A year on from his last release, Ardee-based hip-hop artist Tommy G returned with new material earlier this week. Touch, his brand new track, has been viewed almost 8,500 times in just five days. His return, it seems for many, has been long-awaited.
Produced by WHSPR (Ardee’s Ciaran Sarsfield), the music video for Touch was directed by Ovié Étseyatsé. It represents an eye-catching return for the 20-year-old, Thomas Gillespie. Touching on not so much varying themes relating to depression but one in particular – self-harm, his new song is visceral and personal.
Announcing his return to music on social media earlier in the month, the youngster was apologetic for leaving it so long – almost exactly 13 months – to release something new. The intervening year has been him time and if the time off lent itself to thinking about himself and what he wanted to produce, the conclusion was embark on a project that saw him open up like never before.
Now, we wants others to do the same. Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie this week, Gillespie said helping to encourage a dialogue about mental health is foremost in this thinking for this new project, with more music to come in weeks as opposed to days.
“This is the most personal work I’ve done, most personal to me,” he told us. “There’s going to be more to follow, that delve into me as a person. This is something I personally want to fight. I want to deal with it and help out. I want to try and introduce a dialogue and start a conversation.
“Depression is indiscriminate. In this industry, it’s glorified. It’s like being sad is part and parcel of growing up – it shouldn’t be.”
Hardly afraid to put his head above the parapet, Touch is the start of a departure from previous releases for the artist – who has had to alter slightly his name from Tommy G to Tommy-G due to other artists of the same name stealing his Spotify spotlight.
“My biggest inspiration is Jay-Z, so I was happy to add the hyphon in,” Tommy tells us.
His two Winter Warm-Up Series releases were split by the album Visions of Immorality, that included his brilliant link-up with the now defunct Golden Elk – Wherever My Spirit Roams. A year has passed and Gillespie tells he there won’t be another break for a “very long time.”
Touch, what it means and the rest of the new music to come, has reignited his fire.
“A lot of music in the genre I work in is based on hype and based on flash,” he says. “I was trying to achieve honesty, talking about stuff close to home.
“I wanted to do a song about self harm. It’s something I’ve suffered with. It’s something my friends have suffered with. It’s my view of mental health in this country, and in this industry. I feel it’s very misunderstood and misconstrued in the media.
“This was more for people who don’t understand it, so they could listen and get it. A song that basically explains self-harm to people who don’t understand it. That’s why I made it.
“The reaction is amazing. It’s been a very different reaction for what it was for some of my previous work. It’s a lot more visceral. People are sending me text messages personally, rather than sharing the song,” he continues.
“They’ll tell me this means so much to them. That’s what I wanted. The main goal is to spark honest conversation, that’s all I want. This is the first album I’m working on is all about problems. I want to see what people decipher from it. It’s really interesting to see the reaction.”
Interestingly, the performer calls the track “one of the most selfish songs” he’s ever made.
“A lot of people are saying it’s brave, but I think the true bravery is them to be able to come to me and say this is why they relate to it,” he told ThisIsArdee.ie. “I view it as one of the most selfish songs I’ve ever made. I could easily have gone there and told me story about what I went through. But I took all the pressure off myself. There is a level of selfishness to that.”
Despite the subject matter, not exactly the most carefree topic he or others in the genre will tackle, Gillespie feels more at ease with the music that he is is making than ever.
It’s all on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal for all to see and hear. He reckons leaving behind the idea of making music to sell, push for radio and promote in favour of doing it for the sheer enjoyment has put a smile back on his face.
“I want to start focusing on the art of it, instead of trying to sell to radio and all that. It’s extremely taxing. I want to get back to having fun with it, for the love of it, not write away demons that were haunting me.
It’s [the music] been a great release. But I want to do it because I want to, not because I have to,” he adds. “One of my biggest fears was maybe that no one cares. I used to be so invested in the game and so invested in doing well. I’m so happy and I’m so grateful.”
There’s five or six more videos to come out before the full album, which the Ardee Community School alumni says will be his last album release in the traditional sense “unless something drastic happens.
“I want to branch out and do other things like short films. I want to tie all these art forms together. I’m going to keep doing music but I’m recalibrating my method.”