Listen Now: Tommy Prine Makes His Debut

Hear an exclusive premiere of the gorgeous “Ships in the Harbor,” from the son of legendary singer-songwriter John Prine

Photo: Neilson Hubbard

Tommy Prine knows his last name comes with built-in expectations. The 26-year-old is the son of the late John Prine, one of the most celebrated songwriters in music history. Tommy, who grew up in Nashville, started writing his own songs when he was 17, but he kept them to himself for a few years until finally showing his father the lyrics to a song called “Something Like an Angel.” “He was like, ‘Holy shit, this is really good. You should write more,’” he recalls.

Despite the encouragement, Tommy wrote infrequently, usually penning lyrics while having a few beers with friends. But following his father’s death in April 2020, his desire to create flourished. “It was the healthiest and most intense way for me to process all those emotions [of grief],” he says. “I just fell head over heels for the idea of being a songwriter and a singer.”

And if the early results are any indication, he’s on the right path. Prine’s debut single, “Ships in the Harbor,” which Garden & Gun is proud to premiere, is a gorgeous meditation on change and loss, and an acknowledgement that both are inevitable. The rise and fall of the melody give it a touch of a Celtic feel, which isn’t surprising considering Prine’s many trips to Ireland to see the family of his Irish-born mother, Fiona. The lines are simple yet evocative:

“When I’m standing by water
It gets harder and harder
It’s why I get sad when there’s ships in the harbor
Cause they must be leaving soon, as they should”

Prine wrote the song around his birthday last September, and he says it came easy. “I was sitting outside with my wife, and I had that moment every songwriter is waiting for, when inspiration really strikes,” he says, adding that it took him less than an hour to finish it. “I just kind of got lucky in that moment.” 

Listen to “Ships in the Harbor” below. Prine will release another single, “Turning Stones,” on October 14, with his debut album to follow in the first half of 2023. He’s currently on tour, which includes a September 15 show in Nashville at AmericanaFest and November dates opening for fellow troubadour Todd Snider. “There’s going to be a lot of people who have certain expectations,” he acknowledges. “I’m very grateful for my dad’s fans, but I can tell from the first song that people are like, ‘This isn’t John Prine Jr.’ And I’m just like, ‘All right, buckle up. We got fifty more minutes of not John Prine Jr.’”