Dookie musician flirts with fame thanks to Tones and I

By Jessica Ball

As a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, Tom Harrington was forced to isolate in his bedroom away from his housemates.

A few days in, the budding musician picked up the phone to a familiar voice.

Tones and I was on the other end of the line.

The lack of social interaction hadn't caused him to hallucinate.

Tom had entered his newly-released song Before You Go into the Australian singer-songwriter's competition, That One Song.

Within a day of pressing the submit button, he got the call to say he was a finalist.

“Tones and I had put up a video explaining the rules and what the competition was and I was halfway through watching that when my phone rang and it was the same voice,” Tom said.

“It was actually her.

“It was pretty surreal.

“It certainly lifted my spirits in lockdown.”

From stories of his dad's cover band days to his sister reaching the heights of runner-up in GV Voice, the Notre Dame College graduate grew up surrounded by music in Dookie.

“I got started playing drums in Year 7 and then just realised that I couldn't lug that around anymore so I decided to start learning guitar,” he said.

“I slowly taught myself that from about 14 and then got a couple of lessons.”

It wasn't until he moved to Bendigo for university that Tom started gigging, playing covers at pubs and weddings.

Now a qualified primary school teacher, he decided to put a career in education on hold to pursue music.

“This time last year I had every intention of trying to get a full time teaching job,” he said.

“Then I thought, you know what, I could get paid to travel and play music, why am I not pursuing this.”

Tom Harrington released his first original song in August and it did not take long for Tones and I to show her support for the Dookie indie and folk musician. Photo: Najem Aldorki

Inspired by the likes of Vance Joy, the indie folk artist only just started writing his own songs.

“I got asked to play at a Secret Garden Gig at the start of the year which unfortunately got rained out,” he said.

“That would have been the highlight of my short musical career so I was absolutely shattered when that was called off.

“In preparation for that I really started writing some originals and that's when I wrote this song, Before You Go.

“It just forced me to just sit down and write it and take the time to do it.

“I started off writing very vague songs. I wanted them to be relatable for a lot of people, then I sort of realised I wasn't really connecting with those songs and that it had to be personal.

“In a funny twist, once it was personal people started to relate with them more. It really transformed in a way I wasn't expecting.”

The first song he released was the song that changed it all.

“It was the only original song I was brave enough to play for probably four months,” he said.

“Prior to releasing this song, I didn't really see myself as an original artist.

“Someone as high profile as Tones and I giving it the recognition that she did, it gave me that confidence that I can follow this path and be successful as an original artist.

“I've now played two original songs live and I plan to open up the catalogue.”

Tom Harrington created the cover art for Before You Go, in Microsoft Word.

And it's not the first time someone has seen promise in Before You Go, with Tom winning the studio time to record it from a band paying it forward.

“Considering I wasn't really earning an income, to win that and to be able to record, when I was expecting to be able to record at all this year, it's allowed me to put my first song out there and get recognised already, so it's been a very, very fortunate road,” he said.

While the global pandemic has significantly impacted the music industry, Tom is taking joy in the positives.

“It's just been a roller coaster this year and to be able to actually release music, and then get promoted whilst being stuck at home, it's amazing,” he said.

“At the moment I'm pretty inspired to write and follow original music as much as I can.

“You have to realise the situation you're in and try and make the best out of it.”

Talking to Tom on his first day of freedom from isolation, he was planning a celebratory trip to the supermarket.

Stream Before You Go by Tom Harrington on Spotify.

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