Tom Skerlj of Dead Letter Circus: Understanding Your Own Vision

Hey guys, my name Tom Skerlj and I play guitar / keys / percussion in Australian band Dead Letter Circus.

This is my first column for, and this is a massive privilege for me to be able to share with you some of my experiences and understanding of music over the next few weeks. These columns will be a window into my writing style and an insight into the early stages of writing in Dead Letter Circus.

To start, I’ll focus on my vision and how I approach writing music.

As a songwriter, it is important to not only believe in what you’re writing but to also understand your own vision for your sound. The path to finding your own sound can be long and sometimes tedious. Obviously, finding your own sound will be unique for each individual. Here, all I can do is share some of my knowledge in the way I have developed my sound.

I see music as a language; the more you practice this language, the more fluent you become in it. Through your own practice of songwriting, you will discover those musical techniques that evoke feelings in you and in others.

This raises the question: What works for me? My only answer is, don’t be afraid to experiment and "make mistakes." When I’m working on an idea, I will jam over the loop for hours -– sometimes the note I’m looking for is not the one I’m looking for. Experimentation and allowing you the freedom to make mistakes can be the key to finding your sound.

This is the leading philosophy I hold onto, especially in the early stages of songwriting. When you’re first exploring an idea or sound, it’s so important to have a "judgement-free" environment to be able to experiment and refine your idea. With experience, persistence and experimentation in songwriting, you will strengthen your unique sound, knowledge of what works and your ability.

Next week I’m going to look at the next step in the process: trimming the fat.

Tom Skerlj plays guitar, keyboards and percussion for Dead Letter Circus, whose debut album, This Is the Warning, is out now in the US via Sumerian Records. You can catch the band on tour with Fair To Midland across North America from December 1 to 21. Check out their full list of tour dates at their official Facebook page.

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