Home Feature The Chat Room: Tommy John Ehman

The Chat Room: Tommy John Ehman

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You know that old prairies joke about watching your dog run away for three days? Saskatchewan country/Americana singer-songwriter Tommy John Ehman certainly does. As a fifth generation grain farmer, his home province’s endless flat expanses shaped who he is, both as a person and an artist. It’s also territory he knows intimately through the countless kilometers he’s covered while playing his music across western Canada.

Those long drives are the foundation of Tommy’s new single, “Me & Dylan (Coming Home),” a quintessential heartland rock road song produced by Brad Prosko—who also plays drums and guitar on the track—and featuring Tommy’s cousin, Rob Ehman, on bass. “Me & Dylan (Coming Home)” is the latest addition to Tommy’s body of work that includes six full-length albums and 11 singles that have helped him earn multiple Saskatchewan Country Music Association award nominations and opportunities to share stages with some of Canada’s best-loved country music artists.

He’ll be back on those roads again in the summer of 2024, with “Me & Dylan (Coming Home)” providing the soundtrack. And the Dylan mentioned in the title? It is indeed none other than His Bobness, one of Tommy’s primary influences, along with other Midwestern radio staples like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Prine. Although farming is in his blood, Tommy has been playing music and writing songs for nearly all of his life as well. And now that he’s pulled back on doing manual labour due to health issues, his musical output has increased exponentially this decade.

With “Me & Dylan (Coming Home),” Tommy has taken another step forward in terms of creating a song that speaks directly to that place within all of us that craves the romance of the open road, and the unique role that radio plays in it. Sure, technology has made the world a lot smaller, but when you’re in Tommy’s hometown of Craik, halfway between Regina and Saskatoon on Highway 11, the vastness of your surroundings can still be awe-inspiring. It leads to big sounds and big emotions, two things that define Tommy John Ehman’s music. Get your motor running, and head out on the highway.

Go to tommyjohnehman.net for more info, and get “Me & Dylan (Coming Home)” on your preferred digital platform.

 

What inspired you to write “Me & Dylan (Coming Home)”?
There isn’t a deep meaning or any attempt to try to change the world with this song. A guy is away from home, misses his wife or girlfriend, and the song takes place as he is driving through the night to get home to see her. Simple, right? But the story is in the imagery as he drives, his thoughts and feelings about missing her and of course, the music of Bob Dylan he is listening to as he drives.

I’ve written a lot of road songs, driving songs, “missing home” songs and missing friends and family songs. The reason is because I’ve spent many years travelling the highways of western Canada taking my music to wherever someone wants to hear it. I think writing road songs has been a sort of therapy that I use to make sense of all the late night drives, the miles and being away from home.

The highway can be a lonely place, especially on a long, late-night journey home. But with some great music and sweet peaceful thoughts about getting home, it can help make the trip just a little easier on the heart and mind.

Are you working on any other new material, and if so, what can people expect to hear?
The easy answer is, of course! I’m always writing songs and working on some new ideas and directions that I can pursue. They tell me that my music is country, roots, alt-country, Americana and/or Canadiana, and I guess I would basically agree with that. But at the same time, I really just want to make “my” music, whatever that genre is. I’ve always got a handful of songs that are at the top of my list that I think are strong enough to record, which is where I am right now. I think my new songs are similar in nature to “Me & Dylan” and should make some great follow-up music to this newest single. Let’s hope my fans agree with me!

It’s fair to say that Dylan has inspired every singer-songwriter, but what’s your personal relationship to his music?
I would absolutely agree with this statement, and yes, I fall into that category as well. For me, music was and always has been about songwriting. That’s where it started. I wrote songs before I could play a note on the guitar, which I learned to play so I could sing my songs. I became obsessed with songwriting and naturally gravitated towards artists who also wrote their own songs.

Artists like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard got me started, and as I grew up, I discovered other great writers like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, Stever Earle and of course, Bob Dylan. I wasn’t born yet when Bob released his first records and was too young to remember his heyday in the mid 1960s and 70’s. But I started to listen to his music and realized just how incredible and prolific he really was; that’s what I wanted to do and tried my best to follow his lead. But my Dylan education went to another level with the release of the first Travelling Wilburys album. I listened to that cassette at least a million times. What a great album — and those iconic voices and songs, including Bob Dylan’s, were amazing.

His entire catalogue is staggering, but my personal favorite Bob Dylan album is Time out of Mind. There is just something about that record that connected with me, and I listened to it over and over, and I still listen to it today, almost 30 years later.

Your roots are pretty deep in Saskatchewan. What are the best and the worst things about being a musician there?
Yes, I certainly am a Saskatchewanian through and through and proud of it too. I absolutely LOVE my home province, and it has definitely influenced my music. I was born and raised here on a grain farm, so what’s more “Saskatchewan” than that? But growing up on a farm in a small town has given me so many great experiences to write about. My heart is here, and I think my songs and music reflect that in so many ways.

Saskatchewan is a smaller province so the “family” of musicians is a fairly close-knit group. I know so many other artists that I can call my friends, and I see them on a fairly regular basis, which is so cool. I think we all kind of pull for each other to reach new heights with our music.

Now, I’m not too sure about what’s “bad” about being a musician in Saskatchewan. I guess I could say that the winters can be pretty gross if you have to travel to gigs. This past winter, we had a Saturday night show in Moose Jaw, which is about an hour’s drive for us. The temperature was about -35C and -45C with the windchill. It was friggin’ cold!! But we packed up and hit the highway, played the show and then packed up and drove home the same night. So, I guess that would be a negative, wouldn’t it?
Otherwise, maybe our small population has some drawbacks in music services, venues and an overall smaller music industry here, but we make up for it with our determination and hard work ethic. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What other plans do you have for the rest of the year?
Well, to start with, I’m really excited about “Me & Dylan,” so I’m doing all I can to promote the song and get it out and into as many ears as possible. We have some festival shows coming up this summer, along with some smaller venues and even a few house concerts lined up that will be keeping us pretty busy.

As I mentioned earlier, I have some new songs that I’ll be recording over the next little while, which will be a lot of work, but it’s work I love to do. In between all that I’ll spend some time with family and friends and as well spend some quality time on the farm, which my son now runs.

And of course, there will always be time for songwriting and trying to write my next great song, maybe even a hit!

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