On his YouTube channel, Tom Peregrine has a video of himself performing a cover of The Tallest Man on Earth’s “To Just Grow Away”. You can see the similarities between the two artists just from a cursory listen; both are indie folk singers from Europe (The Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson from Sweden, Tom Peregrine from Germany) who affect their voices to
imitate their influences. But while Matsson’s Dylan-esque rasp retained some Scandinavian pronunciation, Peregrine has assimilated more thoroughly. There’s very little that’s noticeably Teutonic about his voice, an earnest croak that would sound right at home at any given Brooklyn coffee shop.
“Hear Your Heart”, one of his more recent songs, would fit right in as well. It’s a sparse folk ballad, occasional guitar strums serving as a guide for Peregrine’s voice, as well as the reverb-laden backing vocals. There are points when the understated starts to feel undercooked, and I can’t help but wonder how it would sound with some more focused lyrics or a more varied
sonic palette, but there’s a pleasant vibe to the whole thing that makes it easy to forgive. The video opens with a shot out a window on a lovely day, birds chirping and a gentle breeze blowing; “Hear Your Heart” sounds good in that sort of environment, amiably drifting through an open window like motes of dust.
You’re from Germany, but it seems as though you’re influenced more by American folk music than anything else. When did you first start listening to folk music, and what was it about the genre that interested and inspired you?
I think I started listening to folk music at the age of 16 which was when I started writing as well. To me, folk is the purest and plainest form to express feelings and thoughts. I remember reading up about the beginning of American folk music and its intention to criticise the current social and more global problems and I thought that was noble and well needed. Nowadays I value the acoustic quality and musicianship in contrast to a lot of emerging genres.
“Hear Your Heart” is a sparse song, with a lot of open space that your voice fills. Was this an artistic choice, or a happy accident?
It certainly was an artistic choice. That being said, I did create countless versions that have more dynamic and noticeable background instruments. In most cases it only took away from the song itself and therefore my voice got to keep its space. My producer Lucas Laufen is quite good at talking me out of regrettable decisions, so I am glad this is the way it turned out.
The Tallest Man on Earth, who you’ve covered on your YouTube channel, is also a European interpreting American folk music. How would you compare your respective approaches to the genre? Do you have a favorite song or album by him?
I am a big fan of his and admire his music and song-writing in many aspects. Above all, I think he’s a very skilled musician who can translate emotion into words and notes like barely any other artist. The more songs by him I play, the more I realise how much fidelity every little instance of his songs has been graced with. It’s truly something I look up to.
Having moved to different places myself, I can see how his influences changed with his moving to NYC. His heavily effected electric guitar playing speaks to me just as much as his simple acoustic arrangements and I find myself implementing both in different amounts recently. I like to think we are similar in many ways yet still so different.
I am fond of his oldest and newest renditions, my favourite song at the moment is “The Drying of the Lawns”.
You’ve said on your Sofa Concerts profile that “Nature and Man” are recurring topics in your music. Does that figure into “Hear Your Heart”?
Well, they always occur in a way.
It’s a very personal song about the beginning of a romantic relationship and the way emotions change during such. In that way, although it was my experience, I’m sure other people can relate to those feelings.
And while nature is not lyrically manifested in this song I am always inspired by nature when writing. I draw a lot of inspiration from quiet walks or just watching the rain. Most melodies come to me like that.
Have you listened to anything interesting lately?
I have indeed! Finding your sound is not as easy as one might think and I had loads of dedicated listening sessions to find nuances I might want for my upcoming EP. Besides that I rediscovered Bruno Majors “A Song For Every Moon” and recent singles by Johnny Flynn and Phoebe Bridgers.
What would you like the future to hold for you?
I can only hope to get similar feedback for the following singles and the EP later this year. Also, I am devoting a whole year to touring and working on new content which I hope will broaden my musical horizon. But my main wish is to contribute to people finding their way back to discovering real handmade music and appreciating it in their very own way.