For over thirty five years Tom Irwin has been taking experiences, turning them into songs, and giving those songs life through performances and recordings. The 58 year-old singer-songwriter opened for Willie Nelson & Family at the 2001 Illinois State Fair Grandstand and has performed with many other popular artists, including Ryan Adams, Billy Bob Thornton, Old 97s, Robbie Fulks, Rosie Flores, Wayne Hancock and Chuck Prophet. Readers of Illinois Times voted him Best of Springfield for musician (2007), solo musician (2004), male musician (2002), male vocalist (2001), and folk band (1994 & 1999).
Irwin works around 200 dates a year in diverse venues and various areas, known as one of the most visible and popular singer-songwriter-guitarists in central Illinois. He has released ten full-length recordings of original songs selling thousands of copies of his music. All That Love is set for an upcoming release in spring of 2017. The full band record was produced by John Stirratt, founding member of the the Chicago based, rock band Wilco and features, G.Wiz (drummer for Nora Jones), Scott Ligon (guitar/piano with NRBQ), Paul Mertens (sax with Brian Wilson and Poi Dog Pondering, and several other noted musicians.
Sangamon Songs, released in January of 2012 on Clyded Records was produced by Gary Gordon with an all acoustic lineup of mandolin, dobro, fiddle, cello, piano, guitar, autoharp, flute and standup bass. The acclaimed work chronicles through songs, the actual diary of Harry Glen Ludlam, a 16-year old boy in 1893 who lived on the farm now owned and occupied by Irwin's family. The album reached number 22 on the Folk DJ radio charts and reached many DJs and critics for lists for Best of 2012.
Irwin's music has been described as "a cross between Buddy Holly and Frank Zappa" by Gajoob magazine, "brilliant and lasting" by the Tucson Weekly, "enduring" by the State Journal-Register, "updated John Prine," by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and “good enough to smoke” by Supe du Jour of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Irwin was the featured artist in the Arts & Entertainment section of the State Journal-Register, the daily paper in Springfield, Illinois on several occasions over the past 15 years. In 2013 he was given a Downtown Music Legend award from Downtown Springfield, INC., the only person to ever receive such an award in the history of the Springfield music scene.
Irwin played with a variety of musicians nearly every Sunday at the Brewhaus in downtown Springfield, Illinois from 1994 to 2015. For over fifteen years he has penned a weekly music column called Now Playing for Springfield's newsweekly, Illinois Times. In 2015 he started a weekly Friday night show at George Rank's, now into its second year of performances with solo shows, bands and various guests. He also hosts an "open pic" open mic without a mic at Abe's Old Hat Antiques every Wednesday, along with owners Michael and Trudy Naylor, that attracts singer-songwriters and musicians from all over to participate in sharing music among friends and fans.
The versatile and prolific singer-songwriter performs in a variety of combinations with diverse musicians, sometimes as a solo acoustic act, other times with country-folk influenced combos, and often with His Hayburners, an electrifying 5-piece rock & roll group. Original songs in his live shows range from the bucolic hilarity of "I'll Be Your Bull (If You'll Be My Heifer), to the life study of "Diggin' in the Dirt", from the heartfelt sincerity of "Thank You for Loving Me" to parental loss in "I Called Him Dad." Irwin time-travels to the 1880s with the tale of his "Uncle Fud," talks about hard knocks in "The Bottom of the Hole," laughs at trouble in "What Else You Gonna Do," and brings it all back home with "Where the Earth Meets the Sky."
In 2010 Irwin received a Master’s of Art degree from the University of Illinois in Springfield in Liberal and Integrative Studies with a focus on songwriting and folk music producing the Sangamon Songs record as a master's thesis/project. He teaches as an adjunct professor in the Liberal & Integrative Studies department for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIS.
Irwin is known as a presenter of traditional folk and country tunes, covering Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Woody Guthrie, Tennessee Ernie Ford and many others. He performs for folks of all ages, in schools, homes, bars, and wherever people gather to listen.
You might laugh and cry, chuckle and squirm, tap your foot and nod your head, but you won't ignore or walk away untouched by this talented teller of stories through words and music.