By Katrina Barker
Tom Hewitson has never had a formal music lesson.
Believe it or not, this member of the LDS folk band Enoch Train is completely self-taught on the guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, harmonica and various percussion instruments.
The other seven musicians in the band — Clive Romney, Janice Andersen, Daron Bradford, Dave Compton, Rich Dixon, Rob Honey and Jay Lawrence — worked professionally in the music world for years before joining Enoch Train in 1998, but Hewitson worked in advertising for almost twenty years and is now the art director for Deseret Book. He describes playing in Enoch Train as “a super-hobby that pays for itself.”
“I”m the black sheep of Enoch Train, but I seem to fit in okay,” Hewitson said. “I”ve taught myself a whole lot through the school of hard knocks. I”ve come to learn more about music that way than most people would going to school.”
Hewitson said he grew up a “run-of-the-mill kind of guy” in Salt Lake City. He was into sports, music and getting good grades. But music came naturally.
Childhood friend Dawn Lewis said he could pick up any instrument and figure out how to play it.
Hewitson played a lot of music in high school and even toured professionally before his LDS mission to London. He decided to study graphic design at the University of Utah, but kept music a large part of his life.
“Once it”s in your blood, its there to stay,” he said. “I always enjoyed playing, performing and writing music.”
Four years ago, Clive Romney, the artistic director of Enoch Train, called Hewitson because he was developing tendonitis and was afraid he wouldn”t be able to play if he did not rest.
“I was looking for someone that could replace me for awhile in the band,” Romney said. “I was looking for someone that could play a lot of the same instruments I could.”
Romney said he could see Hewitson was a fabulous player after the first performance.
“I could not let him go, so I talked with everybody, and they agreed that we would extend the band from seven members to eight,” Romney said. “Tom is a great addition. We couldn”t dream of doing it without him now.”
Romney founded Enoch Train in 1998 after Jeff Simpson, president of Excel Entertainment, challenged him to find a new way to play the hymn tunes instrumentally. He said after a lot of soul searching he grabbed his favorite studio musicians and formed the band.
“Enoch Train is a culmination of all the musical influences I have ever had in my life,” Romney said.
Scott Simpson of Excel Entertainment suggested the name for the band. The Enoch Train was a ship that brought immigrants from Europe to America in the 19th century. Romney said they liked the sound of it and the meaning behind it.
“The name embodied everything that this group was about — people from all over the world coming together in a new land in the name of religious freedom, sharing their cultural heritage, and creating a new one in the process,” Romney said on the Enoch Train Web site.
The eight members play over 90 instruments between them. All their songs are based on hymn and children”s song tunes, but with a twist.
“I love how they blend the musical tones of different cultures into their songs,” said Ryan Mullen, a chemical engineering major from El Paso, Texas.
Hewitson said they try to take the listener around the world with their music.
The group recorded their first album as a studio project and later decided to perform live. Two of the original members did not wish to continue with the group and were replaced by Rob Honey on bass and Dave Compton on keyboard and guitar. Hewitson joined the group about a year later.
Enoch Train has released two albums since Hewitson joined the band, “Set Sail” and “Shall We Gather,” both with Joyspring Records. The band has won eight Pearl Awards, which recognize excellence in faith-centered music, including two Group of the Year awards in 1999 and 2002. “Babylon/Paddy Clyde,” on which Hewitson was principle arranger, won Best Instrumental Recording of the Year at the 1999 Pearl Awards. However, Hewitson is remarkably humble about his achievements.
“When I say I am the principle arranger, that just means I get to have my name on the CD, but the fact of the matter is all other seven band members equally put in little things that really add to the piece.”
Hewitson says coming up with the arrangements is a collaborative effort and requires a lot of individual work.
“I go home and come up with real basic ideas,” he said. “It”s like doing a thumbnail in art, a rough idea. I”ll just put a guitar part on a cassette tape, and then when we get together we will go over it. Almost immediately Clive will start hearing all these other things that we could do off this particular tune.”
He said the band converges at least twice a month at Romney”s house to rehearse, but they are always doing work on their own, which he said they call “woodsheddin”.”
“Everybody will have his or her parts ready and we always have a word of prayer, and then we dive in,” he said. “It”s really cool for me to get together with some of the best musicians around and know that everything about what we do is for that which is good.”
Hewitson said his favorite part about being a member of the band is seeing how their music changes people”s lives.
“It”s really neat to see how it has made a positive influence on people,” he said. “They”ll tearfully say, ”That one song just changed my life or brought me out of a period of despair.””
Romney agrees the hard work they all put into their music is extremely rewarding.
“It”s an inordinate amount of time compared to the monetary return we get from it, but we all love it so much that we keep on doing it,” Romney said.
For more information about Enoch Train, their albums and concerts, visit their Web site at www.enochtrain.com.