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I Am the River #33 (online-audio-convertArtist Name
00:00 / 04:03




"He stares at the void. Get someone else to do the sales pitch, Tom. Find that unique selling point and take it to the next level of cool. Tell them about hitchhiking route 66, about the Scottish Mountains, about finding a basking shark in the net or making films with a clockwork 8mm camera.

Tell them about the famous people you’ve worked with and the hidden hits you haven’t had. Don’t tell them about the unravelling of the music industry how anything goes and the old ways have gone. Start off by selling your new Series. Gap in the Fence. It’s your 4th Solo Album. It’s produced by Neill MacColl. In the middle of the production, he played live at the Baftas with Ben Nichols on Bass as Jessie Buckley sang ‘Glasgow’ where you were born and raised, and where a gap in the fence was the way into adventures and the big stuff.

You have raised a family, two wonderful daughters. You have worked in theatre and community arts. You have formed and played with many bands. You write for and front davesnewbike who have released two albums of your songs.

Tell them about those small connections that keep you going. Strangers who come up to you after a gig and let you know that something moved within them. The song that resonated. 

Don’t tell them about the size your fan base (it’s not very big). Don’t tell them about your monthly listeners on the ‘popular digital platforms’. Ask them to listen to your songs if they have the time. Don’t exaggerate your sold-out world tours, but mention the intimate gigs in Canada, in Europe and within the UK. 

Tell them that you’re an old dude with something compelling to say and sing about. No, don’t mention the ‘old’. This is no place for old men.

Mention the website and then invite them warmly to take a listen, and to get in touch at"


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I Am the River #33 Tom HoustonTom Houston
00:00 / 04:03

"I’ve always loved the water. I spent my holidays by the sea on the West Coast of Scotland, and also fishing the river Earn in Perthshire with my Grandfather Tom Adam. Tom taught me about the flow of the river, the eddies, the rocks, the deep pools and the lifespan of the fish. I was especially fascinated by the Sea Trout and Salmon who lived in both fresh and saltwater.

On the West Coast ‘clock time’ would be overtaken by ’tidetime’. When to launch the boat, when to stand on my favourite rock gazing out over the Minch to Skye and the Hebrides. Looking out for otters, seals, basking sharks and diving Gannets.

Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I was experimenting with a chord sequence that ‘had me hooked’ but the words and idea of a song wouldn’t form. Then a good friend in New Zealand sent me a link to a video about the Wanganui River. The video told the story of the river, but also of how it had been granted the legal status of a person. I also realised that I had the inspiration for the lyrics to the song and I Am the River was born, with the opening verse reflecting the Maori sentiment and wisdom.

I was singing the song in the Anstruther Boathouse (on the Fife coast) with Mary Erskine (aka Me for Queen) when Clive Gray asked me if I wanted to record it with him for a local compilation called the George Street Sessions. We did this in a friends B&B and Clive produced the 2019 version of I Am the River which was released as a single and also as part of the George Street Sessions Vol2. Later that year I agreed with Neill MacColl that we would work on a new album of songs and spoken word pieces. We both agreed that the River should be part of that collection, but for continuity, we would re-record elements of it with Kate St John on Piano, Benn Nicholls on Bass and Mattie Foulds on Drums. To differentiate it from the first version this is known as I Am the River #33."

Band Credits:

Tom Houston - Vocals &Acoustic Guitar

Mary Erskine - Vocals & Cello

Kate St. John - Piano

Benn Nicholls - Double Bass

Mattie Foulds - Drums & Mixing & Mastering

Clive Gray - Recording Engineer Anstruther

Production - Neill MacColl

“The Great River flows from the mountains to the sea. I am the River, the River is me.” With these words, the Maori tribes of Whanganui, New Zealand, declare their inseverable connection to their ancestral river. The river rises in the snowfields of a trio of volcanoes in central North Island. The tribes say that a teardrop from the eye of the Sky Father fell at the foot of the tallest of these mountains, lonely Ruapehu, and the river was born.


But on March 20, 2017, something remarkable happened. New Zealand recognized in law what Maori had been insisting all along: The river is a living being. Parliament passed legislation declaring that Te Awa Tupua—the river and all its physical and metaphysical elements—is an indivisible, living whole, and henceforth possesses “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities” of a legal person.

This is not the only such statute. Based on the Whanganui precedent, 820 square miles of forests, lakes, and rivers—a former national park known as Te Urewera—also gained legal personhood. Soon a mountain, Taranaki, will become the third person.

By Kennedy Warne


Tom Meets Neill 2009

I have booked on a songwriters retreat run by Chris Difford. We are in a Luxury Hotel in Wales near to Dylan Thomas’s House. I arrive late and I am in the Penthouse suite (long story). I am writing songs with a crop of esteemed writers and musicians. I know nobody and I am a bit of a nobody. I hear Neill’s guitar playing and am deeply impressed. I co-write a Christmas song with Chris Difford which will feature on the BBC One Show for Children in Need. I do not meet or chat with Neill, but I do work with his soon to be wife Kate St John.

Open the Skylights 2012

I have the notion of recording an Album and I approach Kate St John who says that Neill would like to work with me. I travel down to London for a weekend trial in Neill’s home studio and we agree to work together. The Album is recorded and released in 2013. We repeat the process in 2017 and release Plastic Trumpet in 2018. I am loving the connection with Neill and his sense of song. Somehow he helps nurture the song to where it can grow and shine without being overshadowed. 

Gap in the Fence 2019

I have talked myself into a 40 minute set at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival. Most of this will be spoken word. I do some prep work with Kath Burlington and we agree that most of my work seems to straddle two worlds and I come up with Gap in the Fence as a title to the show which I repeat at the Edinburgh Fringe later that year.

The Album

In October 2019 I am wondering what to do with my music and my creative energies. Financially the Album seems to be dead, and yet artistically I do love working on a substantial body of work and I approach Neill about working on the spoken word pieces. Maybe just an EP to keep costs down. We experiment with a few ideas, and meanwhile, the new songs creep in to the thinking. The chance occurs to work again with Mary Erskine and also the Robson Twins (who formed Bamboozle with me in 1987 and were on my first Album Filling in the Cracks). Our working title was Gap in the Fence and although I considered other options it remained the front runner. Neill and I had a tight schedule and the whole process needed to be finished by the end of February when Neill would start immersing himself with the David Gray tour of the USA, as well as performing at the 2020 BAFTAs, Albert halls with Jessie Buckley and Benn Nicholls. We made the March 2020 deadline and then……


A Gap in the fence would usually lead me on an adventure. As an inquisitive child, the only interesting part in the fence was the gap that you could climb through. As adults, we have different intentions behind fences. To keep folks or vermin out or to keep folks or captors in.

Perhaps I’m not really a songwriter at all. I’m just jumping from one side of a fence to another, whilst trying to leave the traces behind. In this album perhaps more than in my others I am connecting with the worlds of a child and an adult.

I am also so lucky to have a wide range of talents who have all contributed. HQ has been Atticus Studio in London with Neill MacColl producing and creating magic. Recordings have also happened with Clive Gray, David Harper Gray, Timelord Studios, Tillicoultry, and with Mary Erskine, Ben Nicholls and Mattie Foulds. So good to have Kate St John on keyboards and it was wonderful to be joined by Cathryn and Lucie Robson again who sang on my first solo album 30 years ago.

So I am about to release this little package out there. Into a world saturated with music and songs. A world which needs as much care and attention as we can muster.

Check Out Tom Houston's Website HERE

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