Bill Toms, Tom Breiding On The Road Promoting Their Music
By Julie Toye
For The Herald Standard
Bill Toms easily earned the reputation in 2006 as being Pittsburgh's hardest
working and most traveled musician, in addition, certainly, to already being
known as one of its most accomplished and artful song writers and performers.
In late 2005 after releasing his fifth CD, "The West End Kid," Toms took his
guitar that the airlines lost twice in baggage and his music on the road to other
states and Europe to meet new audiences. Sometimes, he traveled alone for solo
acoustic shows, with one or two other musicians or with his full, mighty electric
band, Hard Rain. No matter where he played, Toms, the former 20-year lead
guitarist for Joe Grushecky, met receptive audiences who wanted only to know
when he was returning.
Indeed, Tomsâ€™ schedule is a hectic one. He can be in New York City's
Greenwich Village one night, the next in Pittsburgh, on to Europe for a few weeks
and then off to new audiences in Tulsa, OK or Nashville, TN. The level headed,
down to earth Toms likes it that way. A couple times, he also took a bus of
dedicated area fans on the road with him and Hard Rain to New York City for
their shows there.
"I feel I am doing what I was meant to do - travel around and communicate with
an audience. I tend to think of it as Vaudeville. You play one town then move to
the next. This is where I feel the most comfortable," he said when asked about life
on the road.
Toms' run down of his itinerary for 2007 appears to be even busier for him than
last year was. Life on the road in 2006 led to writing more songs for a new CD. He
has just about finished recording three of that new CD's songs.
"Tom Breiding is producing most of it at his Amerison Studio. I will also do some
recording at Studio L as well," Toms said. His last CD was produced at Rick
Witkowski's Studio L in West Virginia.
Toms refers to the new as of yet untitled CD as being a "very organic record,"
featuring a lot of acoustic instruments, in contrast to the electric rock band sound
of "The West End Kid".
"I think it will be a more powerful CD in its lyrical content," Toms said
comparing the new unreleased CD to his last project, "The West End Kid."
Impressive lyrical content has always been one of Toms' natural artistic strengths.
He is known for being a positive person who wrote in his website journal that he
prays daily for things such as world peace, the end of hunger and cures for
diseases. He is known to state the importance of teaching children not to have
prejudices. His hope as an artist may involve making a name in the music industry
for himself, but he acknowledges that he prays daily to be a better husband, father
For Toms the year 2007 will also mark the long-awaited reissue of another CD, the
highly critically acclaimed and sold out 1997 release, "My Own Eyes." It includes
his and Hard Rain's acoustic and electric songs that are some of his fansâ€™
favorites and often requested at live shows. Connellsville native and former
Zippers and Hard Rain guitarist, Vinny Q, appeared on it.
"I will be reissuing 'My Own Eyes' in about a month," Toms said of the CD that
includes tunes such as the title track, "Mona Lisa Smile," "Don't Ever Say I Let
You Down," and "Made In America," a song that some music fans believe
features some of the most hauntingly pretty guitar work ever recorded locally. A
DVD is also being produced that Toms said should be available for release in the
In upcoming weeks Toms will be appearing in New York, Missouri, New Jersey
and Nebraska, as well as his weekly gigs around Pittsburgh. He and Hard Rain
and Eighth Street Rox saxophone player, Phil Brontz, are scheduled to return to
play additional dates in Italy and Spain.
"Phil and I will be heading back to Europe in May. We will play about 5 dates in
Italy and a show or two in Spain. I will be hitting the road throughout 2007,
promoting "The West End Kid' and the DVD. I look for an even busier year this
year," Toms said.
On Sunday, January 14, Toms and Hard Rain guitarist Tom Breiding will perform
at the Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill from 1-3 PM. The two songwriter
musicians met about 8 years ago. Toms said that the two share the "same vision
and appreciation of songs."
Breiding joined Toms' band, Hard Rain, and often plays weekly or biweekly duo
acoustic shows together around town with Toms. Prior to joining Hard Rain,
Breiding was named the top acoustic performer in Pittsburgh in 2000. He has
released eight solo CDs.
After teaching school for 18 years, Breiding now devotes full time to his music.
When he is not performing in the greater Pittsburgh area or touring with Toms,
Breiding spends time in country music capital, Nashville, TN, co-writing songs and
trying to establish himself in that genre.
In addition to producing Tomsâ€™ new CD in progress, Breiding has been in his
Amerison Studio finishing up work on his ninth solo project. Previous projects
include the fan favorite CDs â€œTwo Tone Chevrolet,â€� â€œTime To Roll,â€�
and â€œGuitar and Pen.â€�
â€œAll Iâ€™ve been listening to for the past 6 months has been bluegrass music,â
€� Breiding said of the influence that prompted him to recruit bluegrass
musicians to record with him. He plays all guitars and banjo on the CD that he
hopes to release in another 3 or 4 months.
Breiding says that the songs on his upcoming CD are â€œsignificant to the times
and events of the coal fields of West Virginia.â€�
â€œI love so many different kinds of music. There are so many directions that Iâ
€™d love to go in in music,â€� Breiding said.
â€œI would love to do a traditional country record. Whether I do or not is
another story,â€� he said before laughing about how all the different types of
music he plays â€œkeeps things interesting.â€�
Though Breiding no longer teaches school, he occasionally is found on stage at
school assemblies to present a musical educational program to students that
focuses on coal mining towns and eras. Some of the songs on his upcoming CD
are included in this school assembly program that he said is received â€œvery
positivelyâ€� by the students who learn about their local history in an interesting
and fun way set to music.
Through radio interviews at being a guest on W W V Aâ€™s â€œJamboree in
Studioâ€� and National Public Radioâ€™s â€œCar Talk,â€� Breidingâ€™s
music has sometimes reached exposure in 17 states in one broadcast.
â€œWhen you reach people youâ€™ve never played to before, itâ€™s a wonderful
thing,â€� he said. He added that traveling solo, duo with Toms, with his own
band or with Hard Rain gives â€œhope for me to continue doing what I do as a
For 2007, both Toms and Breiding hope only to reach even more people to
promote their music through live shows and recordings. No doubt, they will
continue to reach more new audiences and continue to write some of the areaâ
€™s best music that keeps older fans coming back for more. No doubt, theyâ
€™re probably already planning where they will travel in 2008 to meet even more
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