In another world, James Thomson would be touring the highways and byways of the world every day, playing honky tonks, blues bars, folkie hangouts and festivals, with a full band.
But, that's not to be for one of Newcastle's foremost singer songwriters. He has lived the dreams at various parts of his young life, even dabbled in the American music scene (albeit as a visitor, not a visa-holding player).
For now, he's tied to a full-time job, outside of music.
But, he is still living his music dream of creating and recording original music. The release of his third album, Golden Exile, this week provides plenty of proof his efforts aren't wasted.
This album, recorded over a week in 2018 at Union Street Studio in Melbourne with producer (and drummer) Roger Bergodaz and Melbourne musicians Steve Hadley (bass), Sean McMahon (guitar) and Shane Riley (keyboard and steel guitar) as well as longtime mates Marty Burke (guitar) and Ezra Lee (piano) is an absolute pearler.
Thomson came into the studio cold, armed with new songs (or at least unrecorded songs), all of them his own. He knew of the reputation of Bergodaz and the musicians, but had not met them before. And boom, it worked.
"The fact it was all done live with the same band within six or seven days gives it that nice common thread that runs through it," he says.
The songs have got Thomson's signature observational detail about them.
"I like that quiet sort of minutiae of every day life, every day love," he says.
Like the opening to Mercy, the last track on the album: I had to leave the city, and find that country air, but In that drunken half life, I left you lying there...
This time, the contributions of the experienced studio musicians pushed the boundaries of his music to new levels. As hard as it may be to describe that, it was what he was after when he went into Bergodaz's studio.
"If I had to differentiate between my other albums and this one, musically there's more happening," he says.
"Playing in a band has made me more appreciative that it doesn't always have to be the lyrics telling the story, which I always knew ... it made me more confident, willing to try things in a studio."
Golden Exile copies arrived on Thomson's doorstep this week and are already in the mail to those who pre-ordered. The official album launch is April 11 at the Stag & Hunter.
Thomson will support the album with touring, and hopes to head to new places, like the Northern Territory, Adelaide and New Zealand, and perhaps America in 2021.
"I am very pleased with it," Thomson says of the album. "I'm very excited for it to come out. You're excited with every record. I thought the first two were potluck. I realise it happens every time you do a record. This is the best one I've made."
He should have vinyl records of Golden Exile available by the end of April.