By Chris Spiewak |
There are few bonds stronger than that between fathers and daughters. Dads are programmed to look after their little girls, and they often strive to teach them good manners, driving skills and how to best work that high-hat to make it fit the song.
Wait…what? Well, if you are Sarah Tomek, one of Nashville’s hottest drummers, then dad taught you right and prepared you well to survive in the jungle that is the professional music industry.
In 1982, the late Joe “Bop” Tomek, a prominent drummer in the New York/New Jersey area, and his wife Kiki welcomed daughter Sarah to the world. Joe was not only successful with studio work in the famed Record Plant in New York City, but he also performed on the road with Richie Havens and the band Mushroom in the 1970s and 1980s. Joe Bop was an extraordinary man and musician; he was the quintessential “good guy,” always willing to lend a hand or honest viewpoint to those around him. Since daughter Sarah was Joe and Kiki’s only child, her future in the music business wasn’t cemented in stone, but certainly dad’s home studio in their Wall Township home piqued Sarah’s interest just a bit.
Sarah did eventually take a liking to the drums, and dad had her playing to a click-track (an electronic metronome, if you will) in their studio at age 11. Recognizing a high level of talent at her young age, dad pushed his little girl in rehearsals. Joe knew that Sarah was a female in a male-dominated art form, so he instilled the much-needed wisdom and cautions that she would need going forward.
In her late teens, Tomek formed her first serious band with prominent local keyboardist Eric Safka, called Days Awake. She liked the “family vibe” she got from the group, and they became one of the most popular bands in New Jersey in the early 2000s. In 2007, Asbury Park legend Lance Larson joined the group on lead vocals, but unfortunately the group disbanded soon afterward. Later that year, Larson helped book rising new country artist Maggie Rose into The Stone Pony, and asked Tomek to be part of the local backing band. It would be this event and what she calls the “Asbury connection” that would help propel her to national recognition years later.
In 2009, she got her first big taste of fame, when she won an audition for the all-female Led Zeppelin cover band Lez Zeppelin (after their drummer broke her ankle just weeks before), and went off to Alaska for a three-week tour. This was a temporary gig, but she enjoyed the experience, and patiently waited for bigger things to come.
Three years later in 2011, Maggie Rose found herself in need of a new drummer for her band. Tomek learned of this and signed up for the audition; she got the gig, and her world would never be the same after that.
In 2012, Tomek took “the most terrifying leap of faith” in her life, giving up life at the Jersey shore and moving to Nashville, Tennessee. Immediately on tour with Maggie Rose, she performed 180 shows with the band in 10 months time. Recording at Quad Studios with Rose, she met legendary songwriter/producer Marti Frederiksen who invited her to also join his band Loving Mary. Since Loving Mary also serves as the backing band for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler in his solo country project, Tomek often gets to perform about 8 feet behind one of her childhood heroes!
Tomek believes in hustle and “sweat-equity”; in addition to her gigs with Maggie Rose and Loving Mary, she also finds time to perform with Them Vibes, a band featuring her husband Larry Floorman, and also does studio work for artists such as Raelyn Nelson (yes, Willie Nelson’s granddaughter) and Gretchen Wilson. A cameo performance on Foreigner’s new “40” album brings her back to her rock ‘n’ roll roots. Recent shows with Maggie Rose at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and at The Country and Western Music Festival in Zurich, Switzerland have added impressive points to her flourishing resume. Sharing her dad’s temperament and leadership qualities, the sky is the limit for this deserving young woman.
In her 30s now, Sarah Tomek has achieved her goal of professional musician, but never forgets where she grew up. A 2017 Days Awake reunion show at The House of Independents in Asbury Park sold out quickly, and she returned again last month to The Wonder Bar for a show with Maggie Rose. Riding the wave in the Nashville music community suits her well, but there will always be Jersey shore sand in this hometown girl’s shoes, as she continues in dad’s footsteps…just the way that Joe Bop would have wanted.
Chris Spiewak is currently the bassist in Rock/Blues cover band VyntEdge.
This article was first published in the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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