very constrictive and lead to a feeling of uninspired stagnancy. These days I try to look at anything with the potential of squeezing music out of it. I have several go-to starting points to fall back on as the reality of life is that some days you just don’t feel it. Those are the days where I’ve found I create the best songs, I just have to change the way or place I’m digging.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yes. I listen to it once the day following its release to the world wide web and then I tend to revisit it again after several months as it helps me realise reoccurring themes in my subconscious that may have held no weight on first listen or may just be utter rubbish and inspire me to step it up.
What other music do you listen to?
Everything. I used to hate people who said that. Now I don’t really trust people who don’t.
What do you have planned once this challenge is finished?
I’m going to start aligning myself with people who are on the same page as me creatively with this project. I’ve never really considered the music industry as something that was realistically possible to attain success in, but I believe that’s because I had the wrong vision of what success meant. I will do an album of music that needs to be listened to from start to finish for it to have the most impact. I’ll write so many songs that I need to share them around amongst other artists and have them interpret and perform them in their own style, that will be a blast. I’m going to find a group of musicians who will play my songs with me onstage and pour their own magic and passion into them, then we’ll take that show and hand deliver it night after night to people who resonate with it all around the world. I’ll support myself and my friends by following my passion. I’ll read more. I’ll make some new friends and I’ll go on dates. Then I’ll die and have a very cheap funeral.
Check out Tomi Gray’s Facebook page to find out more!