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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Review of Tom Ciurczak Album "I Ain't Ever Growing Up Volume 1"

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Artist: Tom Ciurczak

Album: I Ain't Ever Growing Up Volume 1

Release: 2023

Southern California singer/songwriter Tom Ciurczak offers up an infectious blend of energetic rhythms, danceable beats and powerful storytelling lyrics that make you think you are listening to a crossbreed of Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon and Steve Earle, complete with Eagles-esque harmonies and hook-laden Eric Clapton style guitar work. Brought up to appreciate the intricacies of music by his father, a professional musician at the Military Academy of West Point, Tom learned, early on, about music’s complex and distinct sounds and rhythms as well as the imagery that great storytelling can evoke. I Ain't Ever Growing Up Volume 1 is an eight song effort that clocks in at just over 31 minutes. At first listen Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty came to mind. Not so much in the vocal delivery, but the attention to the details of the songs. The arrangements are well composed and lyrically quite compelling. Tom Ciurczak certainly has his own voice within the Roots Rock genre that reminds me that there are still artists out there writing cool straight up rock and roll songs. Unfortunately, they're just not in the limelight anymore, but this is one that should be. Action Out There jumped right out of my speakers on the first listen. One of the things that is a cool throwback to yesteryear is a thirty five second intro with a great build and big rock accents that are setting up the verse to dynamically drop. This band feels like it would've been right at home on a classic rock station like WPDH out of Poughkeepsie, NY in the Hudson Valley where Tom hails from originally. At times the songs remind me of The Who, in the way the acoustic and electric guitars are perfectly blended and the drums are driving hard and quite busy at times without ever feeling like it's too much. It isn't the song writing that evokes feelings of The Who, but the aggression of the musicianship within the songs. There is an ebb and flow dynamically speaking to the middle of the record that is cleverly arranged. Tracks 4,5 and 6 Action Out There, Nights On Fire and Right or Wrong Choice, all feel like one epic song that could've been Parts 1,2 and 3 and would have made perfect sense in the context of a concept album. It is a throwback to when the whole album was an artistic statement and not just a single or two with a bunch of filler. It is not easy to get a record to flow the way this one does, sounding effortless at every turn. The Vault is one that stood out for me. The verses remind me of Bobby Jean by Springsteen or a later well crafted Bon Jovi AOR classic. One that came later in the Bon Jovi catalog, post big hair, when the image no longer distracted the listener from the band's obvious knack for writing a great hook. For a guy hailing from California, Tom Ciurczak sure seems to have some Jersey Shore roots in him. It drives like The Smithereens at times, but tells a story like Bruce and has Tom Petty hooks and jangly guitars. Pretty good company in the songwriting business! The whole album sounds as if it was worked out in clubs over decades but recorded in a week, live off the floor. It is a feel good rock and roll record that didn't miss any details.The production is well rounded with a hot drum mix that drives the whole thing like a train. The vocals feel wonderfully natural and unforced. Tom seems quite comfortable in his skin both vocally and musically. Writing memorable rock and roll songs with clever arrangements that don't become self indulgent isn't easy. However, one would think otherwise when listening to this album. It sounds like this band is hanging out and laughing over a few beers as they play their set in a smoky bar. If you are a fan of late 70's rock, this is one you will want to check out.

Check out the interview with Tom as well!

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.

I grew up in a musical family. My father was the principal trombonist for the United States

Military Band at West Point NY. The neighborhood I grew up in consisted of all the band

members, so from an early age I was surrounded by music everywhere I went. Then, what I like

to refer to as, the “Big Bang” occurred Feb. 9 th , 1964, when the Beatles played on the Ed

Sullivan Show. Me and a million other kids decided that’s what we wanted to do, so I picked up

the guitar and started off on my long musical journey.

In my early teens I discovered a true love for song writing. To me songwriting was an art form

like no other and I worked on it diligently throughout my life.

In 2014 I attended a songwriter’s master class taught by Steve Earle. I met so many talented

songwriters there that I like to say I found my lost tribe. Meeting so many similar minded

songwriters and musicians turned out to be the spark to finally record the songs I had been

writing my entire life.

