Thomas Oliver is a New Zealand singer-songwriter, internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading players of the Weissenborn lap-steel guitar. He released the world’s first full-length, all instrumental, all Weissenborn album in 2013, titled Beneath The Weissenborn. With more two million views on his YouTube channel, Oliver has developed an international audience and has performed throughout New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Vietnam. Last year he was awarded the Silver Scroll for his song If I Move To Mars.
What are you plugging right now?
I recently released a new single called Shine Like The Sun. It’s a tender song of longing for love, which I wrote at Cook’s Beach, inspired by Aretha Franklin and Frazey Ford (and a beautiful view across the Pacific ocean). It features some of my favourite Wellington musicians and comes from my new album Floating In The Darkness.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
That’s an oxymoron to me. I’m a self-confessed perfectionist, so I’m obsessed by the idea of perfection. However, I believe that happiness can’t exist without sadness, so it can never be perfect. If perfect happiness existed, I believe it would cancel itself out.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mother, Judith, is the highest measure of compassion in my life. I believe that compassion is the most advanced attribute of humankind, and that which will evolve us to a higher form of ourselves. My mother is the person whom I most admire.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
I once did a cameo with State Of Mind (a drum’n’bass duo) at Sandwiches in Wellington at four in the morning. I stood up on the DJ table and sang live vocals for a collab we’d done. I was far too drunk to be performing, which became evident when I fell right off the stage during the long, high note leading to the bass drop. In front of about 300 people. I’m told that I continued singing even when I hit the floor, which makes me feel a little better about it. This remains my reference incident when I’m offered a microphone after a night of drinking.
Ever stolen anything?
I was on tour in Australia a few years ago and I saw Dave Matthews Band (one of my favourite bands) perform in Sydney while I was there. They performed Dodo, and one particular lyric struck me; one in which Dave references a time when we (humans) thought the world was flat. My new single, Shine Like The Sun, also references a time when we thought the world was flat. I guess I stole that from Dave.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
If my current appearance counts, I dislike the coffee stain I just put on my Asher Lap Steels T-shirt.
Which living person do you most despise and why?
I’m very grateful that my mother’s compassion has rubbed off on me, so I don’t believe I despise anyone.
What life lesson would you pass on to your children?
I have learned many things in my life, but one of the most prominent lessons I have learned is that if you do not have your honour, you do not have anything. If I have children one day (and I hope to), I will do my best to teach them to be honourable in every way that they can, especially when it affects the people they love.
What job would you do other than your own and why?
Music is such an all-consuming profession that I literally can’t even imagine doing anything else. If we’re talking purely hypothetically, I’d love to be a professional skateboarder.
Thomas Oliver’s new album Floating In The Darkness featuring If I Move To Mars was released on April 28.