Where are you from?
Thom Kaz: I am from a military family so I actually grew up in several areas around the world. My father was in the Air Force so I was actually born on an Air Force base in Japan. From there we lived on several Air Force bases along the Gulf Coast. When my Father retired, we settled in Mobile, AL where I finished high school and attended college at the University of South Alabama. Now, my family and I split time between Las Vegas and Mobile due to the nature of our entertainment and event business.
How long have you been making music?
Thom Kaz: I actually started playing drums as a kid in junior high school and I built my first drum kit out of two old kits I found at our church. It was pieced together from one red kit and one white kit so we called it the peppermint drum kit! When I got into high school, I jammed with a few bands around town but nothing serious.
Music was something I always enjoyed but in a military family money was tight, so when it came to picking say guitar lessons vs baseball, because we could only afford one, I chose baseball and so I wouldn’t get my hands on a guitar and learn to play until I met my wife Alison in 2000, She bought me my first guitar and amp and I started teaching myself how to play. So, I would say that I have only truly focused on music over the last 3 years. During Covid, I used the time to practice and write songs and the result is WhiskeyTown, which I am very proud of!
Who are the musicians involved in your project?
Thom Kaz: There were quite a few session artists from Las Vegas and Nashville. The album took a little over 2 years to complete in between my other business ventures and my producer’s schedule. I thought we would never finish it because our schedules were both so crazy.
But while waiting to master those 10 tracks, I actually wrote “Outlaw in the USA” and “American Maverick” which are two of my favorite songs on the album. Come to think of it, if we had gone to print with the record, those two songs might never have been written, so I am grateful that we had that time to work on those two songs.
My producer, who wants to remain behind the scenes on my project, worked with me to shape the melodies and arrange the music. He is extremely talented. He did most of the work in forming the musical part of the song based on my ideas. I focused mainly on lyrics and vocal arrangement and together I think we made a great team. Being a former headliner in Las Vegas, I am very lucky to be friends with some of the most talented musicians in the world and my producer brought a few buddies in to help us round out the sound. All in all, I am very happy with the way WhiskeyTown turned out and I am honored to have worked with so many talented musicians along the way.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Thom Kaz: Growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, I would have to say that my musical influences are very diverse. When I was a little kid, my dad had an old reel to reel we listened to all the time. So, I grew up listening to Elvis, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, BB King and many other amazing artists. That’s where it all started for me. But if I had to name a few of the people or bands that influenced me I would have to start with Bon Jovi. Journey, Styx, Van Halen, Richard Marx, and ZZ Top. That’s just a few.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet a few of my influences and I am honored to have jammed with a few along the way. There are so many other artists that were superstars in that era, but I would say those had to be on the top of the list for me. To me, and to so many other artists, music speaks its own language. And for those of us that understand it, it can truly be magical and healing to write your thoughts, experiences and feelings into words and then arrange them as a beautiful or impactful song with a catchy melody.
For me, it’s totally an escape when I am into writing a song. I simply write music that I enjoy listening to and I hope that my music has a positive impact on listeners around the world. That’s the goal, to make them feel something. I think we did that with this record. In fact, as you listen to the tunes on WhiskeyTown, you see a slight shift from the title track, which is a country pop tune, to a more 80’s influenced “Tired of Working”, “Bad Man” and “Blind Man Walking”. Those songs are definitely a throwback to the days when I was growing up and I hope that my fans dig the vibe we were going for on those tunes.
What is your greatest non-musical influence?
Thom Kaz: As for other influencers in my life, there are a few, some famous and some not. Of course, I greatly appreciate my family and friends as they all supported me as I started shaping my music career. I would have to say that one of my biggest influencers was my best friend, Jimmy Francia.
Jimmy and I became friends over 25 years ago and he was an amazing individual. It was Jimmy that convinced me to take a little song I had written called WhiskeyTown to the studio and lay it down as a single. In fact, he paid for that first recording session so I wouldn’t have any excuses. Once I sent him the song, he convinced me that I had something special and that I had to go for it. So, I did. Over the next year or so, Jimmy pushed me to keep writing more songs.
So, I wrote 14 songs over the next 3 months and 12 of those are now on the album. It wasn’t easy and I sometimes felt like I was chasing a dream that would never happen. But Jimmy believed in me enough for both of us and he would keep encouraging me to write every day, no matter what. To this day, I know 100% that he was and is my guardian angel, and I am forever blessed to have had him as a brother in my life. Now, I am living for the both of us and I have a lot of work to do to accomplish the mission Jimmy and I laid out many years ago over a beer. And I promise anyone reading this that I will not stop until the mission is accomplished.