My Daughter, Kelly, introduced me to a friend of hers, Brett Grossman, who was a recording

engineer in Los Angeles. He in turn brought in drummer and producer, Stephen Haaker. The

three of us started laying out the plans for an album, and in 2019 we went into Perfect Sound

Studio’s in Frogtown, CA to record my first album “Call Me Ishmael”. The album was released

in July 2020, was well received critically, and was played on over 250 radio stations. But

unfortunately, the release coincided at the same time as the planet shut down for COVID so I

never got to showcase it live with a full band.

The three of us got together again in the summer of 2022, again at Perfect Sound Studio’s, to

record a follow up album “I Ain’t Ever Growing Up” In the end we recorded enough songs for

two albums. We released Volume I on August 4 th and plan to release Volume II next spring.

This time around I have put together a full band to showcase the material. So, I hope you can

catch one of our upcoming shows in the Orange County and Los Angeles area and hear all the

songs on the album performed live. You can check my website for

upcoming dates.

Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

I don’t know many who wouldn’t say their father was the biggest influence in their life and mine,

being a full-time musician, had an extra impact, I think the musical DNA must be in the blood.

As to musical influences, for me everything traces back to the Beatles. I eagerly awaited the

release of every one of their albums and then once I got my hands on the album, I dissected

every song. I really believe they influenced the music of every artist that followed them, and they

had a huge influence on me.

What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?

I’m such a huge fan of many different types of music and I’ve been collecting albums since my

teens. There were so many that I wore the grooves out on. I was such a huge fan of the

Beatles “White Album”, Genesis “Selling England by the Pound”, Gentle Giant’s “Octopus” and I

could go on and on. But if I had to pick one album and artist, it would be “Born to Run” by Bruce

Springsteen. That album had a bigger influence on my song writing than anything else, so much

so that many people will say my songs remind them of Springsteen songs. I was fortunate

enough to see him at the beginning of his “Born to Run” tour. I had no idea who he was, or

anything about his music, but I went with a group of friends to see him play in our college gym. I

was awestruck by that show. His songs and performance were incredible. I had never seen

anything like it before. I went back that night after the show and wrote “Ontario Nights”, which is

the first song on my new album “I Ain’t Ever Growing Up Volume I”.

What is the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

My father always said that it was very difficult to earn a living solely as a musician. Therefore,

it’s important that you go to college, get a degree, and develop skills outside of music. But never

give up on the dream because there are always those that do.

What is new in the recording of your music?

On “I Ain’t Growing Up Volume I” we incorporated several different instruments than the first

album. I really wanted to consciously get away from the Springsteen comparisons, so we

ditched the saxophone and incorporated harmonica, vibraphone, and a lot more percussion on

the album. I also included homages to some other styles of music that I love. You’ll hear some

Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel “World Music “influences in “Kilimanjaro Skies” and 1970’s

Genesis style Prog in “Nights on Fire”.

How has your music changed over the years?

I think my songs and song structure has gotten more complex over the years. I take a lot more

time writing, re-writing, and arranging songs. There are certain elements I like to have in a song.

I’m a big fan of “ear candy” for the listener, so I think it’s important to develop both musical and

lyrical hooks. I’m also a storyteller, I love populating songs with colorful characters, and I look at

songs often as if they are like mini 3 act plays. As such I try to incorporate third act twists

whenever I can. You’ll hear this type of third act twist in both “The Vault” and “Bonnie and


What inspires you to write the music you write?

I write music every day and have been doing it my entire life. To get good at something requires

a lot of work and dedication. I don’t think you can roll out of bed one day and decide you’re

going to be a songwriter and instantly be good at it. From my viewpoint you need to write a lot of

bad songs to learn how to write a good one. A lot of songwriters will tell you it’s a divine spark

and you’re just channeling that creative bolt of lightning that hits you. But since my day job was

in the Lighting Industry my entire life, I like to use Thomas Edison’s quote that success in

anything you do is “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”

How are you continuing to grow musically?

I’m out playing live 3 to 4 nights a week both acoustically and electrically with a full band. In

addition to keeping my guitar playing and vocal skills sharp I like to go out to jam nights where

the songs are unrehearsed. Someone shouts out the song and key and it’s improvised on the

spot. I think that really helps to develop your ear and timing. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to


What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?

