5 Questions: Musician Tommi Zender

Photo credit: Vin Reed

Tommi Zender is a Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist. He has released four albums of work, including the recent semi-critically acclaimed “More Songs About Time” (2019). He is a teaching artist at Old Town School of Folk Music. Zender stays active, playing a monthly residency at Wishbone North in Chicago, often accompanying other singer-songwriters with whom he frequently collaborates, as well as performing in various groups when asked, and helping produce and present occasional specialty-tribute concerts paying homage to classic music artists. He is an active fan of cats and throwing a frisbee. He will be performing an intimate solo concert at Wine Goddess in Evanston, IL on Saturday, September 21st. 

You can keep track of Tommi at this website.

1. What’s been keeping you up at night?
Frustration over how recorded music is being continually de-valued in the new ‘streaming economy’. Along with that, the myriad of negative repercussions for so many life-long music-makers; especially those who are aging and forced out on the road while simultaneously dealing with health issues. Most music fans over 40 grew up with music collections in physical formats, with artwork & liner notes. Owning music in physical form arguably helped listeners establish deep connections to the music, and then the freedom of radio, and the Walkman and even later the MP3 player provided to get mobile with it potentially further enhanced THAT. Now it’s like it’s too many steps removed. If you care about that stuff, not to mention in many cases sonic fidelity in recorded music, the way the artists, producers, and engineers intended it to be heard, well then it’s sort of like witnessing the vast majority of music consumers now passing up the gourmet meal in favor of fast-food, and all for the price of a chewing-gum. It still feels better to patronize music shoppes and artists directly, at least to me. I tend to play physical copies of vinyl or compact discs I’ve bought or been gifted way more than free files I’ve inherited that mostly just collect anonymous space in a digital library. 


2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately?
Two new kittens we’ve adopted: Steve and Darla. They are sisters; one tortoise-shell and one calico. Steve identifies as gender-neutral, except when she’s at the vet. They are really cute and entertaining. They can also just as easily be the shorter answer to the first question you asked.

Steve & Darla


3. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
Well… since I just made a new record called “More Songs About Time” I’ll say it’s working to get that music reviewed in reputable music publications, and potentially into the ears of more listeners. As an independent musician with various other musical day / night jobs, who can’t really tour outside the near mid-west to any great degree, working without the blessing/curse of a record label, it’s a molasses-tempo process. I’m just getting around to accepting it will be going on for the next couple years I’d guess. I took 15 years between album releases, and I figure I owe it to the work I created. I choose to think of it as “exciting” to help ward off the very real potential for it to become soul-crushing LOL.

More Songs About Time, the latest release from Tommi Zender


4. If you could add anyone, alive or dead to your team, who would it be?
Shep Gordon the “Supermensch” career manager of so many major chefs, Alice Cooper, and others. If nothing else he could help me get connected in Hawaii. I’m always up for adding a good multi-instrumentalist. You know, the kind of musician every band-leader wishes they could clone. Or maybe just someone with an advanced air-conditioned hovercraft who can help me avoid being stuck in traffic. Dare to dream.

Photo credit: Vin Reed


5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?
At this point, I’ll say just about anything to avoid having it titled “Return to Zender”. I’ve had people singing that to me since I was in pre-school. I’m still more concerned about the soundtrack than who plays the lead character. I guess I’ll go with “See Me, Feel Me, But Don’t Touch Me.”