The son of two Church of England vicars, McRae sang in the church choir and as a teen experimented with his mother’s guitar. Initially trying to emulate his heroes, Billy Bragg, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Kate Bush, U2, he began to write his own songs and develop his own style. Age 18, he went to City of London Polytechnic achieving a degree in politics and government, and forming his first band, “The Ministers of Orgasm”. Subsequently, McRae was involved in bands “Raising Cain” and “Orchid Lounge”. A chance meeting with recording engineer and record producer Roger Bechirian, (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Carlene Carter, The Undertones), led to a working relationship. Bechirian helped to shape McRae’s soft-spoken sound, which later gained McRae a deal with Dave Bates’s db Records, (db/BMG records). In 2000, director Scott Walker chose McRae to perform at the Meltdown Festival in the Royal Festival Hall. McRae’s confessional, self-titled debut appeared in autumn 2001, during the height of the new acoustic movement and earned him comparisons to Nick Drake and Bob Dylan. Critics raved and McRae gained nominations for the Mercury Prize, a Q magazine award and the BRIT Award for Best Newcomer. By then, McRae was working with Oliver (“Oli”) Kraus, cellist, and in 2003 was joined by Olli Cunningham on keyboards. McRae’s second album, Just Like Blood, was released in the UK in February 2003 produced by Ben Hillier, whose credits include Elbow, Martha Wainwright and Blur. McRae then moved to California, where he wrote and recorded his next album, All Maps Welcome, which was released in May 2005.
In 2005, McRae supported Tori Amos on the UK/Ireland leg of her Original Sinsuality tour. Having played many times in the Hotel Café in Los Angeles and having been one of the artists on the first U.S Hotel Cafe Tour, McRae brought the Tour to the UK in 2006, introducing his fans to many other singer-songwriters which most notably included Steve Reynolds, Joe Purdy, Cary Brothers, and Jim Bianco. The Hotel Cafe Tour saw the artists participating in each others’ songs. The tour also featured a variety of special guests, including Kathryn Williams, Justin Currie, Colin MacIntyre and Aqualung.
McRae’s fourth album, King of Cards, was recorded in Suffolk and released in May 2007.
In spring 2008, McRae once again brought the Hotel Cafe Tour to the UK, and for the first time, also took it to continental Europe. This time he was accompanied by Cary Brothers, Brian Wright, Catherine Feeny, Greg Laswell, Jim Bianco and Jason (or Dr.) Kanakis. Again, there were special guests at each location, including Eddi Reader and Turin Brakes.
McRae was a guest vocalist for the band “Wills and the Willing” at a number of festivals in the UK in summer 2008, and had a headline slot at the Offset festival in August. In autumn 2008, he toured the North Eastern states of America and Canada.
McRae’s fifth studio album, The Alphabet of Hurricanes, was produced in his own recording studio, Gunpoint, in East London. The album was recorded over three years in varied settings, and, thanks to a deal with Cooking Vinyl was released in February 2010. The “Alphabet of Hurricanes” Tours, which sold-out at a number of venues, were rescheduled to fit in with the album release. A hoped-for ‘Part 2’ of the album has not emerged possibly due to the fact that McRae is once again unsigned. Towards the end of 2010, McRae was involved in the Crossing Border festival in the Netherlands, playing with the Matangi Quartet who are based in that country. He released a second live album, Tom at Tut’s with songs and banter garnered from 2 full band gigs at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow in 2004.
In the spring of 2011, Tom toured the UK and Europe with a UK string quartet, and did a solo tour in Germany. Since then, apart from a few solo gigs and festivals, he has been concentrating on writing and recording his sixth album.
plus special guests: