The Chameleon – BlairOutLoud

Tom Blair is a man of many hats, you might say.

One night he could be singing dozens of songs by himself.

The next time you see him, he might be performing as a duet with Tom Carling or wife, Amanda.

Another day, he could be on stage as part of the Leonard Koggins Trio (LK3) with bandmates that sometimes expands to LK3+ when his wife joins the lineup.

It all adds up to an entertainment experience that Blair is in the process of branding BlairOutLoud, with multiple ways to give audiences a good time with music.

We caught up with this very busy man a few days ago and found out there’s a whole lot to know about this talented singer and musician. Here’s some outtakes from our interview, and if you want to see them perform, watch for one of their shows in the area at places like Rocco’s in Jasper. They also have a very cool website at that has tons of videos from live performances.

Your band recently performed at Rocco’s in Jasper. How did that come about, and how did it go?

I played a cul-de-sac show last spring during COVID up in Canton, and it turned into this long run of more cul-de-sac shows. One of the people knew Rocco in Jasper and told him he needed to hire my band to play there. Rocco gave us a gig in January, and it was a really, really fun night – had people dancing and cutting up and having a great time. I didn’t get to meet Rocco that night, but since then we have been texting back and forth and talking on the phone about future dates. For him to pitch my name to your magazine as a part of this new relationship that I have with him is really, really cool. I really appreciate him doing that. I guess our show and our reputation were good enough for him to pitch us to you.

Which lineup did you perform at Rocco’s – solo, duo, or trio?

The band that I joined back in 2018 is called the Leonard Koggins Trio or LK3. Leonard Koggins is a play on Kenny Loggins. It’s just a stupid, silly name we came up with. We had this whole silly band lore going on forever that Kenny Loggins and Leonard Koggins got in a fight back in the ‘80s and it put Leonard Koggins in jail and Kenny Loggins went on to have a career in music. So we were dedicated to playing shows to raise money to raise bail for Leonard Koggins to get him out of jail. It was the Leonard Koggins Trio who played that night at Rocco’s, and we just had a blast. I guess it was enough to get that area talking about us and get Rocco excited so now we’ve got a little relationship going there. He called me a couple of weeks ago and we’ve laid out some more dates going into 2021, so that’s exciting.

I guess the pandemic kind of messed you up, like everybody else back in 2020.

Yeah, so I had a super solid run in 2019. I was like kicking ass and taking names. I dedicated myself to full-time music a couple of years ago when I was able to quit my job and me and my wife had our finances worked out. In 2019 I was playing basically five, six days a week, every week all year long – either solo or I was playing in LK3 or I was playing in two other bands – a Foo Fighters band and a band with my wife that did ‘90s chick rock stuff called You Oughta Know. And so I was just playing my butt off, and rolling into 2020, I had no plans of stopping.

Then I guess the pandemic changed all that…

The second week of March, I was still on schedule, planning on rolling right into St. Patty’s Day with LK3. Then I got all my phone calls. It was literally every single day – hey we’re gonna suspend the music, hey we’re gonna cancel this for a little while, hey we need to shut the doors. And so my whole world just crumbled that second or third week of March. I got a little worried that I had picked the wrong career for myself. But a couple of weeks later, I started to do Facebook Live performances. My fans watched and were super supportive and helped me out, sent me digital tips, and I was able to maintain a little bit of income. Then April 1, I was offered a solo acoustic neighborhood gig in Canton in a cul-de-sac. All of the families came out into their yards, brought their food and coolers, and enjoyed a little neighborhood concert. Enough people filmed it that it went kinda – not viral in terms of all over the internet, but in terms of my little circle of people – it did go kinda viral. So for the next few weeks, we played like five or six more of those neighborhood shows and eventually did some duos and LK3+ gigs. It was a really fun time, and it opened up a lot of opportunities that I never would have gotten if that hadn’t happened like that, you know what I mean?

Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

I know that was a little long winded, but I will tell you that those events that happened during that time propelled me into the rest of the 2020. So that all of a sudden, I was still doing special events, mixed in with venue events that were hiring me back, and I actually finished 2020 really strong. It propelled me into this year so I’m set up pretty good

I guess it’s kind of fun to do so many different things because you’re not locked in as a solo act and you’re not locked in as a duet and you’re not locked in as a trio or even a quartet. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to do such a variety?

Yeah, absolutely. In 2004, I was a part of the original metal scene in Atlanta and went on tour with a group called Colossick up the East Coast, doing big time, original musician stuff, and it was great. But we had to call it quits in 2009 when the economy tanked. I just decided to move on with my life and kind of let music go for a little while. I got married and moved on, bought a house and blah, blah, blah.

Then in about 2011 somebody said, hey, you should be in this cover band. And I was like, no. That’s not really why I’m in music or was in music. I’m not interested in rock; I was always a metal head. I was always interested in heavier, hardcore metal stuff. I loved all music, but in terms of what I could see myself doing on stage and what I thought my fans expected of me, I was still of the thought process that if I ever do anything with music again, it should be something metal.

So this particular group wanted me to be in a cover band and play Van Halen and Stone Temple Pilots, just rock ‘n’ roll stuff, Led Zeppelin… I didn’t want to do it at first, but then I decided, what the hell, let’s give this a whirl, see what it’s like. I got up on stage and started playing live again and realized that I had missed so much of it. After about a year or two of that I realized, man, I don’t necessarily care what type of music it is, I just want to do the entertainment part of it. I don’t mind that I’m playing cover music. I just want to play. And I feel like I’m good at it, good with getting the audience engaged. You know, I felt at home all of a sudden.

Years went by, and I continued to be in all types of cover bands. I played in an Alice in Chains cover project, I played in a sort of hard rock kind of thing, I did a classic rock biker thing, I did all kinds of different bands. One of the guys that was sort of heading up a lot of these projects wanted me to be in an acoustic duo with him. I was like, oh, okay, I can do that. So I started doing an acoustic duo thing with him, probably in the 2014-15 era. We were playing live shows with the band, and we were doing acoustic duo shows. Sometimes my partner would take a break, but I would stay on stage and keep playing and do some of my own cover things out by myself. I finally got to thinking, you know, if I learned some more songs, I could probably hold a three-hour show myself as a solo thing.

In 2017 or so, I started experimenting with that, and by 2018, I had a lot of solo acoustic gigs on weekdays and every now and then on Sunday afternoons, mixed in with the bands I was playing with on Fridays and Saturdays. This went on and on and on until I realized I could do this for real and I could set up my own Facebook page as what I eventually called BlairOutLoud and I could start promoting my own solo gigs under the banner of BlairOutLoud. Then I could make BlairOutLoud into whatever I wanted it to be. It could be an influencer type of account where I shoot videos talking about gear, I could do interviews with other musicians, I could do solo acoustic stuff. So 2018 is really when I started in earnest being BlairOutLoud when I did my acoustic stuff.
Now this is also the time that I joined LK3. So here I am playing with LK3 as a band, but I’m doing my solo gigs under BlairOutLoud. That just kinda stayed like that for several years. But the last year or two, my wife and I were in a band together that did ‘90s alternative chick rock called You Oughta Know. My wife does not do music full time, but she is a piano player and can sing and play flute, did all kinds of music stuff growing up. She showed interest in wanting to keep playing live with me. So I said okay, well, it would be cool if you would play with me and the LK3 guys every now and then and we could really open the gates on all the material we could do. We could be LK3+. We added her in and we did a wedding, we did a bunch of different neighborhood events, and that’s how all of this stuff has come out.

