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art theplaceHe sat two seats up from me. In seventh grade advanced algebra class, Tom Pearo was your typical late-1990s kid. A bowl cut atop his head, with Airwalk everything for attire, I first noticed him when he turned around to talk to Susan Seymour.

And the reason I took note was that I wanted to talk to Susan myself. When I first entered the classroom and sat down, I already made plans to lean forward, tap her shoulder, introduce myself, perhaps even get a house phone number. 

But, Tom beat me to it. He was already across enemy lines. I also tried to keep pace, to which neither of us made much ground before our teacher Mr. Menard told us to “turn around and pay attention.” And though Susan wasn’t having any of our advances, some good did come of that morning — Tom and I became friends.

And for growing up in a town straight out of a John Mellencamp song, Tom provoked the notion in me of wanting something more out of life, something beyond the confines of what I knew my everyday adolescent reality to be. He and I would feed off of each other, where mischief and chaos always were on the menu for the day. It was about finding the most absurd person, place or thing in our cow town and immersing ourselves in it. 

There were a lot of adventures like that with Tom all through high school, and whenever I was home during the holidays in college. He was in school nearby in Burlington, Vermont, a wild city of cosmopolitan culture where one could truly take a walk on the wild side if the night presented itself that way. We’d wander the city, smoking a joint, pondering the mysteries of life and the universe, starting conversations with strangers, or maybe even catching some avant-garde musical act in some cozy café around the corner. 

These days, we still keep in touch, and remain on the same page, something I appreciate more as the years move along. And through our friendship he performed in numerous bands, most notably of which being Squid City, a fiery jazz-fusion act whose unlimited talent and scope was cut short due to wanderlust by its members. 

But, like clockwork, Tom never stopped playing, with his recent endeavors placing him front and center as the guitarist for Abbie Morin. Self-proclaimed “foxy folk” from the underground, the band recently sold all of their earthly possessions and hit the road, with the motto “music or bust” etched into the dirty back window of their vehicle.

Smoky Mountain News: You sold everything and took off for the open road. What provoked this?

Abbie Morin: I’ve been dreaming of traveling the United States for a really long time. I kept telling myself “you have to wait until you have a great band” and “you should have an album before you go” and “you need to have this certain amount of money.” And then it hit me that really nothing was standing in my way except for my own stipulations. I want to gain perspective about what kind of places and people inspire me. Strangely enough, comfort is not always conducive to my creative flow. I hope that this long and mysterious journey will draw some muses out in ways that surprise me. 

Tom Pearo: It’s easy to get stuck in a very comfortable place like Burlington, but oftentimes being comfortable isn’t the best thing for creativity. It definitely doesn’t help movement. And if you want to spread the word, you have to move around a lot, at least in the early stages, and probably in every stage. I made the decision this year to really get serious about making music as a professional, and I decided that leaving Burlington was actually a really great way for me to transition into that life. I had been playing music here in Vermont for over a decade, and it was working out fine as a glorified hobby, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I needed a catalyst, and that’s exactly what this tour was.

SMN: In the heat of a performance, where do you go in your head?

AM: Every single part of my body is transmitting only the message. It can be overwhelming to go there sometimes. It can get pretty raw, or very sentimental, because I’m consistently revisiting the same memories over and over again. That being said, I can only go as deep as the audience will let me. If I feel the energy of the people in the room supporting me, I know I’m safe to reach into those dark places. It’s different every time, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of live music.

TP: When everything is clicking I’m in meditation mode — there are no thoughts are going through my mind. I’m totally immersed in the waters of creativity and just like when you’re exercising hard or making love you aren’t thinking, you’re doing. I’ve been trying to do that a lot lately, not think so much, just do. It’s hard, but I’ve seen the light and I can’t turn back now. 

Editor’s Note: Abbie Morin and Tom Pearo will be performing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall in Asheville. They will also be performing at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Water’n Hole Bar in Waynesville. www.abbiemorin.com

 

Hot picks

1 A regional breast cancer charity truck show, “Beards for Boobs” will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Cherokee Expo Center.

2 The 25th annual Chili Cook-Off will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Depot in Bryson City.

3 Writer Ron Rash will discuss his latest novel Above the Waterfall at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville.

4 The Church Street Art & Craft Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, on Main Street in downtown Waynesville. 

5 Nantahala Brewing Company (Bryson City) will have The DuPont Brothers (Americana/folk) at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16.

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