Home > Culture > Cardiff Character: Tom Fitton

Cardiff Character: Tom Fitton

One of the most treacherous massacres in Scottish history, a horrific mining disaster, and a Nordic romance. Tom Fitton has certainly packed a punch with the subjects of his self-penned EP, The Marsh Road and Other Tales. But who is the rising star on the Cardiff folk scene and what makes the singing storyteller tick?

tom fitton 480

Tom’s album launch was held at Mozart’s, Swansea, on 14 November and the singer is excited to be back in Cardiff for the new year.

“I’m still a bit of a stranger in this land,” confesses Tom, 37, who, despite living in Wales for 33 years, doesn’t feel totally native.

This is perhaps fitting, since The Marsh Road, a “thinly veiled love song” written about his strong-minded Swansea wife, features a local Celtic lass longing for someone other than Welsh “mam’s boys”, and finding herself in the arms of a visiting Viking.

The only snag being that Nordic-looking Tom hails from Cheltenham, and not an Icelandic kingdom.

From elastic bands to electric guitars

The talented singer moved to Mid Wales from the spa town when four years old and has gigged at notable Cardiff venues including The Gravity Station and nearby Dinas Powys Fringe Festival.

However, like all budding stars, his first dabble with music was more Art Attack than Aerosmith.

“As a kid, even before having an instrument of my own, I was stretching elastic bands over empty boxes to make guitar-like things,” laughs Tom.

“I’ve been playing the instrument since my late teens, initially inspired by the 90s grunge boom.

“My interest in the folk genre started because I like music with an acoustic flavour, although I think you can hear some Zeppelin in my work.”

But instead of climbing the stairway to heaven, Tom ascended steps to more degenerate places, playing guitar with various bands in “rowdy pub bars”.

“The hardest career move was getting the nerve to go out on my own, which I’d been threatening to do for 15 years,” explains Tom.

“When I was playing in bands I was usually the ‘mum’ and organised everyone – I don’t miss that now but it can get rather lonely travelling to gigs away from my Swansea home.”

A darker song

And just as being an artist isn’t full of glitz and glamour, Tom’s music doesn’t shy away from history’s darker moments.

East Wheal Rose features the famous 1846 mining disaster, when flooding streams drowned 39 men down the Cornish St Newlyn East pit, while Murder in Trust focuses on the most shameful massacre in Scottish history, when in 1692 Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were murdered by English soldiers out to weaken their highland ‘comrades’.

Thankfully, the borders are much safer these days and fans can travel to Cardiff to see Tom performing in the Owl’s Nest on 7 January.  

As Cardiff dusts itself off after witnessing the Gaza and anti-Nato protests, it will be nice to have a “storyteller” in the midst who can put things into perspective. Being inspired by historical sites he visits, Tom puts lyrics to the tales of those who suffered loss when we lived in a world with no health and safety, and where quarrels led to bloody murder. Perhaps, just now and then, the city could do with a reminder of the importance of peace. 

tom black and white 480 new