Tom The Mail Man is an enigma from Atlanta. The city known for its trap rap also brings us this alternative rap-turned-emo-punk-pop rocker. One of our Artists To Watch in 2021, this is another year to stay tapped into Tom The Mail Man. Sunset Visionary, Vol. 2, a sequel to his 2020 album SV1, just dropped and is a testament to the journey Tom has made in his life and in his music. Writing since the age of 14 and with multiple projects to his name, Tom is in the game for the long haul.
According to Tom, SV2 will serve as a deep dive into the alternative space. “SV1 was like a kid that was hopeful, with a full sense of justice and a strong will,” he says. “And then SV2 is real life. I’ve been beaten. I’ve been fucked up. This is how I feel now. I’m not going to listen to the angel on my shoulder anymore because I’ve been hurt already and I want revenge.”
Sitting in a blue-lit room amongst walls plastered with anime posters and soundtracked by the subtle squeaking of a toy from his dog Ragna, Tom is right in his element. This is his safe space, where he holes up to create with as few distractions as possible. His charismatic and humble energy radiates, even through a computer screen. We got to catch up on everything from his musical inspirations for SV2 to his in-depth advice for independent artists and his do or die attitude to creativity.
Listen to Tom The Mailman’s ‘Sunset Visionary, Vol. 2,’ out now on all platforms.
Your newest album Sunset Visionary, Vol. 2 just dropped along with a headlining concert in your home state. What has this been like for you and what have you been most excited for your fans to experience with this album?
I just want them to hear the fucking music. You know what I’m saying? Because I think there’s a perspective of the artist that I used to be that’s still out there. And I like that because nobody really knows what to expect with this album. I’m really just excited to move on and go further into the alternative space. And being able to have my own show—I’ve never had that before, it’s super dope. I really don’t go out much, especially with the pandemic, so I don’t know what my fanbase looks like in real life. It’s crazy!
How does SV2 serve as a follow up to SV1? How are they connected?
More or less SV2 is showing progression. But, the SV saga started randomly. I wanted to try a different style of music and I wanted it to be straight acoustic. I guess what I consider to be rock or pop music. It’s just very fun, upbeat, and heavy in emotion. It was really just supposed to be an acoustic project though. And then I never planned for volume two, but then I was making a lot of music at the time and I was like, “Damn, this could be the follow-up.” It just came together.
Throughout your discography we’ve seen you shift more from rap and hip-hop to a more emo, punk rock, and pop sound. How did this transition happen for you? Was it a natural progression?
I think I was just inspired. It’s funny, like three years ago, I got put onto Falling In Reverse, Panic! At The Disco, and My Chemical Romance. Everybody grew up on that music, but I’m just now getting hip to all of it. And then it’s really Ronnie Radke who inspired me to go in this direction. And while I was in the middle of making SV2, I listened to Olivia Rodrigo’s whole album. That changed the direction that I wanted to go with it too. And then also MGK has been putting out some really fire songs. I don’t know, I’m not an MGK hater! I fuck with the music. I’m just here for the music. Mod Sun is also fire. KennyHoopla also really fire. I think I’m just inspired by seeing other artists do great things.
Mod Sun had really amazing things to say about you and your music in a joint livestream a few weeks ago. How does it feel to get positive feedback from other artists you respect?
It’s just a surreal moment to be noticed, if that makes sense. Because being an independent and a somewhat underground artist you don’t know who really knows who you are or if anybody knows you at all. So it’s crazy to have someone say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been watching you for six months, dude you’re sick.” Saying this publicly and using your platform to show me love, that’s crazy. I appreciate that.
Would you consider any of your songs to be “party” music?
I didn’t know if anybody else got that vibe, but “Over,” that’s like a party song. I want people to dance. Watching early ‘90s videos and seeing how people used to be back in the day, it seemed like people actually danced and had fun and were really moving at social gatherings. That’s how I want my shows to be. So, I have to make the music to make them move physically, you know what I’m saying? Bring that energy. That’s what I want.
You started out as primarily a rapper and developed into more of a singer. Was there a moment where you became comfortable singing? Was that a struggle for you or an easy adjustment?
I was definitely always singing it in private. Publicly, I tried to do a little video when I was in college and that got received as well. I still didn’t really believe that people thought I could sing. Then “Come Over’’ came out. Everybody was just like, “Oh my God, he’s a singer.” And I’m like, “Wait, I’m a singer?” Then coming to this project, I had more confidence. The whole project is basically singing. I got a little bit more confidence, but I honestly thought my voice was shit. It’s a process.
Do you have any advice for people who are lacking confidence in their art?
