I was honored to have a chat with local music stalwart Lucky Clark about the release of Amaze Your Friends. His article was posted in the January 10th edition of the Kennebec Journal, linked below:
Late last year, I made a wonderful discovery: a new-to-me singer/songwriter/keyboardist named Andrew Thomas who calls Hallowell home. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his new album, “Amaze Your Friends,” and about a minute into the first track (“Resolution”) I fired off an email to him asking if he’d be willing to chat at some point … fortunately he said yes!
You see, he reminds me so much of Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby and other singer-keyboardists but with a voice that is completely distinctive, warm and inviting. The complexity of his melodies and lyrics are compelling and highly entertaining making the 10 vocal tracks riveting and immersive, so much so that a chance to converse with him became imperative to me. I called him at home and the results of our interview follows below.
Q: I learned something after listening to “Amaze Your Friends” a couple of times — it is not an album of background music, by any stretch of the imagination. It is so compelling — you just have to sit, give it your complete attention and take it in, and I keep hearing elements of the music and lyrics that I didn’t hear before. You have created something that is indeed amazing!
Thomas: Well, that’s great to hear because it was definitely a labor of love and it took quite a while, some of it was probably pretty self-imposed, the obvious thing is that life gets in the way. You’ve got all kinds of stuff going on and especially for somebody like me where I’m more of a part-time musician than anything else.
Q: Have you ever done any recording earlier?
Thomas: About 10 years ago I had put out an EP of three songs and two of them are ones that got reworked and put onto this album. Those couple of songs stayed with me and I thought, “I really think I could do these a little bit better than I did on my own.” So it is great to hear that a lot of those layers do come through, so thank you for that.
Q: Well, as the not-so-old saying goes, “I call ‘em like I hear ‘em!” Just out of curiosity, do you compose on the piano?
Thomas: Yeah, that’s my primary, pretty much only instrument — I can play maybe two or three chords on the guitar or so. I started out playing violin, which I do come back to every once in a while, but mostly piano and I’m primarily self-taught, too. I started on this tiny keyboard that my parents gave me for Christmas one year as a young child. The toy keyboards kept getting bigger and more complex and so eventually I kind of worked my way around a full-sized one and learned how to make it do what I wanted it to do. But keyboards are the basic backing and all the sounds you hear on the record are primarily ones that I’m creating through Midi and sampling and that sort of stuff. I try to make it sound much more like a live band but most of the stuff in there, aside from where there’s another musician listed, are sounds that are coming straight out of my computer.
Q: Well, in all honesty, you could do justice to these songs live in concert with just a piano and a microphone. The musical, lyrical and rhythmical complexities can all be captured with that simple presentation … in my opinion, that’s all you need.
Thomas: (Chuckle) Well, thank you again, and that is definitely the way I perform live, it is just solo with me doing these songs with piano. There aren’t a lot of the extra ornamental stuff that happens on the record but that’s where they started so I think that’s where it gets a lot of the feel that you’re talking about, that piano/voice is the base upon which all that other stuff is built up around.
Q: Do you have any gigs coming up that we could promote with this article?
Thomas: Right now I don’t. I’m definitely looking more into that this coming year but I don’t have anything coming up any time soon.
Q: How are you at songwriting, I guess I should ask?
Thomas: I do work on them, in fact, I’ve already got a few that are sort of getting ready for whatever the next release ends up being. A lot of the material on this album came from some song workshops that I used to go to early on in the 2010, 2012 to 2015 era that were hosted by Jud Caswell down in Brunswick. Being able to be in that environment where we’re all working together on our craft … it was just tremendous having that group of people all together for a common goal. That was really informative, I think, for a lot of the songs that you hear on this particular album.
Q: When it’s all said and done, at what point do you know when to stop tweaking a song and declare it finished?
Thomas: It’s tough and it’s really more of a gut thing than anything else because sometimes you just hear it and go, “Let’s just leave that as it is!”
Q: Oh, and that’s another thing I was going to mention: there is such variety on this album; I think that’s another quality that adds to its compelling nature, each song is an entity unto itself.
Thomas: (Laughter) It’s really great to hear you say that because that’s really what I aspire to — a lot of the stuff that I grew up listening to is like that: just lose-yourself-in-the-headphones kind of thing; so I’m glad that there’s a little bit of that in there, too.
Q: Andrew, there’s more than “a little bit” of that in this album, trust me on this! It’s very frustrating to me not being able to verbalize just how your music affects me.
Thomas: It’s incredible to hear that it hits you on this level, and that’s part of the reason why I make music, too. It’s just because I don’t always know how to express how I’m feeling something; so that’s where I put it: into the music — I’m really glad that that shines through.
For more information, visit athomasmusic.com