My name is Tom Mauger and I sing in the band Babyhead. I have done this for the last 17 years. It has sustained me through most of my adult life and we’ve reached varying levels of success and gradually through the years my ability to communicate with a crowd: that became an ability to communicate with people and work as a music facilitator and being a music leader.
I see myself more as a music facilitator than a leader. I facilitate something happening, rather than leading people through an experience. I find that as well, in the band Babyhead, is a family there is never one kind of force, that’s pushing it along, it’s generally a sum of its parts. So being a leader, I don’t really see myself in that light, just more, kind of bringing things together and helping people find out where they want to go. Giving people the opportunities I had and really benefitted me.
Through music, communicating on quite a deep level not with language, with a group of 5 other friends and communicating and getting through different problems: having to write a song expressing yourself, working professionally and making that work commercially as a venture and making that available as an opportunity how to express yourself through music.
If I didn’t have that I would have had a more difficult time in my formative years and early 20s.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself with a disability but I don’t think any of the people I work with think of themselves ‘with a disability’. I’ve always seen myself as a songwriter, a performer a leader or facilitator and disability comes somewhere in my identity. It doesn’t really affect my day to day life that much other than being short. If my disability is being short then I just stand on a chair. Most people see their disability, well, you can deal with it or not it’s about how other people see you and generally, I get made aware the fact I am walking funny by someone saying ‘Oh why are you walking funny?’ because most of the time I don’t or I have no awareness when I’m limping and when I’m not until someone says to me. Disability is others people’s approach to you. Does my experience give me empathy? I’ve always felt I was different but never felt outside of the group.
Different physcially – shorter, but I use this as a prop. I had a very good role model in Ian Dury - he used his disability as a sales tool. First he was a singer, second, he was a handsome bastard and third he had polio and he was a raspberry ripple and he was proud of it. He used it as a tool, a marketing tool, callously or not, another prop in his toy box that he brought out and I guess I’ve done that you know. I’ve never really had a problem with it. I guess I did as a teenager. And I guess with kids that I work with I let them know that this is something everybody goes through. It’s about self awareness, fitting in the world and being ok with yourself.
No I don’t feel the kids at Zone Club look at me any different as Alex or Bob in the same way I don’t’ look at them any differently. I don’t’ know, I have limited awareness about my disability. It’s not that I hide form it or shut it off. It’s part of me. It’s not really relevant, only if it hurts, or I can’t come to work. It’s only relevant if it gets worse. The biggest fear I have is if it’s degenerative but it’s not showing any signs of that.
Well u know the limelight does get tough here at the Wiltshire Music Centre! We’ve been on the verge of success for a good 10 years. It now feels more like the hard shoulder. What’s it like being ‘the leading man?’ Great. It’s as much about the people around you and playing that part in the band until someone takes the guitar solo and they’re the star. Trying to shine the limelight on different bits and focus. When you get it, it’s fun.
Next Year – Much more of this kind of work, working with massive groups of people. I want to take live music to schools. I get shocked when I talk to teenagers. In fact we had one quote. ‘Have you heard live music before?’ ‘You’re not live!’ ‘What do you mean, you’re not Live?’ ‘You’re not on TV.’ By the age of 13 or 14 they have never seen live music. They’ve seen it be created on X factor but they don’t know they can do it from the ground. So lots more live music and real songwriting so they know that they can do it and it’s free and they can express themselves with words . Something I’ve been trying to do for the last 10 years, is get my band walking on its own 2 feet, not lose so much sleep over whether this is the best song I’ve ever written.