Producer/Singer-Songwriter TOMI Opens Up about “Open Road,” Her Addiction to Pedals, and Tone

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TOMI
:Photo: Julie Pacino
       

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and producer TOMI, aka Pam Autuori, drops her new single, “Open Road,” a song about coming out and embracing self-identity.

TOMI
TOMI

TOMI explains, “I came out at the age of twelve when I fell in love with my best friend. My mom found love notes and all hell broke loose. Coming out in a conservative suburban neighborhood was an uphill battle.”

She goes on, adding, “After I came out, I found solace in music and leaned on it for honesty and security. Through the years of fighting to protect the LGBTQ+ community, I learned a lot about resilience. ‘Open Road’ is about that process – resilience, fighting for change, and discovering strength in one’s differences.”

With features in elite media outlets, TOMI has collected more than 2.4 million streams on Spotify, along with over 44,000 monthly listeners. Her sound blends fierce guitars with rich, resonant vocals.

TOMI writes and produces for artists and musicians such as Tove Lo, Vérité, Bre Kennedy, and CARYS. TOMI will be donating a % of revenue from “Open Road” to nonprofits supporting LGBTQ+ youth.

Guitar Girl Magazine caught up with TOMI to discover more about the inspiration for “Open Road,” her gear, and her writing process.

What inspired your new single, “Open Road?”

I came out at a young age in the suburbs of Connecticut. It took many years for me to look back and see how painful that process was – bullying, sneaking around, and being excluded. I carried a lot of shame with me for many years of my childhood and early adolescence. I wrote ‘Open Road’ to talk about how strong that process made me and how resilient we are as human beings. ‘Open Road’ is a song about acceptance of self and inner strength. The road may be long, but you WILL get to where you’re going.

Walk us through your mindset as you entered the studio to record the song.

I went into the studio with producer AG. We are both queer and both came out early in life. I immediately knew that she was the person I wanted to write this story with. I felt safe with AG and opened up about my story. We were able to capture something really beautiful together.

How did you get started in music?

I started playing guitar when I was seven. My dad played guitar every night after he came home from work (mostly Bruce Springsteen songs) and I just loved how free and open he looked while he strummed his Martin acoustic. I wanted to feel like that, too. So I asked him to teach me and shortly after I got the hang of it and started writing my own songs. The rest is history…

Where are you from?

I am from the foreign land of…Connecticut

Did your hometown impact your sound?

Absolutely! I grew up in the middle of Massachusetts and New York so there was a lot of Bruce Springsteen (East Coast vibes), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, LCD Soundsystem as well as Massachusetts where Tegan and Sara were blowing up. I was soaking it all up.

Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction? 

I like to challenge myself and see what characters and stories I can pull out of myself. My voice has evolved with time, and I’ve found different pockets and tones within it to enhance different songs. I deliberately push myself to challenge my ear and to see what I can dig out. As soon as I think I’ve gone deep enough, I go deeper.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

I am playing a Bigsby Gretsch which I am in love with for its dark and full body tone. The pickup is incredibly dynamic. I play her through a few of my favorite pedals – JAM Waterfall, Ten Years, Chase Bliss Tonal Recall, and Earthquaker Devices for reverb trails. Those are my favorite pedals as of late but I am addicted to pedals, so my collection is constantly changing and overflowing.

What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?

My tone changes as my taste evolves. Tone is soul. It is something that cannot be replicated, even If you get the exact same guitar and pedals, tone comes from within. Tone is taste and taste is forever changing. I have added subtle fluctuations in my tone, I like details, so I am always doubling up on different delay and reverb trails to add wash and fill up the space in a live setting.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?

I have always written based on my own experiences. I have trouble communicating my feelings verbally, so I found that singing them allowed me to slow down and sit with myself. It is a meditative experience for me – an image comes to mind, sometimes a memory, sometimes a place I’ve never been, and I start describing that place or memory and the song unfolds into something bigger than what I could have predicted. It’s then I can sit back and look at the full picture and see what my higher power is trying to communicate through me. The Muse is important to my writing, and she seems to arrive when I’m least expecting it.

What can you share about your writing process?

I either start by journaling excessively and then pulling out lyrics from that or I start with a few chords that represent the mood I am trying to express. Sometimes I just strum one chord over and over until I start to feel it, until I start to listen. I find that listening is the hardest because it takes patience and focus, music is not something we can physically touch, you have to be open to receiving it and that takes slowing down and sitting with yourself and with silence.

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?

I love the boundaries St Vincent has pushed. She has paved the way for womxn who shred and DGAF. I love folk musician Melissa Carper; her songwriting is just on another level. I also love Adrianne Lenker (Big Theif), the chords she uses and the way her melodies float through the songs so effortlessly, I can never predict what she will say or do and that is really exciting to me.

How do you define success?

To me, success is inner peace. By feeling at ease, by being present and by letting the world excite you. That is hard to do if you are struggling with inner peace.

Looking at your experiences from the last few years, what have you learned from them?

I’ve learned that you have to love what you do in order to make music that is timeless. I spent a long time basing my worth on other people’s standards. Over the last few years, I have been able to slow down and sit with myself and understand what I like and why. I think it’s important to push boundaries within yourself, to chase yourself and not other people. I’ve learned that meditation and exercise are golden keys to slowing down and understanding yourself. I’ve also learned to not give a F*ck and that has been really helpful with just getting my music out there and feeling proud of the process.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?

A LOT! I am releasing my debut album ‘Late Bloomer’ written and produced by me. The first single comes out in early 2023 and the album is set to release in April 2023. The band and I will hit the road next year to promote the record and I’m SO excited to share this with everyone. Come hang at a show!

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