So, to my new fans, I would like to say thank you for buying my music and my BBQ sauce. You are now part of the vision and I thank you for your support. As you may have guessed by now, Jimmy is no longer with us. Unfortunately, Jimmy passed away unexpectedly on June 2, 2020 after minor knee surgery. He was in the hospital during the peak of Covid and no visitors were allowed in to see him.
My plane landed at 6 PM that day and he was gone just a few hours later. I was sad. I was angry. I was pissed. I was crushed. Why? Because Jimmy Francia died alone in a hospital room with no family or friends there to say goodbye. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. To Jimmy, family was everything and I am honored to be a part of the Francia family now for over 30 years.
That’s why I wrote “This Song” (Best Friend I Ever Had) and put it on the record. Because the truth is without Jimmy, WhiskeyTown wouldn’t even exist. WhiskeyTown BBQ Sauce wouldn’t exist nor would any of the future products we have planned for the WhiskeyTown Brand even be on the table. I don’t share this personal story with too many people, but in our very last conversation over the phone, Jimmy made me promise I wouldn’t quit on him and that I would finish the record. Jimmy had a way of making you want to give it your best effort, especially when he was invested in the process. In our last conversation, he made me make him a promise that no matter what was happening in my life, good or bad, that I would finish this album and keep the promise.
What inspired you to create this project?
Thom Kaz: Jimmy was all about helping people, so he also made me promise to remember to give back to those who need a little help, specifically Veterans. We had talked about one day launching a program called the WhiskeyTown Warriors to assist veterans with mental wellness, PTSD and suicide prevention. And now that the album is done and the brand is established, I plan to give a portion of all proceeds from my music and merchandise to the WhiskeyTown Warriors program to help Veterans.
That’s why this album and this vision are so important to me. Because it’s not about me. It’s about using my God given talents to create something that people will enjoy and resonate with while also giving back and making a difference. Because that’s what Jimmy wanted. I miss him every day, but in my heart, I know he’s proud of me for sticking to the plan and seeing it through.
Now, it’s time to share my music and my story with the world and shine Jimmy’s light on those who need something positive in their life. And we are just getting started, the best is yet to come!
What are your plans for the future (musically)?
Thom Kaz: As for the future of Thom Kaz and WhiskeyTown, we are working hard as a team to get the music and the BBQ Sauce out there so we can grow the brand and share the story with the masses to support the mission, which is to build the WhiskeyTown Warriors into a program that makes a significant impact. I was honored on Veterans Day recently to appear on our local Fox News station to perform Outlaw in the USA as part of their annual Veterans Day broadcast.
The live performance was just voted Best of 2022 on Fox News and they are planning to rebroadcast the performance on December 26th. The next day I was hosted by Troy University at Veterans Memorial Stadium as they played against Army. I was truly honored to join over 5,000 military members on the field while my song, Outlaw in the USA, was played on the jumbotron screen during halftime. The rush I felt when they announced my name as a USAF Veteran, as well as the artist who wrote and performed the song, was a feeling I will never forget. Think about it! Just 3 weeks after we released the album we are playing the song and video in front of 35,000 people, mostly military. I will always remember that moment and I want to take that feeling with me as I perform for the troops around the world as part of a USO tour next year.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thom Kaz: As you know, being an independent artist competing for eyes and ears to get noticed is definitely a challenge. My hope is that my music, my BBQ Sauce, my message and my mission resonates with the masses so they share it with their networks. And if all goes well, we plan to build a strong fan base to take the WhiskeyTown Live Show experience on the road and perform at military bases as part of that USO tour.
So, if there’s anyone out there that has served our country, I ‘d like to say thank you and invite you to become a WhiskeyTown Warrior by purchasing the Warriors Bundle on our website. Then share it with our brothers and sisters in arms or even a civilian who may have a tie-in to the military. Every little bit helps! In fact, we recently put together a special Warriors Bundle on our website to raise funds for the WhiskeyTown Warriors. That’s 3 bottles of my signature WhiskeyTown BBQ Sauce and an autographed CD shipped right to your doorstep. It’s available now on our website at www.ilovewhiskeytown.com and thank you in advance for your support!