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Monday, November 20, 2017
Tommy Womack Tommy Womack

Tommy Womack to play ‘Namaste’ at Godfrey Daniels

Friday, September 8, 2017 by LUKE MUENCH Special to The Press in Focus

For Tommy Womack, it became clear to him from an early age that music was what made life worthwhile for him.

“At the age of 19 or 20, I decided that if life was gonna suck this bad I was gonna do what I wanted to do, and that was rock ‘n’ roll,” Womack says in a phone interview. “I had no particular talent or knew anyone in the industry, but by the time I finished college, I was determined.”

That’s not to say that this was a stable career choice. Far from it.

“It’s never allowed for comfortable living, but there’s always been something to keep me in the game. It’s never made me quit and stay quit. ... there’s no real way to quit anyway.”

Womack performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 9, Godfrey Daniels, Bethlehem.

Since debuting as a musician, Womack has been in two bands, Government Cheese and Bis-quits, each of which performed for seven years. After that, he struck out on his own, releasing a variety of solo albums, including his most recent, “Namaste.”

“I recorded that album in six days. Four days were spent on recording and overdubs, and two days on mixing and editing.”

This tumultuous and break-neck pace for “Namaste” was largely inspired by a nearly fatal car accident Womack was a part of the year prior.

“After something like that, you want to make every moment count. You want every day to mean something. So, we’d go into the studio and knock out a song, and say ‘Good, that’s good enough, rock ‘n’ roll, let’s keep going.’ There was no BS, no hemming or hawing. We didn’t have time for that. We could be dead tomorrow.”

“Namaste” also acts as a testament and reminder to Womack’s religious upbringing and background.

“My dad was a preacher, so I grew up in it. I probably fall into almost any cliche you might have heard about a southern Bible Belt church upbringing, and that stuff doesn’t leave you. Do I believe it the same way as I did when I was a kid? No, I call myself a fuzzy Buddhist Methodist. But it’s still there in whatever form it might take.”

Womack is also a well-versed writer, having written two books. The first, “Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock Band You’ve Never Heard Of,” recounts his early days with Government Cheese. The other, “Lavender Boys and Elsie,” explores the Civil War history of a Confederate regiment named the Lavender Boys.

Unlike music, Womack professed always having a talent and passion for writing, coming naturally to him well before he picked up a guitar.

“I wrote two … I guess you would call them ‘books,’ in high school. They were compendiums of comic short stories and comic vignettes. I made some joke advertisements that I drew and lettered in myself to give it some more authenticity. I started that at the age of 13, and picked up a guitar at 15, though I didn’t develop much musical skills until in my 20s.”

There are plans to release another book sometime next year, a priority in Womack’s work life. He also has another album planned.

Regardless of these projects, Womack views his family as the most important aspect of his day-to-day life.

“I’m a very domestic person. Gigs are my social outlet. That’s when I leave the house ... But I’m 54 years old, I don’t bop around to parties much anymore. The gigs are important in letting me get the wanderlust out and get the validation of audiences, but other than that I’m home with my wife, who’s my best friend, and my 19-year-old son. I’m very lucky I still have them.”

Much of this mentality, as well as his spiritual nature, is evident in his music, leading to earnest and profound moments that Womack has found makes some audience members uncomfortable.

“I have an audience that likes the fact that, on stage, I am honest to the point of making people uncomfortable. I go so deep into myself, it makes people feel less alone. And I think that’s the best gift I can give to any listener. I can get up on stage and sing about the same voices they hear in their head every day and know they’re not alone.”

In this way, Womack hopes to bring the peace of mind and happiness to the lives of others that he strives to find in himself and the world around him very day.

Tickets: Godfrey Daniels box office, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; godfreydaniels.org, 610-867-2390