Tom Savage’s personal evolution through his musical career

Homegrown Live Music Festival highlights Kingston talent

The Carleton
Tom Savage shows just what Kingston artists are made of at the 11th annual Homegrown Live Music Festival. 
On May 4, local bars, art galleries, and restaurants overflowed with patrons who came out to hear the musical stylings of Kingston’s homegrown talent.
The festival attracted musicians and music lovers alike. 
With 15 venues participating in the event and 135 performances, the event raised a total of $14,000 for the Joe Mill Instrument Lending Library. 
The library allows Kingston residents to borrow instruments at a low annual fee to learn how to play music. 
Supported by the festival, it’s a widely valued asset to the community. Events like this one help to keep the library alive and, in turn, help to produce so many of Kingston’s talented musicians. 
Tom Savage, one of these homegrown musicians, has since found success in cities across Canada but keeps Kingston as his musical base for the thriving local art scene, and for the community that music creates.   
For Savage, his instrument of choice—his well-worn 1973 Guild acoustic guitar—has been an education in human connection, proving the value of having access to these resources. 
Playing guitar has transformed him into a musician of all trades. Moving from coast to coast, and band to band, he’s settled in the spirited blues and jazz-infused rock of his latest work, but doesn’t let genre cage him. 
In 2018, he breathed new life into the rock band Tom Savage Trio, reinventing it as the music collective, Dead Root Revival. 
In keeping with his country roots, Savage also plays guitar for the Foley Mountain Playboys, who performed this year at Homegrown, all while maintaining a busy folk solo career. 
Although Savage rarely hops off the live tour circuit, whether the venue is Calgary, Fredericton, or here at home in Kingston, he emphasizes that when it comes to the arts community, you get back what you put in.  
Back in Kingston, he hosts regular Wednesday night open mics at the Rose and Crown. 
Savage notes that as a musician, “Kingston stands out in how they support their own local artists, especially for a smaller city.” 
It’s the vibrancy of Kingston’s art scene that has kept it going strong through the dramatic changes to online streaming that have faced the music industry in recent years. 
A seasoned professional, Savage is familiar with what he describes as the “double-edged sword” of modernization for artists. 
“The internet can help you promote and get work, but with streaming, it’s hard to get paid properly for your music,” Savage told The Journal
“I think young people keep the scene fresh and challenge artists here to push forward with new creative ideas. More than a few musicians attending Queen’s have adopted Kingston as their permanent home, so that also helps the scene thrive.” 
For students looking for space to have their voice heard in the world of music, Savage says the most important step is the one out of your front door. That’s why he recommends trying your luck at open mic nights. 
Although much has changed since he made his debut onstage, Savage says “the experience of playing music is remarkably similar to when I first started out. It brings me joy and my music brings joy to others. It’s a wonderful thing.” 
Still, Savage admits to coming a long way from when he started out in 1987. He jokes that it may have been the rockstar lifestyle at the time, not the music, that led him to his career. 
In 1987, Irish band U2 released their single “With or Without You.” The rock ballad catapulted the band into international stardom and was their first number-one hit in the United States and Canada. 
Images of a ponytailed Bono in a leather vest were broadcast around the world. Here in Kingston, it was that image—the rockstar with a guitar slung around his back—that inspired a young Tom Savage to kickstart his music career. 
Now in his 28th year as a professional musician, he adds that “the guitar is more useful when you actually play it.”
While Bono might have been Savage’s beginning, it was his love of music and the way it moves people that has kept him playing through the years. 
On the horizon, Savage looks forward to the fall release of his new solo studio album and aims to release another in 2020 alongside his band, Dead Root Revival, in collaboration with musicians from across Canada. 
For Savage, music has long transformed from a hobby to a calling. “It’s the language I best communicate with,” Savage said. 
“I can’t imagine another life.” 

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