So now I literally have my BlairOutLoud solo act, I do a BlairOutLoud duo with my wife, and the band LK3 is going to be making a transition onto the BlairOutLoud label in a couple of months. We’re sort of laying the groundwork for how we change this whole branding of the band to BlairOutLoud, and what will eventually happen is everything will be BlairOutLoud Entertainment. It’ll be BlairOutLoud Entertainment Presents Solo, BlairOutLoud Entertainment Presents Duo, or the BlairOutLoud Band. Everything will be under the BlairOutLoud label, and it’ll either be solo gigs, duos, trios, an acoustic trio if we need to hold the volume down, or full band electric with lights, sounds, production, keyboards. So, yeah, it’s all going to be BlairOutLoud as we move into this year. It feels good, feels like it’s got some momentum and it’s picking up.

It seems like you’ve kind of embraced the digital age with your music because I know it can sometimes be detrimental to artists the way the business is now. But it seems like you’ve got it figured out.

Well, yeah … maybe … right? Here’s one thing I’ve thought about. If BlairOutLoud produces original music at some point, which we might – I have no idea, I don’t really have any plans to do that right now. But if we do, I almost am convinced that you can record everything yourself or at least pay to have it done within your circle of whoever you trust.

You can produce it, you can get a distribution kind of deal where they get it distributed to places like iTunes and Spotify, and then you can promote yourself through the use of video and social media and your website to your community. I know that that’s not the next stadium band. But at some point, you are creating a music career for yourself without the overhead of what all of this used to cost just say even a decade or 15 years ago. It is amazing what you can do now with a computer.

I think that if you are a band, really concerned about growing a following, and growing your influence, if you take all of these tools, and you start to utilize them on a daily basis, and you show up and provide really hardcore entertainment value, slowly, but surely, you will build your own community around what you’re doing, and not have to necessarily need the help of a major label or whatever. I feel like today’s musicians have all of that technology in front of them, and if they don’t take advantage of it, they’re wasting time, right?

When you were growing up, did you anticipate a music career? What were your goals?

I grew up in a religious setting. I led singing at church and got up in front of people and did stuff. Then I was put into piano lessons, started when I was in third grade. When I got maybe seventh grade, the guitar was really attractive. I was like, oh, man, starting to learn Metallica riffs and get into rock and metal stuff on guitar. I stayed with piano for a number of years. So music was all around me. It was in my religious studies, it was in my … it was in my life. And so I was actually in a fairly big band when I was in high school. I don’t know what happens in today’s day and age, but when I was in high school, I was in a band that was playing at the Masquerade downtown and playing at the Roxy and playing at the Cotton Club. As an 11th grader. I don’t know if other bands even have those type of opportunities these days, I don’t think that they do especially now that COVID has really messed up everything.

So coming out of high school, I was ready to just jump right into being a professional musician. But my family was just very not on board with that. My parents, you know, loved me and supported me, but they did not go to college themselves so they were really hoping that I would go to college and open up more opportunity for myself. I understand their thinking – if you didn’t get to go to college yourself, the best thing in the world would be for your child to go. So I went to college and studied music down at Georgia State, music business, had a blast down there, ended up meeting my wife down there. You know, I’d never trade it for the world.

But when I got done with my college degree, I just got back in a van and went on tour. I went to college because they wanted me to do it. I had a sense of accomplishment myself, but the reality is I spent six years down at Georgia State trying to make somebody else happy. I was happy but it wasn’t really for me, it was for them. Once I got out of there, I was like hey, all right, I did it, now I can get on with some other stuff I want to do in my life. I worked some local jobs. I worked at Guitar Center and met a whole lot of musicians coming through. I worked with the Guitar Center in Atlanta, so I’ve met all these people that were on tour. And I was just like dying, dying to be that, dying to be a professional musician.

What about the metal band career?

In 2004, I finally got a chance to sort of jump out there and do my own touring and see how far I could push the metal band that I was at. We got a promotional deal from Jagermeister. We got put on Jagermeister dates, with big bands, opened up for some big metal bands and did some big stuff. It was fun. It was awesome. We had a great time. I had about a nickel to my name, but it was a great time. So I think to answer your question, I was definitely destined to do this. I don’t know that I have always been like, I have to make this happen, I have to make this happen. I just have been in these places where it’s been right in front of me.

