Tom Heyman Bio

Tom Heyman didn’t set out to write a pub-rock magnum opus, but if you read the tea leaves you’ll find it was pretty much inevitable.

With his latest solo album Show Business, Baby, the accomplished San Francisco singer-songwriter and venerable sideman (Chuck Prophet, John Doe, Alejandro Escovedo, Sonny Smith, Hiss Golden Messenger) turns up the reverb and lets himself get loose, shuffling out of mythical saw-dusted barrooms and squinting into the California sunlight. 

Show Business, Baby is Heyman's fourth solo album, and in his words it's "a straight-up love letter/homage to my late '70s/early '80s pub rock heroes Rockpile, Mink Deville, The Leroi Brothers and all of their many offshoots." He wrote all the songs on the album, with the exception of "Daddy Rollin' in Your Arms" (Dion) and "Baby My Heart" (written by Sonny Curtis and recorded by the Crickets and the Bobby Fuller Four).

Heyman's relationship with rock and roll is long and deep. He started playing and recording in the 1980s with the acclaimed Philadelphia-based band Go To Blazes. The band released five full-length records, all featuring Heyman’s songwriting and lead guitar work, and they toured the U.S. and Europe extensively before breaking up in 1997.

After relocating to San Francisco in 1998, Heyman began honing his chops as a solo artist and bandleader. He also frequently worked as sideman on guitar and pedal steel, joining Chuck Prophet's band as well as local favorites The Court and Spark.

Heyman released his first solo album Boarding House Rules in 2000, and his second, Deliver Me, in 2005. The latter received four-star reviews in Mojo and Uncut, and songs from the record were heard in the TV shows True BloodJustified, Damages, and the feature film, Tammy.

He recorded his third solo record, That Cool Blue Feeling, in Portland, Oregon with Mike Coykendall (M. Ward) producing and Rusty Miller (Kelley Stoltz, Jason Lyttle) and himself covering the musical bases. The intention was to create a sound that combined the loose, late-night groove of JJ Cale with the bittersweet melancholia of late period Nick Lowe and the melodic storytelling of Heyman’s hero Gordon Lightfoot. The record was written mostly at night, after long shifts tending bar. It's an examination of the loneliness and alienation of the nocturnal life, and the true cost of love.

More recently, says Heyman, “I started to get to get the itch to put together a band that was a looser, more rock and roll affair, closer in spirit to bands that I loved when I was in my early 20s – Rockpile, the Flamin’ Groovies, NRBQ, Mink DeVille, Dr. Feelgood. Bar bands that were smart, funny, rocking, and had great record collections.”

Almost by accident, he found himself writing new songs. “I felt free of the usual confessional singer-songwriter rules” he explains. “Plus I got to play a bunch of short, sharp guitar solos and make liberal use of the word 'baby' without feeling self-conscious about it.”

Produced by Heyman and Chris von Sneidern, Show Business, Baby was recorded at the legendary Hyde St Studios in San Francisco and mixed in Brooklyn, NY by Heyman’s old friend Eric Ambel (Joan Jett, Steve Earle). Thematically the songs cover love (lost, found, and begged for), working, drinking, and getting old (not necessarily in that order, and occasionally all at once). The tunes are steeped in boogie and delivered with a nod, a wink, and a great big beat.

Released via Bohemian Neglect Recording Works, Show Business, Baby encourages us all to throw the Telecaster in the back of the Caddy, drop the top and come along for the ride.

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Photo by Darren Andrews