As a young man in his twenties, Thomas Parham, Jr. (Tommy), found himself working as a cook in his parents’ restaurant — The Apple Orchard — in Cedaredge.
With seven brothers and sisters, the Apple Orchard was, in every sense of the word, a family restaurant. But being a cook in a small town in western Colorado had very little to do with Tommy’s dreams for the future. More than anything else, Tommy wanted to be a songwriter, respected by his peers.
Tommy began playing the guitar when he was 12, and since money was so tight, he taught himself how to play by “listening to songs played on the radio, and hanging out with friends who also played a variety of instruments.”
By the time he reached high school, Tommy, a “natural” on the guitar, was playing in small “garage bands” and even writing some original music.
Instead of trying to become the next Van Halen, Tommy said he really got into song writing. He was more interested in what made for a good song, what instruments were being used, and why some songs became hits and were played on the radio, while other songs failed.
There wasn’t much happening in Cedaredge for an aspiring songwriter, and because he wasn’t the kind just to hang around, he moved to Colorado Springs. “I was looking for a place where more things were happening,” he recalled.
And so it came to pass Tommy began performing, singing and playing professionally with several successful local rock bands in Colorado Springs, including the hard-rock band, “Steele Angel.” At that time, Steele Angel was the only band licensed for pyrotechnic performance in Colorado. “That was my ﬁrst real break,” said Tommy.
But he was still unsatisﬁed, so he eventually moved to Los Angeles. This gave him the opportunity to study with other songwriters and to expand himself as a songwriter.
It was in Los Angeles that Tommy met producer Alan Brewer, founder of Brewman Music and Entertainment (BME), and Will Rambeaux, one of the writers and producers of the hit song, “Wild One,” performed by country legend Faith Hill. The two men said they were impressed with his writing and encouraged Tommy to keep writing and perfecting his craft.
Rambeaux even invited Tommy to come to Nashville to work with other writers. “Songwriters go to Nashville and starve,” laughed Tommy, but in a simple twist of fate Tommy had signed a contract with BME, and Brewer had opened an ofﬁce in Nashville.
“I was signed to a three-year professional song writing deal in Nashville,” said Tommy, “and began writing with some of Nashville’s best songwriters. That’s where I really honed my skills in the craft of song writing and producing.”
Tommy’s major song writing credits include “Rocks That You Can’t Move,” which he co-wrote for Lee Greenwood’s album, “Stronger than Time.” The song was also released as a single.
“Having it released on an album by someone as famous as Lee Greenwood is a songwriters dream and the pinnacle of his/her career,” said Tommy. “But then, having it released as a single is, well, chocolate!”
Tommy also co-wrote the song, “Leavin’ Ain’t the Only Way To Go,” appearing on the soundtrack of the movie, “Come Early Morning,” starring Ashley Judd. He also co-wrote some “rock and roll” songs with Mark Slaughter.
In the fall of 1999, Tommy met another singer/songwriter, Tia McGraff, who had gone to Nashville to “mix an album,” with BME. The award-winning singer and songwriter met with Brewer, and eventually had the opportunity to meet with Tommy.
“I fell in love with his songs,” said Tia, and the two of them began working together. “We were a perfect match as songwriters,” said Tommy, “and as it turns out, even more than we expected.” The two were married in June 2006. Since then, now at 47, Tommy has achieved recognition as a songwriter on an international level.
“I ﬁnally made it into the big circle,” he laughed.
Together, Tommy and Tia collaborated with Henry Preistman on the song, “All of Us.” The song was chosen to be featured as part of a cultural diversity campaign in Australia.
The two have found a huge fan base in the United Kingdom, and while they travel together internationally, they have made their home in Port Dover, Canada, where Tia grew up. “We needed to set down some roots,” said Tommy, “and stop chasing around ‘deals’.” While at home, both teach and mentor young aspiring musicians.
“Family is important,” said Tommy. But, as important as Tommy’s family is to him, his family was apparently unaware of his achievements and did not know how well he had done in the music world.
“They know now,” said Tommy. It was Tommy’s mother, Frances Carpenter, who was the catalyst for getting the two to perform at last year’s Apple-Fest. More recently, the two performed together at Starr’s Guitars in Cedaredge, and later with other songwriters at the Blue Sage Center for the Performing Arts in Paonia.
“Chasing the dream isn’t easy,” said Tommy, “but it is something you have to pursue. It’s a ‘high’ you can’t get anywhere else, but you have to be determined to get past the obstacles. “
“Songwriters have a gift,” said Tommy, and for young wannabe’s he offers some good advice. “Learn the craft, take advantage of workshops for songwriters. Know that it is going to be a tough road. Let go of the dreams of fame and money, and try to ﬁnd a [local] songwriter, one whom you admire, to mentor with. Learn who they work with, and why. And, if possible become a part of that person’s circle of friends. Learn from them.”
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When asked if he would do it all over again, Tommy answered, “You bet. I am so blessed to be where I am. Not everyone gets the opportunity to travel and meet so many talented people.”