Behind the artist
The bohemian son of a family steeped in Alaska politics and the product of a life of music and art, Tom Begich ’s music and poetry resonates with the stories and the conflicts of the human condition.
Part of the Alaska music scene in the early 1980’s, Tom dropped out and tuned in to the world of politics and business for a decade before finding his way back to local coffee shops, street corners, and music festivals. Since returning to performing and recording, Tom has performed all over the country as a solo artist and accompanied by his wife, singer/songwriter Sarah Sledge. He has also opened for recording artists Kelly Joe Phelps, Anne McCue, Samarabalouf, the Santa Cruz River Band, Tim Mason, Stephen Fearing, Don Morrell, Paul Geremia, Randall Williams, Terry Holder, and Kim Richey just to name a few. Tom also hosted a monthly Songwriter’s Showcase in his hometown of Anchorage for three years, and now hosts traveling musicians in a concert series in his home. He has appeared on XM Radio and performed live on numerous radio stations and on the nationally syndicated radio shows “West Coast Live", "River City Folk", "Paradigms", "the Camille Conte Show" and "In the Phone Booth (Anchorage Observer Internet Show)".
Tom has released six CDs, "Such a World" in 1997, "Hotel Metropol" in 1999, “Albuquerque Road” in 2001, “Cool Blue Light” in 2004/2005. His new release, "Traveling Through", was released in late 2014. Tom and "Bone Collectors" partner Tim Mason released their self-titled live CD - a compilation of music and spoken word - also in 2014.
His first book of poetry, "Six Truths: fifty sonnets" was published in 2013.
In 2016 he was elected to the Alaska State Senate, becoming the first professional musician to be elected to that Legislative body.
Tom continues to perform both his music and poetry throughout the country, preferring smaller venues and more intimate audiences. Citing musicians as different as Taj Mahal, Harry Chapin, and Christopher Parkening as influences, Tom combines an easy picking style with blues rhythms and storytelling skill to create a musical montage that is always interesting to the ear. His music includes a wide-variety of music ranging from acoustic instrumentals to blues and folk rock. A musician with a wholly original sound, Tom Begich will keep you humming long after he’s done.
"My goal is to reach people where they live. My songs and my poetry speak to that. They reflect a life devoted to our community, and designed to move us further down the road... to change minds and lives. Over the next decades my aim is to get that message across through music, poetry, and the story-telling I use to weave the two together..."
"As the host of Tossed Salad on KPTZ FM in Port Townsend, I have the pleasure of hosting many fine writers, singers, and musicians, but none more engaging than Tom Begich. He requires a close listening, for his lyrics show deep intent and his guitar accompaniment graces his song. He even whistles, a rare treat." - Phil Andrus, host of "Tossed Salad" on KTPZ Radio, Port Townsend, Washington November 15, 2015
"If I was looking at the program of events for a Friday night in Port Townsend and I had to choose between Greg Brown and Tom Begich, I'd go see Tom Begich" - Phil Andrus, host of "Tossed Salad" on KTPZ Radio, Port Townsend, Washington November 6, 2015
"All I know is that this [Traveling Through] is a beautifully crafted piece of work... I call it 'Roaring Asphault and Time-Stained Curtains'" - David Gistelli, Roche Winery and Vineyard, June 2015
"Two thumbs up..one of those albums you sit and talk and drink beer and listen to all night long" - Jack Tobin, KNOR Radio on "Traveling Through" 1/3/2015
- Radio Interview with music on WBKM's "Paradigms" Show! Interviewed by host Baruch, the show airs Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 8 PM EST, but is also available as a podcast from I tunes. Dennis Lind, Producer of "Traveling Through" opens the segment!
"His debut at the Rear Window a little over a year ago, Tom Begich delivered an incredible two sets of his music that made for a perfect evening. Tom not only plays and sings extraordinarily well, but he is also an excellent human with some great stories." - Rear Window Listening Room, Ganado, Texas - December 2014
Featured on Alaska Daily October 27, 2013 for both music and "Six Truths: fifty sonnets", Joined by Paul Benoit! The above link takes you to the page. From Dorene's commentary: "Beautiful words can be fierce when they cut close to the heart...
More than his written words, which had an honesty that cut to the heart of the matter and left one lingering in what was and what might have been - Tom shared some great music with us. His songs, true to his poetry, cross between the smoky worlds of jazz and blues.
Featured on The Camile Conte Show on September 19, 2013 - talking about music and life... She's now off on her own adventure across America reporting live from everywhere!
