By his own admission, Thomas Dunning is not a trained musician,
but he plays one on the stage. And in the studio. And as a producer. And
so on. He is the perfect example of becoming what you need to become through an
unstoppable desire to share your passions with others.
Like many, Tom claims a flirtation with choral singing during
his "skool daze." In high school he appeared in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and
Who didn't? Regarding music at the university level, he had this to say:
"The only thing about my college career that's
interesting is that I went to three different schools. At one I was introduced to
revolutionary feminist theory, then I got arrested (I was one of the DeKalb 79), then I
got kicked out. I sang at the other two."
That auspicious beginning nothwithstanding, Tom
the Performer is now possessed of a gift that most pros beat themselves up trying to
achieve: an ability to be "in the moment" during a piece, which is why he and
Kate Bush are so compatible. His antics, his storytelling, his life on stage appear
rehearsed, planned, orchestrated. Then he'll dismount and say "Oh, I had no
idea what I was doing." It's a sweet edginess -- wherever he's headed, the
audience begs him to please, take us with you. He connects.
His high school counselors would call Dunning, Tom a
"people person." Attending the Gay/Lesbian Pride Parade with him was a little
counter- productive, since most of the float participants would empty onto the streets and
into Tom's arms at the sight of him. Wherever he is, he's the goodwill ambassador
for that particular 500 square feet - the Sovereign Mobile State of Tom. However,
while politicians press the flesh and record execs schmooze the room, Tom just says hi to
So here's our Tommy, a friendly, Irish Catholic choirboy.
Now meet TOM, the subtle, self-assured street urchin/entrepreneur --Dodger and Fagin in
one. His e-mail handle is "stunning." His business cards report
"Brown Star Records...Don't Ask." And his "band" - which is to
say Tom plus the vast array of musicians he works with at any given time, equals "Tom
Dunning and Your Boyfriends." This sly little tip asserts that our Tom-Tom has
appropriated your men for his own agenda. Then to finish his fantasy: while hosting
an evening of gender-bender music, he became one of "Your Girlfriends."
Tom is fourth generation Irish by way of the O'Neils of County
Tyrone and the Owens of County Mayo. He seems very connected to his heritage,
peppering his speech with words like "dinna," as in "Your band sounded
great! I dinna have to pay to get in." Fittingly, the first song he ever
performed live as a solo artist was "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Sinead
O'Connor, presented on Barbra Streisand's birthday (April 24th) in 1996. Add Madonna to
round out the diva trio, and you get a little closer to "stunning."
But most of all, he wanna be Kate. On his must-sing list,
"......"'Houdini' because I can scream the big
parts really well, or 'Under The Ivy' - but I only want to sing the harmony on that and
it's about 5 seconds long."
Meanwhile, back at the studio, Tom decides to
bring it all home by positioning his contribution, "Not This Time," as the last
track of the pack. The lyrics implore "...what chance do I have
here? Put an end...to every dream..." No pressure -- this
simply MUST be Tom's finest hour. He remembers this:
"...I was becoming very stressed out because I couldn't
get the endings to FEEL right. I was in the recording room with the headphones,
while Liam Davis, John Ridenour, Dave Trumfio and Kenny Sluiter (the engineer) were in the
the engineering room. After I finished a bunch of takes, I heard Liam through the
headphones tell the others that he was going to go talk to me. I was terribly
nervous singing this really emotional song in front of these men.
He came in the room and got me focused, reminding me of the
whole project, and of why I chose to do this Kate song over all the others. I did
some breathing, checked my picture of Kate I brought with me for inspiration, and thought
about how absolutely elated I was to be free of the painful psychic burden of a particular
boy (or so I hope, they're always in there though, aren't they?). I was pretty much
just crying by the end of the song and that was the take we used."
That is "stunning."
- Jacqueline Krupka
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