More people need to talk their shit. That’s the energy I like to carry out. I would like for people to try to embrace being more confident. Even me, I have an issue with that myself. If you’re good at something and you’re confident in it, talk your shit. It’s okay. It’s not offending anybody, you’re not talking shit about nobody else. You’re just talking about what you think about yourself and taking pride in it. Do it. Do it. Talk shit more.
You’ve sampled the Foo Fighters, Studio Ghibli soundtracks, movies like Paid In Full and more. What’s your process for finding and incorporating samples?
For the Paid In Full sample, that was from a very crazy speech in that movie. It was just a movie that I grew up with. And then for the tone of the song, both things completely meshed and it made sense. It’s like bringing two loves from two separate things and trying to see if they fit together.
If SV2 was the soundtrack to any movie what would it be?
Nobody’s going to guess this. I would hope not. But for this specific album it’s The Wolf of Wall Street. I say it because there’s highs and lows. It’s a hell of a lot of different feelings throughout that movie. Leo is fire.
With songs like “Death Note” and “Evangelion,” it’s clear anime and manga have had an impact on your music. How has your love of anime affected your music and added to your imagination/storytelling process?
A lot of what I do musically just happens naturally. And I try to lean towards things that I actually like. Anime is so good at bringing out the emotion in things that real people can’t do themselves.
Like if I go on the stage and start crying and being super genuine about it, most people will say, “You look like a bitch.” But, if I say it on a song poetically, and then I put a cover with a character expressing the emotions, then the message is received that way. Way better than me having a HD album cover of tears going down my face. It’s not the ‘90s, I’m not Trey Songz. This is not that.
So your art is like a characterization of yourself in some ways?
Yeah. There’s a lot of metaphors in the art. For example the bears [on the cover], I haven’t really said much about that. They’re both called Leo, there’s a blue bear and there’s a red bear. The blue bear is more of a representation of my innocence and my childlike side. In a lot of the covers you see, I’m wrapping myself around the bear, trying to protect him.
So Tom the Mail Man is the outer shell that gets the beating, gets the bruises just to protect the innocent. But on the SV2 cover he’s holding Leo upside down like in a threatening way looking beaten and bruised. SV1 was like a kid that was hopeful, with a full sense of justice and a strong will. And then SV2 is real life. I’ve been beaten. I’ve been fucked up. This is how I feel now. I’m not going to listen to the angel on my shoulder anymore because I’ve been hurt already and I want revenge.
Anime is like that. It has so many layers to peel back that I just want to bring that into my own music. For instance, Demon Slayer is not just a happy, go-lucky anime with pretty colors and beautiful animation. There’s some, really dark, gritty stuff in there, and it brings light to a lot of people’s real life situations.
For instance most people look down on thieves. Anime has taught me not to look down on thieves because you don’t know what their situation is. Have you ever been put in a situation where you really had to steal something? I like thinking about things like that. What I want my music to do for others is the same as what anime does for me.
What’s your favorite anime right now?
Right now I’m going to just give it to Attack On Titan because this is the last season. That last episode was godly. It’s a masterpiece. And Demon Slayer is right up there. They had a phenomenal season just in terms of full quad, full animation story, pacing and everything. It was fire. It was amazing.
You’ve said you also enjoy Shoujo anime. What draws you to that genre?
I love it. I’m a nerd. I just love romance. I love the little butterflies. I get it when the character’s crush gets a hint that they might like each other. My friend just got me a manga book for my birthday, this Orane series. This is the most gut wrenching romance. It’s amazing.
A while back you sent your video for “Lil Tommy” into a No Jumper livestream. What made you decide to do this?
Well, at that time I had to find a way to market my music by myself because I didn’t have a manager. That was just one of the tactics. I’d go in there and save up money at whatever job I was working. Roughly it comes like $100, $150 to put your video out there. So I would go to channels that I watch with big audiences, and then pay every time.
I would go to Lael Hansen. I would go to imdontai. I would go to No Jumper. Whoever had a live stream and a decent amount of people in it. That was on the goal with the No Jumper thing. Other people saw it and that’s what I wanted. Other people really got to judge it right there, decided they like it and then go back, and then turned it into a moment. That’s why I did that a couple times.
You’re in Atlanta right now, what’s that like as an artist in an area that has so much musical presence?
Yeah. I’m like 40 minutes away from where my friend stays in the center of Atlanta. I’ve been on the scene and I’ve been around all the Atlanta rappers that are really from the city like Wiley from Atlanta, Kenny Mason, Daniel Novello. There’s a lot of super talented guys out here. But, I’m not really out there. I just stay in my little bubble and just exist. I don’t bother anybody until I’m out there, unless I have a show. I’m not really super social, honestly. I just stick with my little group of people and then make music.