When I worked at Guitar Center, I saw these professional musicians coming in on a daily basis buying stuff because they were going into the studio or buying stuff because they’re about to go on tour. And I was just like, Oh, I can do this. I know I can do that. This mentality went on and on and on. Finally, when I got out there and did it, it was awesome. But 2009, the economy wrecked, and we kind of had to slow down and things fell apart. And I let it go.

But you know, honestly, this sort of second phase of my career, just doing entertainment, just doing covers, and touring around metro Atlanta and playing all these places, and providing all of this wonderful entertainment for people and building up that community is all I could ask for. it’s fantastic, I really enjoy it.

It’s a really satisfying feeling to get a good response from the audience, I guess.

It is. The way that I do my live show is that I actually put a song list out for people to take to their tables, and they can text message me their song requests that I receive right on stage while I’m rocking out. I can see their messages coming through and basically line up the songs in my head that I know I’m going to do next in order to handle those requests. I end up running requests almost all night, if I get a high engagement from the audience.
That’s so much fun because it’s just like, you know, they put in their request, and maybe three or four songs later, all of a sudden I’m playing their song. That’s been real enriching for the audiences that have come to see me because they get to call the shots and I’m the guy that doesn’t. That’s been really fun. For me to play songs that I like, that I feel like the audience will like, is okay.That’s what most musicians do.

But when all of a sudden I see a request come through and just jump right into that request, then I see that table light up because somebody goes, Oh, that’s my request. Yeah. I mean, that’s even better, because now I’ve got a connection with the audience that I didn’t have before. And that’s been really fun, really great.

I noticed in one of the pictures that you had, I guess, is it an iPad and your phone mounted on the microphone stand.

Yeah. The musician community, this is one of the things that they’re divided on. There are some hardcore musicians that look down upon having an iPad or a helper up there, because it’s a point of pride to say, hey, I know a hundred songs and I don’t have to look at any kind of iPad and I don’t have to rely on any of that I will agree to a certain extent It is pretty impressive to watch a performer play for three hours long about 30 to 40 songs, with no help in front of them. So I just think that having the iPad in front of me, it is a little bit of a crutch, because I’m relying on it for certain things. However, I’ve expanded my song list to 265 songs. And I probably know more than that, just if you start totaling in all the stuff that the band does and everything.

I can’t remember all of those lyrics, and you know what, to the audience member that just wants to come have fun, it totally does not matter. They don’t care whether I’m using it. Now, I don’t stare at the iPad the whole time. I just use it for reference so most of the time, my head’s up and I’m interacting with the crowd.
I have my phone mounted there because I started doing this whole system, where I asked people to text message me their request and their name. I’ll be like, oh, look, Fred wants to hear “Brown Eyed Girl,” you know, and all of a sudden, Fred looks up from his table. And it’s like, boom, he just said my name, and that’s the song I wanted to hear. So, all of a sudden, me and Fred have got an awesome connection.

And that technology that’s sitting there in front of me helps me maintain that level of energy. So yeah, thank you for noticing that. Like I said, some musicians think that you shouldn’t have some of that stuff, or at least it’s a little bit more hidden. I just don’t care. I’m not worried about it. As long as my show does not suffer from energy and engagement.

How did the BlairOutLoud name come about? What inspired that?

When I first started doing my acoustic stuff, I kind of went the generic route that a lot of performers take where they just do their name, first and last name, plus the tag of music. Tom Blair Music. Oh, boy. That’s great. That’s just great. It looks like, you know, “Fred” is playing this week, it looks like “Tom Blair” is playing next week, great. It just didn’t seem like anything very interesting to me. I had the confidence that I could get out there and make it interesting. But the label didn’t seem like it had anything to it.

