10K Saturday with Tom Oliver!

Tom Oliver.jpeg

Lulu: Hey everybody, this is Lulu Picart, and I am here with Tom Oliver. 

Tom: What up?!?

Lulu: I like that, that’s great. You’re so excited. This is another episode of 10k Saturday, our mini episodes that drop on Saturdays. These are the mini episodes where we ask our guests the 10k5. However, if you’re looking for the full episodes, those drop on Wednesdays. Make sure to look at the back episodes to check those out. But for now, we’re gonna talk to Tom, who is appearing in (singing) Velvet —

Tom: (singing) — the show…

Lulu: (echoing) — the show… You’ve been in Velvet for a while. 

Tom: Yeah, I think I’ve done over two hundred shows. We toured Australia and New Zealand for ten months with it. Before that, someone else played the role and I joined for that ten months. 

Lulu: Tour life.

Tom: Tour life is real, isn’t it? 

Lulu: It’s really real. How long have you been living out of a suitcase? 

Tom: Oh, probably the last six, seven, maybe even eight years. I’m on my ninth gap year from high school. (Laughter) And I haven’t really settled yet. 

Lulu: You don’t have to. You’re making money. 

Tom: Some weeks.

Lulu: Doing what you love. And in the show you sing your face off, you play a little ukelele — did you play ukulele before the show?

Tom: No. I actually saw the show in Melbourne, and I didn’t even know anything about what I was in for. We were doing a show in the same festival as Velvet, and someone came into work, into the dressing room, and said, I’ve just seen the best show ever, you have to go see it. And I’m like, yeah, whatever, I’ve heard that before. But then we went along, and I just remember sitting in the audience at the end going, what the hell was that, and how do I become a part of it? Because it was just so awesome. And then fast forward a couple of months. The producers emailed me because they’d seen me in another show and asked if I could come in and audition for this role because it was available. And it was the most fascinating experience, because it was a show that I loved and I never thought I’d be in, and then I got an email asking me to come and audition for it. So that never happens. 

Lulu: So it was on your radar, and then the universe just kind of put it in your lap. 

Tom: Yeah, and I’m such a big believer in that sort of thing. Everything happens for a reason is my sort of philosophy. 

Lulu: Are you tired of tour life yet? 

Tom: I go through phases. Sometimes I love it. I think it depends on the people you’re around and what the job is. Like if you’re doing a show you love and the people are all friendly and fun, then that’s completely different to a show that you don’t like doing and the people you’re around are not fun, you know? 

Lulu: The people make it. 

Tom: Yeah. Exactly. Which is why it’s great to be here with you. 

Lulu: Well, for one night only. I think you’ve got me for one more night, but that works out. It’s fine. I want to know if you have any hidden talents, because you are in a show of people with hidden talents, right? We reveal talents as the night goes on. 

Tom: When I was growing up, I wanted to play cricket or rugby for Australia, and I thought that was my thing until I was in grade ten of high school, and me and the guys on the rugby team auditioned for the school musical for a joke, really to meet some chicks, and I’d never sung in front of anyone before, and then I got the lead role. It was High School Musical, of course. And since then, I’d never wanted to do anything else. I still love sport. So, sport — I played representative cricket and rugby when I was in my high school years.

Lulu: What does “representative” mean? 

Tom: I played state level. It’s similar, right? You guys have states?

Lulu: We have states. It’s the United States (TOM joins) of America. 

Tom: (laughing) I’m learning so much in this part of the world. (Laughter)

Lulu: So you played at what would probably be the state level. 

Tom: Yeah. I don’t have any cool party tricks that I could think of… 

Lulu: But saying that you were at that level of an athlete is pretty cool. All right, we’re going to move into the 10k5. 

Tom: Whoa.

Lulu: Are you ready? 

Tom: I think so. 

Lulu: I kind of prepped you for this, in the sense that I screamed the questions to you five hours ago. Question one: what are you obsessed with right now? 

Tom: I am obsessed with the Bee Gees right now. 

Lulu: Really? 

Tom: For a time, I wasn’t proud of it, but more people need to know how great they are. 

Lulu: The Bee Gees.

Tom: Yeah.

Lulu: So besides “Stayin’ Alive,” what’s your favorite song? 

Tom: That’s really hard. I’d say “Jive Talk—“ no, “Tragedy.”

Lulu: I don’t even think I know that song. 

Tom: (singing) Here I lie, lost and lonely, tragedy — (falsetto falsetto falsetto) — you know that one? 

Lulu: No! No, I don’ know it. 

Tom: So, the Bee Gees started in Brisbane, where I’m from. They were Ten Pound Poms from England, and they moved to a town called Redcliffe —

Lulu: They were Ten Pound what? 

Tom: Ten Pound Poms. 

Lulu: What does that mean? 

Tom: In the fifties, people who were struggling in the UK, like Manchester, Liverpool areas, all around London, were given these incentives to move to Australia to start a new life. And I guess the ticket cost ten pounds. That’s why they’re called Ten Pound Poms. 

Lulu: It’s the Brits that moved there at that time. 

