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Third generation hill farmer from Pontypridd nabs Huw Stephens’ Album of the Week honour

18 Dec 2023 5 minute read
Tom Jenkins, third generation farmer and singer songwriter

Stephen Price

An album created by a third generation hill farmer from Pontypridd has been announced as Huw Stephens’ Album of the Week.

Proving himself a prolific songwriter since landing on the singer-songwriter scene in 2019, Tom Jenkins recently released his acclaimed album ‘Meadow Pt.1’ which has gone on to catch the attention of Huw Stephens.

Artist and Album of the Week

Jenkins has since been named Huw Stephens’ Artist of the Week, with Meadow Pt. 1 securing the coveted Album of the Week title.

Tom Jenkins self-released his debut album Misery In Comfort back in 2019, a collection of songs written in the solitude of the New Zealand outback as he cut a living as a traveling shepherd, rancher and sheep shearer, running the backcountry in Māori shearing gangs.

Eventually, Jenkins and his songs would end up in Fort Worth, Texas, where he tracked his debut, instantly gaining recognition from Grammy And Oscar winning singer songwriter, Ryan Bingham who invited Jenkins out on his first solo tour across Ireland. This would be immediately followed up by the release of ‘When The Coal Dust Settled’ a collection of folk songs dedicated to the heritage and history of the south Wales valleys and his family of moal miners and hill farmers, with all proceeds donated to the valleys flood aid.

Kerrang! meets Farmers Weekly

As lockdown set in, Jenkins began working on his second album ‘It Comes In The Morning, It Hangs In The Evening Sky’ collaborating with the likes of Marc Ford of The Black Crowes and Phil Campbell of Motörhead to deliver an expansive modern, indie, alternative-folk album, that would lead him to signing with Xtra Mile Recordings and leading to tour supports with label mate Frank Turner, Soul and Blues rockers, Cardinal Black, folk punks, Skinny Lister, Andrew McMahon, American Country Star Megan Maroney and also recently opening for British chart toppers Bastille at Cardiff Castle, with each support slot showcasing his depth in sound.

Tom is a former pupil of Bryn Celynnog Comprehensive in Beddau and, like many of his peers, comes from a family of farmers and coal miners, with no musical background at all.

He said: “I might be wrong but I think I’m the only person to appear in Kerrang! Magazine and the Farmers Weekly in the same month.”

Meadow Pt. 1 Tom Jenkins

We caught up with him to ask a few questions about his journey, and he told us: “By the time I was 25 I was done with touring and music. Mainly because I was skint and jaded. At this point I’d been shearing sheep at home since I was a teenager but quickly turned to contract shearing to make money. The job would take me to New Zealand, where I also shepherded and ranched cattle on huge farms, many miles from civilisation. It was in those times of solitude I started writing again. Inspired by the vast landscapes, the hard days shearing sheep in the wool sheds and missing home. I wrote my debut solo album ‘Misery In Comfort’.

“It took me 4 years to muster up the courage and money to record it but an old friend, and American Producer Elijah Ford (Gary Clark Jr) convinced me the songs deserved to be recorded with him guiding it all. So in 2018 I landed in Fort Worth, Texas and we tracked my debut.

“I self- released it at the end of 2019, with the plan of only playing 5 shows and pressing 100 vinyls/Cd’s. Not long after that I was personally invited to join Oscar and Grammy wining singer songwriter and Yellow Stone star Ryan Bingham on his tour of Ireland after he heard my songs.”

Tom on the farm

He added: “Lockdown hit and I recored my second album ‘It Comes In The Morning, It Hangs In The Evening Sky’. I sat on that album for 2 years as I got into potato farming and never thought it would see the light of day. The album recording was just something to pass the time. By 2022 I signed to Xtra Mile Recordings (Frank Turner) and 13 Artists (Artic Monkeys) for live shows. It got pretty hectic quickly between running a flock of 900 ewes and 40 cattle and shearing 7000 sheep in the summer, I still managed to tour and play festivals, a highlight was playing Cardiff Castle with Bastille this summer and my dad coming off the hill and to Cardiff for first time in 30 years to watch the show.

“After feeling pretty burned out but still having the yearning to create, I set-up a microphone in an old hay barn and recorded my recent offering ‘Meadow’ a series of acoustic live takes, focusing on feel and capturing those real moments in the songs without going mad on production. To my surprise it ended up as Huw Stephens’ album of the week. Which was great because I recorded it myself and it cost me very little to create.”

Tom’s latest album is split in two halves: ‘Meadow Pt.1′ is out now and ‘Meadow Pt.2’ will be coming out early next year.

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