We’re not in high school no more. I’m just trying to make good music. I’m trying to make music that lasts years and years and years and become a household name for life. I want to be in music history. I can make friends in music if you’re a dope person in real life and it’s not just like, “Hey, I got a persona and I’m this guy.” I don’t give a fuck about that. If you’re dope as a person, that’s it.
Do you feel like being different from the typical Atlanta sounds as an advantage or disadvantage?
I definitely use it to my advantage. A lot of people don’t necessarily make the type of music that I make. If you make niche songs, it’s easier for people to get behind you. My position works for me. It works because I’m from Atlanta, but I’m not really that typical Atlanta guy.
Are you excited for Atlanta [TV Show] Season 3?
That shit is about to be sick. That shit is about to be sick as fuck. Gambino is an amazing writer. He’s an amazing actor. He’s an amazing comic. He’s an amazing singer. He’s everything.
If you could have one artist or or director create a music video for you, who would it be?
I’m going to give it to Tyler. Visually, he’s fucking insane. Lil NAS X is up there because he’s amazing with his videos. I’m going to give it to Ronnie Radke too. Really, that’s the order. Yeah. I go Tyler first.
You speak about having this dark and light duality in your art and music. How did this begin for you and what’s the reception been like?
I like mixing very dark with very beautiful imagery. I get called a Satan worshiper so much! It doesn’t make sense. It’s just the type of art that I’m into. And you have kids that are on the internet hearing a lot about symbolism. And they think if it has a cross, or if it has horns, or if it’s black, it’s scary devil shit.’” I’m just like, “Bro, it’s just art. Shut up.”
Artist development takes time. We’re in this super microwave era, where it’s just like artists are just supposed to pop out and be fire.
You’ve been independent for years—do you have advice for artists trying to do it on their own?
In my opinion it’s about if you can play the long game. It seems like everybody’s blowing up every week and you’re still not going anywhere. You got to be able to weather that storm and build a strong discography before you start messing with labels. Have a vision and care about every aspect.
Before I started reading books on this, I listened to a lot of Russ and a lot of his interviews explaining things about the music industry that you might have not known. People don’t know just because you signed to a label doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to get you playlisted. You have to have direct relationships with people at Spotify. A lot of labels these days are like “Hey the way we do marketing is TikTok.” All you’re doing is putting money into TikTok to hopefully get a blow up moment? And that’s your marketing strategy?
Artists can market on their own. There’s people that do posts for $20 or $100 dollars. Save up money and make calculated decisions. That’s really it. And then find your style. It took me a while. I feel like I’m in my pocket now more than I’ve ever been in my entire career. And it’s been almost 10 years of me doing this, me really actively trying to be an artist. So weather the storm and really figure out yourself and educate yourself.
Artist development takes time. We’re in this super microwave era, where it’s just like artists are just supposed to pop out and be fire. There’s so much you have to learn. Even like getting stage presence. What are you going to do? Are you going to build sets? Are you going to be a dancer? How are you going to do to entertain a crowd?
People just need to take their time and enjoy what they’re doing rather than feeling like they need to blow up. It feels good to know my parents can’t say shit to me, the people on the block can’t really say shit to me, because there’s proof [of the work I put in].
There are things that come with just instantly blowing up. I had a deal offer when I was really fresh, around 2020, 2019, and it was for five or six albums or projects. And it’s like “Damn bro, I would’ve still been with you right now.” I got flew out for the first time to L.A and L.A is like all sparkly and pretty to me because I’m from the country. They were paying for everything. I didn’t have to spend a dime on food, we went to fancy restaurants. They buttered me up and then gave me this contract and I could see a lot of people falling for that.
When did you know that music was the path you wanted to take?
I’ve been writing for almost a decade now. I think I’m seasoned enough as a writer at this. I really figured it out when I was 16. And then made this promise to myself. I was in the back of my class, not really paying attention. I was like, “Yo, if I died trying to pursue this music, I think I would be fine.”
Worst case scenario I’m homeless on the side of the street playing on the guitar, doing whatever to get money. And I think I’d be okay with that. I was Christian and I was a sports kid growing up. So I was very straight edge. A lot of my friends are older and they’re just now getting out of college. I still feel like I don’t really know what I’m going to do. I just got fortunate. My lust for music was just crazy.
I’m in this game for longevity. I only want to do music, and I don’t have to go pick up some side job when I’m 30 or 40 or 50 because I got washed up and I had one hit. No, I want to be around this for a long time doing whatever I want to do.