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Tom Cole

Songwriting #2 – Tom Cole

In this occasional series Resonance FM host and songwriter Jude Montague talks to fellow practitioners about their practice and reflects on songwriting. Today Americana writer and performer Tom Cole chooses a song he has written to share some reflections with HOT readers.

I thought I’d talk about the song of mine that people most seem to like: Push Me Out to Sea.

It’s a song I wrote as a little tribute to my dad. He had a hard upbringing, born in 1940 and supporting his mum and sick older brother from a young age, but an incredibly full and adventurous life. He died from Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and a few years prior to that, when having one of his occasional lucid moments, he said to me something like: ‘When I go, put me on my boat and push me out to sea’. So that’s where the title came from. I used that as the chorus, the constant that all the verses tie in to, looking back over a life well lived.

My dad never met his dad, who was away in the war when he was born, and who died on the merchant navy ship the Jervis Bay, which was sacrificed to allow the convoy it was escorting across the north Atlantic to escape an attack. So the first verse deals with all that, and that his mum didn’t have the heart to tell him his dad wasn’t coming home.

The second verse is him leaving Bexhill for London as a young teenager to find work, working as a labourer, boxer and bouncer.

The first half of the third verse is a snapshot of some other adventures: prizefighting and wrestling with a travelling circus, and fighting in the Korean war when he was too young to be there. The second half is his family life: his first wife and kids, and then my mum, and a reference to his fishing heritage and love of boats and the sea.

And then the last verse deals with his Alzheimer’s, and him telling me that line I used for the chorus.

Push Me Out to Sea 

I was just a young boy, when I took over my home
The weight of the world, Lord, made these young shoulders old
But I didn’t know no different, so I took it in my stride
And mama never told me of the letter that you’d died

Saying cover me over, and push me out to sea
There I can drift away, happy as can be

Then I wasn’t even yet a man, when I took off down that road
Heading for the city, Lord, to send my riches home
Well I worked where I could get it, in the yard or in the ring
And if I had to choose, Lord, I’d do it all again

So cover me over, and push me out to sea
There I can drift away, happy as can be

Then I got to see this country, working in the travelling show
Went abroad to fight a war, but which one I don’t know
Well I settled down and lost it all, settled down once more
Bought myself a fishing boat and went back to your shore

Where they can cover me over, and push me out to sea
There I can drift away, happy as can be

Now my mind ain’t what it used to be, that much I do know
And if I’ll ever get it back, well only time will show
But remember what I said to ya, when the Lord does come for me
Take me down to granddaddy’s spot, and pull that anchor free

And cover me over, and push me out to sea
There I can drift away, happy as can be



Tom Cole’s Official Bio – Steeped in the traditions of American folk, country, gospel and blues, Tom’s is an Americana style of Alt Country-meets-Greenwich Village Folk Revival.

Hailing from Hastings on the south coast of England, Tom crafts heartfelt songs from everyday life, with a softly understated vocal style underpinned by a mix of Merle Travis style fingerpicking and country flatpicking.

Tom’s new album Stops on the Way to Here was released 22 March 2024. Previous EPs The Road Less Travelled and Ramblin’ Man are also available from and on streaming services.

Push Me Out to Sea YouTube video


Songwriter and author Jude Montague is presenting an evening performing songs and talking about the practice of songwriting at Mike’s, 74 Norman Road St Leonards-on-Sea on Thursday 16 May. Tickets available

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Posted 14:15 Monday, May 13, 2024 In: Music & Sound

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