Tom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So a lot of them relocated to Redcliffe, which is in Brisbane, where I live. And the Gibb family were part of this movement. They got their name at the local speedway. They wanted to be like The Beatles. They released a number one hit in Australia, then they moved to the UK, and they sounded like the Beatles. So you listen to a lot of their early songs, and I’ve played them to my friends, and they go, oh, that’s The Beatles. And I’m like, no, it’s The Bee Gees. The talent of these guys that you just pay out for having tight pants and high voices is just incredible. The amount of hits they’ve written. And I’m writing a cabaret about them.

Lulu: That’s so smart. 

Tom: We have sort of similar voices, and I’m really inspired by their songwriting.

Lulu: That’s awesome. That’s a good obsession, and not what I expected you to say. 

Tom: I was a bit embarrassed for a while, but now, I’m so proud, because people need to know. 

Lulu: Own it. You gotta own your obsessions. All right. What’s on your wishlist? 

Tom: I think I’d like to move overseas. And it’s only in the last couple of weeks I’ve decided that. 

Lulu: This is a new decision in your life. Do you have your eye on somewhere? 

Tom: No, I just think I’m getting to a point where I’m making a big change. Because I think I’ve ticked a lot of my earlier wishes recently by buying an apartment, working in an industry that I wanted to work in for so long, by starting up a couple of businesses. I think I’ve ticked my last wishes and now my new one is to move overseas, I think.  

Lulu: That’s a good one. Just leave your options open a little bit. It’s nice to know you’re leaving your options open.

Tom: Also, dinner tonight would be awesome, as a wish. 

Lulu: I think you’ll probably get dinner. That’s a good one, you know that one’s going to be achieved, so keep your wishlist accessible, I guess. (Laughter) If you had ten thousand dollars, what would you do with it right now? 

Tom: Responsible Tom would pay his tax bill in Australia. And fun Tom would spend half of it on holiday, probably to New York, and the other half on recording a couple of songs. 

Lulu: Oh, that’s a good way to spend that money! Recording original stuff?

Tom: Yeah, yeah. 

Lulu: Do you write?

Tom: I do. I can write good hooks and good melodies, but I need a co-writer. And that would be part of the spending of the 10k. Getting the right person to make my ideas in to the hit that I would like.  

Lulu: That’s a good wish. I mean, that’s a good use of 10k. Where would you travel? Oh, you said New York. You said you’ve never been to New York, right? 

Tom: Yeah, I’ve literally only been to Tampa and Miami. 

Lulu: He’s only been to Tampa, everybody, that’s it. And Miami for one night, right?

Tom: Yeah. Any tips, just flick us a message. 

Lulu: New York. You’ll have to come visit me.

Tom: Yes, please. 

Lulu: Okay. We’ll figure that out. All right. If you had ten thousand dollars to give away, do you have a foundation or organization that you support? 

Tom: There’s a few in Australia. There’s the McGrath Foundation, which supports breast cancer. There’s also the Maddie Riewoldt Foundation, which helps people with blood, and my cousin has gone through a lot with cancerous blood stuff. One of those two, I reckon. 

Lulu: Ten thousand dollars can help. I mean, ten dollars can help. 

Tom: Yeah, I wish I could give more. I did a song last year for a foundation in Australia — it was a cover of a song. I’ve only recently thought about different ways to do it rather than just funding your own money, because you never really have enough money to give away as an artist. Last year I did a cover of a song in Australia for the Olivia Newton John Foundation. She’s got a cancer wellness center in Melbourne, and one of my mates was treated there and went through a hard time. So we did a cover, raised a thousand bucks.  

Lulu: That’s not bad!

Tom: Better than a slap in the face.

Lulu: Do you have stuff that people can find you on? YouTube-y, Spotify…

Tom: I’ve got a Spotify, an iTunes, I’ve got a five song EP, and “If You Can Read My Mind,” one of the songs I sing in Velvet, is up there as well. 

Lulu: So it’s like they’re at the show. Unless they see you in person, they’re not really at the show. 

Tom: You can jump on an NCL ship and come and see it. 

Lulu: You can come see him on the Breakaway for a few months, that could work. Or who knows where he’s going to live after that, because he’s open, his options are open. So we have one last question, and I just want to know what’s making you happy today.  

Tom: I think what’s making me happy is I’m doing a show with people from all over the world. We have someone from Ukraine, from Spain, from Mexico, from England, from America, from Australia. I think that’s a pretty unique and special occasion. That’s what’s making me happy today. 

Lulu: It’s a really cool thing. And your technicians all come from different countries as well. 

Tom: Yeah, Philippines and South Africa. 

Lulu: And everybody comes together and just makes it happen. 

Tom: It’s so unique. And we’re floating in the Caribbean. 

Lulu: It was beautiful outside. We are in Bermuda — no, we’re in the Bahamas. We’re in Nassau. And the reason you hear all this noise, by the way, because I am, once again, recording in a hallway with BGM above me, because I am a terrible, terrible sound person. But we are in a beautiful location.

Tom: It’s amazing.

Lulu: it’s not bad to see that three times a week. I’m really glad you did this. 

Tom: I’m glad I could chat. 

Lulu: And you’ve got a show coming up, so we’re gonna get you out of here. Thank you for being here, and say goodbye…

Tom: Bye!

Ash Burns