Anyone who’s studied country and roots music over the years knows how important pedigree can be, and doesn’t need to be sold on the importance of the songwriting legacy of John Prine. The music legend died in 2020 at the age of 73, but his memory lives on through his music and his label Oh Boy Records. It will also live on through his son, who has just released his debut single in what he hopes will be the start of a promising songwriting career charting a legacy all his own.
At 26-years-old, Tommy Prine is the youngest son of John Prine. He learned how to fingerpick from his father, first picking up a guitar at the age of 10. But interestingly, it wasn’t his father’s music that first inspired Tommy to get into singer/songwriter material at the ago of 17. It was Jason Isbell’s opus Southeastern.
Tommy would go out on the road with his dad when he was younger, helping to sell merch, and upon occasion, taking the stage to sing a song. The first song Tommy wrote was called “Something Like An Angel,” and after hearing it, John encouraged him to write more. It was performing with his father at the 30A Songwriters Fest a few years ago where Tommy really caught the bug, and wanted to become a performer. The death of his father and finding songwriting as a way to process the grief compelled him even more.
You hear that processing of grief in Tommy Prine’s debut, “Ships in the Harbor.” With a poetic grace that doesn’t need a famous name to be compelling, Tommy exquisitely encapsulates how all the happiness and grace in life—however enjoyable—is invariably fleeting. From the warmth of seeing a bluebird perched on a fence, to the unconditional love of a father, eventually, it will go away due to the rhythms of life. As much as “Ships in the Harbor” is a lament on inevitability, it’s also a lesson to enjoy the sweet moments of life while we’re in the midst of them.
“I wrote this song around my birthday last year,” Tommy explains, “and I always get super existential around my birthday and I had a thought that we as humans can only feel as deeply as we do and love people and fear things and all the other intense emotions is because everything we experience is finite, including our own lives. So I wrote a song about these little powerful moments and reflections in the human experience to try and capture the beauty in mortality.”
Tommy has another song he’s planning to release October 14th called “Turning Stones” ahead of a debut album expected in early 2023. He’s been touring on and off throughout 2022, and will be performing at AmericanaFest in Nashville on September 15th at 8:00 p.m. at The 5 Spot. He’ll also be on tour with Todd Snider in November.
All we have is one song from Tommy Prine so far, but it reveals him as one of the more promising young voices in the singer/songwriter space.