It’s quarter to ten and the underground at The Drake Hotel is buzzing as Toronto native Tim Moxam takes the stage. He strums just one chord and the room quiets, the hum of chatter giving way to a smooth melt of acoustic guitar and Moxam’s sweet yet penetrating voice.
Although it’s his first solo performance since returning from a two-month cross-Canada tour with Great Bloomers, the 26-year-old inhabits the stage with an ease and confidence that suggests he’s right at home. And after seeing how the audience—who surge forward upon his request to come closer and laugh lightheartedly when he slips up a lyric or two—react to his performance, one thing becomes clear: Moxam is magnetic.
His relationship with music has been a life-long affair; one that’s included four years studying jazz at Concordia University, cross-country tours with Great Bloomers and now, a serious attempt at carving out a solo career. With plans to release his first solo EP by the end of the summer, Moxam sat down with me to talk about his beginnings, being on the road, and what makes the music meaningful.
Kimberly Rupnarain: What first influenced your love of music?
Tim Moxam: I think it was “Hound Dog” by Elvis. When I was 6-years-old, my dad bought me my first little beginner’s classical guitar. He gave my brother, my friend, and I lessons once a week and “Hound Dog” was the first song we learned. I loved that song.
KR: What would you describe your sound as?
TM: That’s a tough question. I grew up listening to artists like Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and The Rolling Stones and they all have shaped my sound in some way, but I think as a writer I’ve really strived to veer from any influences. It’s so easy to find yourself in a genre, sounding like this or that band, and I think that’s to the detriment of artists. What’s really challenging is to find yourself somewhere in-between, with something that becomes unique and truly your own.
KR: What inspires your song writing?
TM: The road. Even though it’s the least likely environment for creativity, just sitting in a van all day, I usually write while on tour with the Bloomers. On the road, you become so much more focused because your immediate world becomes so small; it’s just you, the band, and your thoughts. Your life back home is put on hold and so you sit there thinking a lot, which translates pretty readily into lyrics.
KR: And the lyrics are clearly very important.
TM: Lyrics for me are the most important. The music is obviously a huge factor, but when it comes down to it, if the song doesn’t make the cut it’s because of the lyrics. It’s really tough to write lyrics that an audience can identify with because writing is just so deeply personal; it’s a sort of therapy. I think that what truly defines a good artist is lyrical sensibility.
KR: You mentioned being on the road is a hard environment to be productive in. Why is that?
TM: You’re sitting in a van with no fresh air, you don’t roll the windows down because it’s too loud, and you just get stuck. It becomes hard to do anything: to read, to watch a movie, to write, to play guitar, and if you let it, it can become overwhelming and stifling. Often I’d sit there with a pen and an open notepad in my lap and, after nine hours, I’d have nothing written. With any luck, the next day it would all pour out, and maybe the day after that, I’d be stifled again. It’s a very hard environment to write in, but you can make it work. And the experiences along the way help.
KR: Any moment in your music career that sticks out as memorable?
TM: I was fortunate enough to play a set for Late Night in the Bedroom, this great live audience talk show which highlights local artists and musicians.
I remember watching the audience watch me and thinking they didn’t like it because everyone was kind of just staring. I was like, ‘Oh God, please, please like this.’ I had just gotten back from tour and I had a couple of new songs that I banged out and screwed up a whole lot, but in the end, the response was overwhelming. People were coming up to me and saying things like, “That’s exactly what I wanted to say to my ex-girlfriend!” Whenever I feel a little shaky on stage, I think of that night. It’s encouraging.
KR: What’s been the reception you’ve gotten so far?
TM: Overall, extremely positive. When I can interact with an audience on an intimate level; when that line between performer and audience disappears, the response is always positive. I just need to focus my efforts and energies on honing my sound, so when people listen they hear a signature, something they can identify as me, and I’m learning more about that every day. Reception overall has been good, now I just need to make something of it.
KR: Toronto is your hometown—what about the city influences you?
TM: I would be lying if I said Toronto doesn’t influence me, but what strongly motivates my writing is what’s outside the city, those new and overwhelming experiences that have a way of fishing out sentiments you’ve always wanted to put down in verse but didn’t know how. You travel in Europe for two months and you’re blown away, and then you come home and write a song that has nothing to do with traveling, but it was that unfamiliar experience that draws it out of you. Toronto, though, it will always be my home.