In the spotlight – Leigh Thomas

In the spotlight – Leigh Thomas

Leigh Thomas is a singer/songwriter and guitarist based in Melbourne, Australia. He was raised on a farm in the country.

Farming life can be hard, and as a child you are exposed to the harsh realities of life, and you are not answerable to anyone except the elements. There is an enormous sense of freedom and independence that comes with that, and you gain an ability to be self reliant, even somewhat rebellious toward human authority.

When did you start making music?

I was very young when I became involved with music, so young that I don’t remember it being a conscious choice. As a toddler I would constantly be singing, listening to my mother’s records, and constructing makeshift instruments with which to make noise. But I had no one to teach me, and nobody in my family played music, so it was a slow process to teach myself the correct techniques, and I learned to play by ear and instinct.

Who are your main musical influences? Has your taste in music changed over the years?

The music that I listened to as a child I suppose will always be a major influence, and that was mainly pop/rock from the 60’s and 70’s, through to the 80’s. Artists such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Police, T-Rex and Bowie were mainstays. But I did listen to a lot of singles and Top 40 stuff, so I am just as influenced by songs of any genre, as much as specific bands. Over the years I have listened to such a wide range of music, and in a way have come to realize that it is all linked, so I am not sure whether my tastes have really changed all that much, but rather I find that it is the elements in or about music that I find appealing are still the same. And they can be found in most genres if you listen.

What can you tell us about your creative process?

My creative process really begins with clearing my mind, emptying out previous projects or interferences, and being silent. It is then that ideas or inspirations come, without being forced or evoked. Usually that will be in the form of a melody, but sometimes a riff or a lyric. I jot the idea down, and if it is particularly strong, I may go to work on it right away, or otherwise compile a few ideas and later go back and see what jumps out at me. Once the main structure of the song is written, I will record a rough demo, usually just guitar, vocal and a mock drum track, then take it to my producer and we record the tracks in his studio.

What inspires you to write songs?  

Mostly I am inspired to write by feelings, and the emotive power of melody, sound and rhythm. All of these elements have the power to evoke feeling, and I find that to be a very powerful thing. My challenge then is to try and relay that and evoke those feelings in the listener, and try to give them the same experience that I have when listening to music.

How important are lyrics to you?

Lyrics are so very important and can be easily dismissed. They compliment the music, and just like any musical instrument, should be in sympathy with the feelings conveyed by the music. I like to make my lyrics musical and rhythmical, like an instrument that the listener can play along with, yet open to interpretation. I like to write lyrics that are somewhat conversational, not overly supercilious (see what I did there!), but relatable to the average listener.

You’ve released 7 songs in 2020. Do you plan your releases, or do you just finish a song and release it?

“I am not terribly good at planning! As long as I am busy and involved in some part of the process chain, I am happy. Yes, I do tend to finish a project, then move onto the next. So far that has the appearance of structure, with my releases coming out fairly uniformly, and I have got into a bit of a rhythm with the process. But I tend to live one day at a time and don’t look into the future all that much.”

We spoke prior to the release of ‘Something About You’. Are you happy with the response to ‘Something About You’?

“I am really delighted with the response to ‘Something About You’. I could not have hoped for anything better. It has proven to be a big favourite with my live audience and peers alike, and I am very happy to have it chart so well in The Cool Top 20. That is such great recognition and I don’t really have expectations other than I hope my audience enjoy it to at least some degree, so it’s a really nice validation that something is going right. I am also really happy with the radio attention it has received both here in Australia and around the world.”

What are you working on right now? What are your goals for 2021?

“At present I am very busy preparing for the release of my next single ‘Rain’, which I am excited to have had renowned musician OrangeG add his wonderful harmonica playing to. I am also writing new material, and pimping my live stream set up, as I believe it will continue to play a major part in musical performance going forward. So for the rest of 2021 I will continue streaming shows, and releasing new music. With live work still slow to come back, I feel I will need to take a more active approach in monetizing my work also.”

Prior to COVID-19 you were very active in the live circuit. How has COVID-19 affected you as an artist?

“Yes, leading on from the last question, I have always been a live musician, and that was my living prior to COVID-19. I am not really a tech person, but I scrambled fairly early on to get live stream shows up and running. I kept it basic but effective, and have played 2-3 shows per week since. That kept me in form as far as playing live goes, maintained contact with my audience, and gave them something back during the really dark times. But now the dust has settled, and the reality is that my way of making a living prior to COVID-19 is perhaps never going to return to the way it was. On the upside, that has given me the opportunity to write and release more music, and build my profile as an artist and making new connections around the world.”

Are you making a profitable living off music? What keeps you making music?  

“Without getting paid to play live, it is pretty difficult to earn a living in the music business. Like most things, the wealth is controlled and distributed by a very few, with most of us being the drones. But I keep making and playing music because it’s what I have always done, it’s what I do best, and it’s something I have to give to others, it’s my contribution, take it or leave it.”

What’s your opinion on social media? Do you consider it “a necessary evil” or “your best friend”?

“Social media is what you make of it. It can be both. I am talking specifically from an artist perspective here, but it has made possible a degree of networking and marketing that was never possible before without the budget of a large record label. For independent artists it has opened up a world of possibilities, but with it comes a monumental workload that we never had to deal with before. So I think it is about finding balance, and maximising efficiency to get the most effective benefits without losing yourself and your creative  process. It is neither good nor evil, but certainly it is a necessity.”

What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone starting their music career?

“Starting a music career is probably like starting a career in anything to some extent. Which means be prepared to stand by your convictions, work hard, know your trade, get up every time you get knocked down – which will be often, and don’t be an asshole. That might work for some, but it probably won’t work for you.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20?

“I can honestly say that every song in the chart is fantastic, it is such high quality material and really difficult to pick out just one song as a favourite. But for me I would pick ‘Our Parade‘ by Marveline, because I am a fan and familiar with their music, and it resonates with my own pop sensibilities.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“My pick for a bonus track would be ‘You Decide‘ by Storm Of Crows. It’s new and I like the kind of “epic” 70’s rock style it brings. It has some cool guitar riffs and harmonies too, and I think it would have been a bit of a challenge to pull off a song like that, so kudos to those guys for taking it on and doing such a great job with it.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“Thanks Lean and Cool Top 20 for giving me the chance to talk, and for your amazing support for the indie music community. And thanks to all those artists out there for their great support and contributions.”