Featured on Alaska Political Insider June 21, 2013 for both music and "Six Truths: fifty sonnets" link no longer on site, though here was a screen shot from the show:
Featured on the Anchorage Observer's "In the Phonebooth" show March 13, 2013 - A fun interview with James Le Mausier that walks us through the streets of Manchester and Cairo, and the cafes of Anchorage and points beyond...
Featured on Alaska Political Insider (links below)
You Tube from the January 5, 2013 Sitka Grind
Selected earlier media:
Two radio shows celebrating Tom Begich in Dillingham
Tom Begich has taken a different... path. (Begich): "Maybe musicians in some regard are the front line of politicians because we take perhaps more controversial issues and put them out there... Its all about being in front of peopole and working with people and telling a story...". Its a path that often leads Begich away from Alaska... ... and so he is living the dream and coming to DIllingham to share his musical stories... (Begich): "I tell stories... each of the songs tells a story about something... This is going to be a good night... I'm not only going to play you music, but I am going to tell you stories..."
Tom Begich [came to Dillingham]. He shared stories of his life and the many people he has met on the road... His music was able to inflict strong emotion on many in attendance. (Rolfe Buzzell): "Tom is really fun to play with. He is a great storyteller and he has a lot of depth and breadth to the kinds of stories he tells and the kind of music he plays... and he's a very good finger-picking guitar player -- he's just excellent." (a listener): "Well... if you were not [there] you missed out on the oodaba of the cowabunga of the night's concert. It's like Woodstock when I was there...". (a listener): "Good lyrics, good guitar playing and passionate storytelling." (a listener): "I enjoyed the show immensely". (a listener): "...that was a fabulous show... I enjoyed every moment of of it...".
SLO Folks Scores More Great Shows
New Times (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Like a novelist weaving a twisted tale of humanity undone, Tom Begich creates music that resonates with conflicts. Hailing from the far north, Begich was part of the Alaska music scene in the early 80's. His easy picking style with blues rythms and storytelling skills combine to create an American tapestry of song.
Cool Blue Light: 9.5 out of 10
By RON YOUNG, July/August 2006
Cool Blue Light is the fourth CD by Alaska native Tom Begich, and in my opinion, is his best so far. Begich is an authentic troubadour, crisscrossing the country, playing at small venues and house concerts, and obviously gathering on a first hand basis much of the material that makes its way into his songs.
This album contains twelve tracks, eleven of which he wrote, and while he has a great voice, his songwriting is his major strength, and fortunately, unlike me, he knows better than to write “run on” sentences, which generally cause the FolkWorks editors major grief every time I do a review! [Editor’s note: You can see we left this one in!]
Kidding aside, this is a good all round album and very easy to listen to. Begich has managed to surround himself with a dozen highly competent musicians, who successfully round out the sound, and enhance the overall strengths of the album. I especially enjoyed the title track, and also the song called Bakersfield. In fact, now that Buck Owens has passed on to that great Hee-Haw in the sky, the city of Bakersfield, may want to adopt Tom Begich, on the strength of this song. Other good songs include Charleston and To Be With You, as well as the epic Journey’s End, with words by Keith (K.P.) Liles and music by Begich.
Cool Blue Light is a well engineered and packaged product, and should bring Tom a whole lot of new fans. He’s an interesting type of guy, the sort of person that you feel you could get to know over a couple of pints in a quiet bar, which, not surprisingly, is where I first met him. If it’s your good fortune to have him show up in your neck of the woods, he is well worth the effort to go and see. On a scale of one to ten, I’d give Cool Blue Light a nine and a half.
A 'Cool Blue Light' shines bright for low-key singer-songwriter
By AMANDA BECKER (04/01/05)
AK This Month
Leave the glaring limelight for others; Tom Begich prefers a more subtle hue. And the singer-songwriter explores that idea on his latest disc, "Cool Blue Light." The lyrics and music suggest rather than demand, inviting the listener to pause and reminisce on life, if just for the moment, and find romance in the shadow of humanity while quietly dabbling in every day situations.
"'Cool Blue Light' is a raw, an honest and a mature work of art," local poet and longtime friend Keith Liles said at the November release party. His poetry can be found on the cut, "Journey's End."
Begich also carries on the tradition of the story song – a method popularized by one of his greatest influences, Harry Chapin. That folk legend’s “talking blues” style is evident in Begich’s music. Like Chapin, the Anchorage musician captivates the audience – making the music and his story-songs almost tangible with the simple delivery of words and rhythm.Read more >
Begich, Holder to perform at Silverbow
By KORRY KEEKER (03/31/05)
Songwriters Tom Begich and Terry Holder have toured through Alaska and down the West Coast since meeting a few years ago at Side Street Espresso in Anchorage.
