Apr 18, 2023
Mellow & Smooth
We all love listening to live music, whether it be at a huge venue with a local band or at a restaurant while enjoying a few drinks and food, and this is where this next local musician fits in.
A self-taught musician based out of Walker, La., Tommy Thibodaux has been playing guitar longer than I have been alive. He is a man who enjoys playing for those who appreciate it, and his takes on classic songs by George Benson, The Temptations, and Neil Diamond are refreshing. He adds his own unique twist when performing these tunes and others.
With over 800+ songs in his knowledge base for performance, Tommy’s outgoing personality and wardrobe, paired with his even brighter guitars, make him stand out from the others. Thibodaux plays music five nights a week—sometimes even more, and he can sing for over three hours without his voice ever cracking. Mellow, cool, and calm is the best way to describe him. With his laid-back vibe, his music puts you in a calm space, and one could even say he might just be Jimmy Buffet’s long-lost twin.
At the end of the day, though, Tommy is just a genuinely nice guy who loves what he does and who loves music. After you read this interview, be sure to check out his Facebook page for any upcoming dates of performances.
MaM: Thank you for taking time to speak with me today. I appreciate it. I’ve been checking out your videos on Facebook to get a better feel for your music and want to tell your story. Give us a brief background on your music career. What got you into playing music?
TT: I started out in school playing drums and then I was exposed to guitar through a friend who had an electric guitar. When I saw him play it (laughs), from then on, I was hooked and I had to have one.
MaM: Do you remember the type of guitar your friend had?
TT: No, sure don’t. It was some type of cheap Japanese guitar.
MaM: Who or what do you cite as your influences musically?
TT: Eric Clapton, of course. Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Lukather, and Neal Schon.
MaM: Great picks! I saw on your videos this bright orange guitar that you play. Is that a Strat?
TT: No, that is actually a Charvel.
MaM: Really? Wow. From the angles you had posted in the videos, it looks like a Strat. It’s a pretty guitar.
TT: Well, the funny thing about it is that it is made by Fender, but Charvel acquired Fender many years ago. Fender has many guitars that look like others.
MaM: When you’re playing your sets, it’s just you, correct? Have you ever thought about putting together a band?
TT: No, I do this for a living, and so I don’t want to form a band. If I had a band, I wouldn’t make as much money, so I like to just keep it solo since it’s a full-time gig for me.
MaM: What influenced your decision to perform full time? Were you just like, “This is what I love to do and so I’m going to just go for it?”
TT: Pretty much. You find out what you’re good at and you stick with it. Plain and simple.
MaM: Do you try to emulate a specific sound with your guitar tone when playing?
TT: Sort of. I’ve got a pedal board or guitar modeling processor that has a lot of amps and effects to it. I like to stick with the basics, though, with Fender amps and Marshall and Mesa Boogie. I like the Fender Amps for old school rock or blues … for my clean sound. I use the Mesa Boogie on songs by Carlos Santana or something that needs that heavy high-gain distortion, and then the Marshall is just for playing any kind of rock songs that require that chunky, British sound.
MaM: As far as gigs, do you have a certain area you like to stick to or do you like branching out to as many areas as possible?
TT: I like to stick to about a 90-minute drive. I live in Walker, so that can put me in Bay St. Louis, Miss., or Lafayette or Thibodeaux, La. I even play in McComb, Miss. I do play places in between, but I don’t want to go past 90 minutes.
MaM: I can understand that. The older I get, the less I want to drive.
TT: I used to sell cars and I just got tired of that environment. Happy to be making music and doing what I love.
MaM: So, do you only play covers when performing or do you have some originals you perform?
TT: … [For] the songs I perform, I like to put my own little spin on them. I use virtual instruments on the computer for my tracks, and it takes me about 20 minutes or so for one song, but you really [have to] know what you’re doing with the software to be able to get it right and finish it up in a short span of time.
MaM: What else would you like our readers to know about you?
TT: I’ve been playing music for over 40 years. Before I started performing solo, I used to have an act with my daughter. Same kind of act but just with her singing. That was fun, but when I decided to go solo, the first thing in my mind was, ‘Can I sing a three- or four-hour gig by myself?’ It was almost like I needed someone with me as a crutch. When I finally embarked on the solo stuff, I realized I can sing for that long, and I can sing for possibly six or eight hours if I really want to. With that kind of confidence, people have asked whether I warm up when I sing or drink anything special. I tell them, ‘No, I drink ice water, soda, or an iced tea.’ The only thing that affects my voice is coffee. It messes with the muscles in my vocal cords because of the heat.
MaM: See, hot coffee puts me to sleep. Cold coffee keeps me awake, though. So strange.
TT: Right, but it’s been a long journey. When you look at it from different angles, it’s not really acoustic. I don’t know what to call it, really. It’s just an electric solo gig. I’ve had people ask me to swap my electric for an acoustic, which I don’t want to do. When I was coming up in the 80s, there weren’t really that many of us doing solo electric gigs. I did a solo gig with my first wife, which we had just come out of a band that had broken up, and then we just decided to perform as a duo. Now, it seems like more people are doing what I do, but it’s a lot of fun.
MaM: What are your favorite songs to perform live?
TT: I like playing sing-along songs like ‘Country Roads’ or ‘Sweet Caroline’ or even ‘My Girl’ … songs [people] know the words to. I play over 800 songs, though, so it’s difficult for me to pick a favorite. When I start my set, I like to open it up with ‘Reason’ by George Benson, which is a jazzy instrumental. It lets me get a good feel for the room. I like to make sure I’m not too loud or too soft—just balanced. After that, I start going into my set.
MaM: What are the three things about playing music you feel are important when reeling in the crowd?
TT: Well, people must like the way you sing, the guitar playing, and the song choices. If you have that nailed down, then you pretty much have it. Those things matter whether the audience is going to applaud, dance, or tip you after. The thing about it is that when I’m on stage, I get a chance to capture the audience. I don’t want to be the guy in the background that no one is paying attention to. If that becomes the case, then I just need to hang it up.
To check out Tommy’s music or to book him for a gig, be sure to check out his Facebook page below.
Nicole Brice’s mission in life is to spotlight all local musicians. Want to be featured? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.