by Mika Rawson
Tom Conway first started playing the guitar when he was a kid. It was a phase his parents hoped would pass, but it didn’t. Now he’s an experienced musician–so experienced, in fact, that he’s worked with Willie Nelson (he even went on tour with him). He frequently gigs around Maui, but took a little to answer some questions for us.
MAUITIME: Why did you make music into a career?
TOM CONWAY: I got into music, which, of course, led to the entertainment business. I love being on stage and performing live.
MT: How did you get your start?
TC: I started playing guitar at nine years old after my mom got me a Jimi Hendrix album. I just loved music ever since I can remember.
MT: What did your parents think when you first decided to become a musician?
TC: They hoped it would just be a passing fancy. “We’ll get Tommy a guitar but I’m sure he’ll get over it soon…”
MT: Do you work with other bands or are you on your own?
TC: I perform mostly solo but I’ve been in many bands over the years, starting with my first rock band in fifth grade. I did some touring with Willie Nelson and his band this past year and that was a real honor for me.
MT: What kind of music do you play?
TC: I play a very wide repertoire that includes blues, rock, pop, Jazz, Reggae and country. At my solo gigs I might go from Hendrix to Sinatra to Django to AC/DC to Willie Nelson!
MT: What are some of your favorite songs to perform?
TC: I like all the songs and styles I play in my solo set but I’ll always make sure to play a couple tunes by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. They sound beautiful on acoustic guitar and are fun to play!
MT: Did you learn how to play from a teacher or did you teach yourself?
TC: Both. Early on, I had a few lessons but I was mostly learning from records by ear. When I was 25, I moved from Maui to Los Angeles to study with some of the best players in the world and they really helped me to grow, which I still strive to do. Jorge Strunz, Ted Greene, Lenny Breau and Scott Henderson had a big impact on me.
MT: Where do you play on the island?
TC: My regular gigs are every Monday and Friday at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea 4-6pm and every Saturday at the Southshore Tiki Lounge in Kihei 4-6pm. Also, this Friday, Oct. 3, I’m playing at the MACC at 7pm with Lily Meola.
My calendar is on my website (Tomconwayguitar.com).
Photo courtesy Tom Conway