I like to think of myself more as a songwriter. I believe that it’s the songs that are the centerpiece

of what you are trying to communicate as a musician. So, I’m more focused in that area of

expertise as opposed to instrument virtuosity. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in

developing this skill and I think I have become very good at it. The simple goal I set when I

made the new album “I Ain’t Ever Growing Up” was to make a better one than the previous one

“Call Me Ishmael”. This required not only better songs, but also required better performance of

the songs. I believe we accomplished that goal.

How do you prepare for your performances and recording work?

That’s easy. The answer is always be prepared. Know what songs you are going to play or

record, practice them ahead of time, and if you are going into a studio make sure you have

charts ready for every song.

What does your practice routine consist of?

I separated my practice routines into guitar practice and then a songwriting session. I usually

take 45 minutes early every day and play approximately 3-5 songs from start to finish on an

acoustic guitar. Then later in the day I’ll sit down and work on constructing songs. I’ve been

doing this since my teens, and I still get a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the creative

aspect of songwriting. I enjoy putting together storylines, and wordsmithing the lyrics. The

challenge to me is to keep coming up with fresh and original ideas, and in finding that catchy

hook that listeners will latch onto.

What do you like most about your new album?

The production on my new album is fantastic. This album was my third time in the studio with

Stephen Haaker and Brett Gossman. They handled the production, engineering, mixing, and

mastering of the album. We work very well together as a team, and I can’t sing their praises

enough. They really brought the songs to life.

The other thing I worked hard on in preparing for this album was to improve my vocals. I worked

together with Harrison Crenshaw for 6 months prior to recording on my singing. He is the other

secret weapon that was deeply involved in the making of this album that really helped bring all

the songs to life. He also is involved in all the background and harmonies on many of the songs

on this album.

What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays?

These three artists couldn’t be more different musically. But they are my absolute favorites right

now and I eagerly purchase every new Album they put out.

I’m a huge Neal Morse fan, and I listen to everything he does from his days with Spock’s Beard,

Transatlantic, Flying Colors and his own Neal Morse Band. He is in my opinion the musical

genius behind today’s Prog music revolution, and he’s the one carrying the torch that Genesis

dropped when they went pop.

I’m also a big fan of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. I consider him one of the best

songwriters and performers touring today. I’ve heard him referred to as “Southwestern

Springsteen” and if you saw his shows, you would understand why.

Finally, there’s Steve Earle. I consider him right up there with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen

as a Songwriter. I’ve been to 3 of his songwriting camps and this guy is a living legend. His song

creativity constantly has me in awe. He does a weekly show on XM’s Outlaw Country, and I

encourage anyone who hasn’t tuned in to listen to him, to do so and learn why.

What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc.

You can follow me on all the Social Media sites: “Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok, Twitter,

Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, iTunes” Also, my website or for those of you

who can’t spell my name also will get you to my website where you

can purchase hard copy CD’s ( for those of you that still like to collect them”. You can also get

info on new releases (we have a few surprises in store) and future gigs both acoustically and

with the full band.

What are your interests outside of music?

I’m a big NY sports enthusiast and a diehard NY Giant football fan. And being that I grew up at

West Point I’m a big follower of all the Army sports teams.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve been in the Lighting Industry since my early twenties and have built three highly successful

International Lighting Companies in the US: Osram, Ushio, and my own company BLC

International. I traveled the world for my career in lighting and frequently went to Europe, Japan,

and China to coordinate with factories for product development and import into the US.

Are there any artists outside of your genre that have not had much influence on your

music that you enjoy?

I love Classical music, which probably explains my love for Prog which is in many ways the

marriage of Classical with Rock. I think this all stems from my early childhood where my father

was heavily involved in playing a wide variety of Orchestra and Big Band types of songs with the

West Point Band. Every Sunday in the summer there would be a huge concert at “Trophy Point”

overlooking the Hudson River and I don’t think I ever missed one. I think this music is just

something I absorbed at a young age. I have even mixed Classical and Prog elements into my

songs. I jokingly like to refer to my Opus “Ishmael”, from my first album, as a new Genre, Outlaw

Prog, as I mix elements of both Outlaw Country and Prog together in it.

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