The Music Man: Getting to Know Tom Meyer

The Music Man: Getting to Know Tom Meyer
Tom Meyer is a music guy. Though he may have started in a culinary role for Clyde’s Restaurant Group—he was the corporate chef for nearly a decade before becoming executive vice president, and then president—a love for music has been part of his life since he was a kid. And when The Hamilton opened in 2011, he instantly knew the large, open basement space would work perfectly as a concert venue. True to Meyer’s instinct for what works—he also brought farm-to-table food concepts to DC—it was a huge hit. So when the opportunity arose to create a live music space in Columbia, Meyer didn’t need a lot of convincing. Booking and hosting bands for live shows is a favorite piece of his job—“one of the coolest things he’s ever gotten to do,” as he puts it. Read on to hear more about Meyer’s vision for The Soundry, and the bands this music lover dreams of booking.
Describe your vision for this venue.
There’s nothing really like it within a pretty wide circle around Columbia. I have two overarching reasons to do it: First is that the only way bands make money these days is to be on the road. To have a stage for them to land is a good thing. They need more places to play. Second, I just like seeing people going out and having some fun. At 9 o’clock in Columbia, things kind of shut down—and we’ll just be getting going. We’ll have the opportunity to bring a high level of entertainment to an area that doesn’t really have that.
What do you envision The Soundry adding to the music landscape in this area?
For a venue its size, we paid a lot of attention to getting the lighting and the sound right. It’s all to be installed and tuned on the premises; it’s not a kit you buy and hook up and you have speakers and amps and lights shining on the stage. So it will be high tech, in that way. We also can do a completely seated room for a quieter show—some folk music or a singer-songwriter, maybe some jazz—or we have the ability to clear out all the furniture and do a standing show for a rock ‘n’ roll or dance show, and then we have the ability to do a hybrid. A lot of times clubs are either-or, but this one offers both.
How are you hoping visitors will feel when they visit for a show?
I want them to feel joyful. Do you ever walk into a room and hear great music? It’s a joyful noise. To me, if you look back on the last year, how many days can you pinpoint that were special? I think the musical experience does that for people. They can say, “Remember when we saw Chuck Prophet at The Soundry? That was a great night.” You drop an exclamation point on people’s lives.
What do you find most exciting about music in the DC area?
It’s exploded. When I opened The Hamilton, there hadn’t been a stage opened in two decades in this town. Then after The Hamilton opened, all of a sudden the Howard Theater, the Lincoln Theater, all the stuff at the Wharf, Pearl Street and U Street and Gypsy Sally’s [came along]. It’s my hope that people start to think of this area as a place to come see music.
What would be your dream bands to book?
There’s so many! I would love to get the Revivalists in there—one of their very first shows was at The Hamilton. I’d love to have Marcus King Band, he’s a good new act. The Wood Brothers. Tedeschi Truck Band. I’d love to see Esperanza Spalding in the jazz arena, she’s so brilliant. I’d like to have Chris Thile’s band, the Punch Brothers. Those are some of my dream bands.
What will success mean for you at The Soundry?
I just want to see a full room of people. It’s so funny about the music business; everyone has a part. People say, “Oh, I love this place.” And I say, very earnestly, ”Well, I love that you’re here. Because if you don’t come it’s just an empty room. It’s really no good until you get here.” And I mean that truthfully. There are a lot of reasons not to leave the house. So when people show up and have a good time, that means everything.