Singer-songwriter Sam Pinkerton formed Someone Like Tommy earlier this year, applying her unerring pop sensibilities to an ensemble easily classifiable as Americana. Their self-titled debut EP contains five melodic, acoustic-driven songs, all written by Pinkerton. Katie Higdon contributes additional vocals, often singing in close harmony with Pinkerton. The arrangements are simple but consistently inventive with tight, tasteful musicianship.
The group, which also includes bassist Joey Norman and guitarist Dustin King, originally came together for a one-off Battle of the Bands at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. The reaction was positive, leading to a summer of heavy gigging that climaxed with a booking at the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois.
The galloping “Your Days With Me” leads off the EP with a gorgeous hook declaring “When you left, you took the sun out of the Sunshine State.” Bassist Norman drives the song with conviction, adding a touch of glockenspiel to the chorus. The concluding wordless harmonies are among the sweetest sounds on the record. Beginning as something of a ballad, “Things Could Be Better” finds Pinkerton and Higdon’s vocals shining, both together and separately. Midway through, a propulsive beat kicks in, underscoring the insistent refrain “I can’t breathe without you next to me.”
“Tommy’s Song” paints a portrait of the young man who inspired the band’s name, a fellow Southeastern student with whom they were barely acquainted.
I went directly to the source, asking the band members for more information. According to bassist Norman, “Sam came up to us one day and said, ‘I wrote a song for Tommy, because someone should – but I don’t think anyone will.’ It was kind of a running joke in the band.” Higdon adds, “We were like, Sam you’re such a creeper, you just wrote a song about a guy you don’t know.” Elaborating on the issue, Pinkerton remembers sitting in a library for two hours with the other band members, trying to figure out what to call themselves. “We decided on the band name as we were going on stage [for the first time],” she said.
Perhaps best of all is “Gut Feeling,” an expertly-crafted song with more great harmony vocals and a moody atmosphere. With its repeating hillbilly riff and memorable chorus, “Fill It Up With Me” makes for a fun closing track. The jangling, up-tempo number celebrates simple romantic pleasures, sharing inside jokes and, more quirkily, wearing matching outfits while dining. Though not a member of the band, Nelson Sithithavorn filled in admirably behind the drum kit throughout Someone Like Tommy.
When I profiled Pinkerton last year, she had yet to commercially release any material. She already had a stockpile of sterling pop gems-effortless melodies sung with passion. Talent like hers doesn’t come around very often, and now with Someone Like Tommy we have its first true flowering.
Though college will put a temporary hold on live gigs, Pinkerton remains optimistic about the band’s future. “I’m sure I’ll play by myself, because I just love playing. But I want to keep Someone Like Tommy going.” she said. “We get along like best friends – brothers and sisters. All of our parents and families are really supportive. We all have huge dreams for the band.”
Thankfully more music is already on the way. Having recently wrapped up more recording with producer Jon Santana, the band has several singles due for release over the next few months. Someone Like Tommy is available on-line at several sites, including iTunes. Keep up with the band on their Facebook page.