So me and my wife were sitting around one evening discussing this, and she said, you know, you certainly are loud, you’re Blair out loud. And I was like, hahaha, and we just laughed about it. And she’s like, yeah, you know, it’s like a car horn. We were making all kinds of jokes about Blair, like B-L-A-R-E Out Loud. At first, I was like, okay, that’s a joke. Let’s get back to a real discussion about what I should do.

And the more that I said it, and the more that I wrote it down, and the more that I started to think about it, I was like, gosh, you know, it’s got a little bit of a … something to it. There’s a tie-in with being exciting and loud and whatever. And then there’s a tie in with my last name Blair. And I was like, ah,,you know, let’s just go for it, let’s just do something different. And call it BlairOutLoud.

When I would start to say that to people, they’d be like, oh, and I’d get a smile on their face. And I was like, okay, it seems like this label is kind of sticking. And my wife, you know, of course, she’s in the background going, you know, told you so. Yeah, and I decided that BlairOutLoud did not just need to be me playing solo acoustic, it needed to be a brand, it needed to be a YouTube channel, it needed to be an advertisement for my lessons. Last year, I started giving piano lessons and guitar lessons.

And then I’ve got it branded across all of the social media now. I play all of these shows under BlairOutLoud, and then somebody would come and say, Hey, don’t you have a band? And I would be yeah, it’s called LK3. It’s like, oh, wait a minute, what does that mean? So suddenly I’ve got to have this 20-minute conversation with somebody about, oh, well, I joined this other band in 2018, called Leonard Koggins Band.

So that’s why it’s starting to become very apparent to me, and even the guys in LK3, who are very supportive of this, that I’m in a position to take BlairOutLoud, the brand, to a higher level where it can be BlairOutLoud Entertainment, and then it’s everything underneath that label – what all I do, my YouTube and my social media, I do the solo thing and the duo and the band and everything. So yeah, it’s gonna be cool.

It’s something that I want to set us up to where we’re open to doing anything from biker events to weddings. You know, we can clean up, we can do your wedding. Or, we can get down and dirty and, you know, play your biker event.Which direction should we take this? It’s all BlairOutLoud. So, yeah, it’s cool. I like the label. I think it’s sticking pretty well. And I think it’s going to do it good for us.

So where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Wow. Twenty years. Man, 20, that’s deep. That is deep. I think what is happening right now with BlairOutLoud will have a very healthy run. If we can bounce back from COVID and the economy can bounce back and people continue to come out to these venues and continue to hire me for these private events, I’m going to continue the BlairOutLoud brand for as long as I can. I don’t have any intentions of letting it go at this point and going back to what my parents would call a real job. It ties in with what I said earlier about the tools that are right in front of us. I don’t know that there’s any reason to lay down and be lazy right now. I think what I should do over the next 10 years, at least, as long as I can keep getting my crap out of the back of an SUV and walking in someplace and play it, I think that I should just continue down this road as strong as I can.

When you talk to a financial advisor, they’ll say, the ages of 35 to 50 or 55, they’ll throw out some age range, is the best time that you have in your life to make the most money possible in terms of your health, in terms of how smart you are, and in terms of the opportunities that you have. So, you know, I’m 43 this year. I think, at least for the next 10 years, if I can continue to push the BlairOutLoud brand to whatever heights that it can get to, I think that I’ll have a fantastic run. I think that if I play my cards right, and me and my wife run our finances correctly, I won’t ever have to lay down music again.

It’ll eventually be something where I’m that old dude that still has that Wednesday gig, like some of these other guys that I know of on the scene, that they don’t necessarily need the gig, they just kind of have it because they have the stature and they have the history with the area. And I might be one of those guys that’s still schlubbing the stuff into the club. Not really because I need to but just because I want to.

I’m hoping that the next 20 years is just filled with fun, and entertainment, and a love of engaging and bringing people together in the community. Just having a good time and reminding ourselves that music is a tool to bring us together to build the relationships that most of us all want. And so I’m just gonna utilize it as best I can and see how far I can take that.