Love Letter To A Record: Hugo Bladel On Tommy Emmanuel’s ‘Only’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Hugo Bladel – Tommy Emmanuel’s Only

Dear Tommy Emmanuel – Only,

As a 13-year-old child from a small town, you were the soundtrack that helped me through the frosty Hobart winter mornings and excruciatingly early (for a teenager) 8am bus rides. With my shoulder-length hair and ¾ sized, beaten up nylon string guitar under my arm, your intricate melodies and emotive tones would soothe my teen angst. Rubbing the sleep out of my eye whilst listening to you on my 4GB Ipod Mini in my cosy corner at the back of the 470 school bus was the perfect start to the day.

You were the foundation of my development as a guitarist, even though I would always put my own spin on the music whilst learning it (much to the frustration of my guitar teacher). Your father, Tommy, is a one-man band in his own right, despite only using one instrument. Witnessing his ability to play the bass line at the same time as the melody all whilst singing and percussively drumming on the body of his beautiful Maton guitar inspired me to learn the finger-style technique – a technique that has enabled me to create my own signature sound.

Whilst having no lyrics in your arrangements, the music still paints an illustrious picture. The precision and technical skill is amazing, but feeling and heart is never compromised due to the grace and care that is put into each note that is played. One of the first songs I learnt from your selection was ‘Those Who Wait’, and it is one of the prettiest guitar arrangements i’ve ever heard. Watching Tommy perform it live on YouTube with tears in his eyes showed me what real feel and passion he has for his music and changed the way I approach music to this day.

More recently, you were there for me in my journey through Europe. The Spanish feel and delicate trickling melody of ‘The Robin’ offered me a peaceful stillness in a San Sebastian sunset, whilst ‘Questions’ brought me to silent tears on a train in the rainy outskirts of industrial Paris on an Amsterdam-bound train. ‘Mombasa’ and it’s uplifting rhythm energised me in Edinburgh at the heart of a busy fringe festival and busking fatigue, while ‘Drivetime’ joined me for a misty morning coffee on a Basque country farm in south west France.

Throughout my life I have laughed, loved, cried and dreamed while listening to you. I’ve spent endless afternoons making coffee in a small cafe listening to you. I’ve spent long nights staring into space contemplating my life’s purpose listening to you. I’ve spent hours studying you and perfecting you. I’ve created feeling and set moods whilst performing your music at countless gigs. I’ve felt the hairs on my neck stand up and felt my heart sink to the bottom of my chest listening to you. I will probably never stop listening to you and I know you will still be there when Tommy and I are both just memories. You are a timeless piece of art.

Thank you for building my foundation as a musician and inspiring me to reach for the stars.

Yours truly,

Hugo Bladel x

Tassie singer-songwriter Hugo Bladel‘s funky new single ‘Feel the Love’ is out now. Listen below.

Live Dates

Saturday, 7th July

Republic Bar, Hobart

Tickets: Oztix

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