Their music differs. Begich favors finger-picked blues and acoustic introspection. Holder's songs are inspired by Jackson Browne and Patti Griffin. Still, they're often told that their styles complement each other.
Begich and Holder will stop at The Back Room at the Silverbow Inn at 7 p.m. Friday. It's the first trip to Southeast Alaska for Holder, a 20-year Alaska resident. Begich last played here in 2002 and has appeared at the Alaska Folk Festival many times. Read more >
Music career heats up with 'Cool Blue Light'
By J. MARK DUDICK (11/19/04)
Daily News correspondent
Folks around town pretty much pigeonhole Tom Begich as the mayor's older brother. But the rest of the world -- from Sitka to Montana, Vermont and beyond -- knows him as a talented singer- songwriter. "People come up to me at shows and say, 'We knew you played music, we just never figured you played it that well,'?" Begich said last week between packing for a midnight flight to Washington, D.C., and fielding questions about his CD-release celebration on Saturday at his favorite watering hole, Side Street Espresso. Read more >
BUMPING & GRINDING (The Adult Way)
by Jelena Andjelkovic (4/27/03)
Tom Begich, a singer-songwriter from Anchorage, sang two songs from his upcoming CD, "Neon Cross" and "Fat Moon." As the last song put the audience in a romantic mood, after the intermission, Island Caravan Dancers tried to stir up some passion with two traditional Middle-Eastern dances - blessings for good life dance, and a belly dance. Darryl followed with a mix of stand-up and song (would that be called a song-up?!?), and then Middle Aged White Guys took over the stage. Now, you young pipsqueaks might think a bunch of middle-aged white guys would be the most boring thing you ever saw. No, not THESE guys! They were a blues band with an awesome harmonica player, and they got the audience clapping, snapping their fingers and stomping their feet in no time. Tom Begich came back on stage for the second time to share his impromptu songwriting efforts. During his first appearance, he asked for 10 random words from the audience, and promised to come back with a song written using those words. Now, with such words a succulent, spank, genitals, and the name of a local politician, one would think nothing meaningful could be written, but not Tom. He put together a funny little ditty that got the audience laughing their heads off. On top of everything, it sounded good too.
Albuquerque Road (Crazy World Records)
Brian MacMillan, The Anchorage Press (12/14/00)
Tom is back with his third CD in as many years, and the songs just keep getting stronger. The latest offering from the Jimmy Buffet of Anchorage folk musicians is another collection of songs in a traveling vein. He mines his experiences on the road like an old sourdough on a gold claim; swirling the water of life around waiting for the sweet nuggets to appear in the debris.
His voice is a mellower version of Dire Straits vocalist Mark Knopfler, rich and husky, yet understated. Some of the melodies are reminiscent of '99s Hotel Metropol. The opening track "Road to Ruin" almost seems like part two to that CD's title track. Once again he has collected an awesome assortment of local musicians to flesh out his ideas. Bernard Glansbeek joins him on upright bass for the sleepy love song "Slow" and plays a nice mandolin on other cuts. Don Morrell plays on several numbers but really shines on the string-o-caster on the title track.
Kris Rosenstrater is the king of the understated backbeat; Karl Pasch contributes some clarinet and wood flute accents; and Beth McKay adds some lovely background harmonies to this solid CD.
The Anchorage Daily News (1/16/98) describes Such a World, Tom Begich's debut CD, as “a sunny Saturday siesta with a cold glass of Carta Blanca cerveza." Adds music reviewer Brian MacMillan, "Begich's finger-picking guitar style is as soft as a tropical breeze, and he enlisted several locals to make it even sweeter."
S.L. Guthrie (5/ 7/99)
Three out of four stars "The local's third [sic] CD begins with a beautiful instrumental, 'Alex's Theme,' featuring Begich on guitar, Tom Bargelski on piano and a haunting cello performed by Robert Tornfelt. The song captures the CD's essence: the music. "Begich is the rare artist whose composing skills aren't limited by his own playing -- the melodies envelope his raspy, Tom Petty-like voice. He's also smart enough to enlist talented locals such as bassist Terry Klemensen, Kerry Maule on Trumpet and guitarist Mark Manners. 'Holes in My Blues' contrasting images in rhymes like 'the patience of a minister, the passion of a sinister man about town." Add an unexpectedly eerie steel guitar line from Javier Matos and the song sizzles. Most of Begich's lyrics convey heartfelt emotions without becoming banal. 'Unfinished Conversation,' for instance, deals with the difficulty of trying to say just the right thing to make a relationship work, no matter how impossible the task. Many of the songs, in fact, involve relationships, particularly unrequited ones."