with Melbourne indie musician
I have been following artist Leigh Thomas from Melbourne Australia, for a
while, and have always felt he is a humble and honest person. This is confirmed in his
lyrics and music, and I wondered if he was like this in real life?
Well, my curiosity has been confirmed! I was so fortunate to have been
able to meet Leigh recently and I thank
him for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet up and answer some
questions about his music career.
I first knew of Leigh Thomas last year
when I was searching for Australian
Indie artists to appear as guests on my radio show. Leigh was a delight with
his passion for music and story telling clearly shining through in his songs.
Here is the link to my show – the interview begins at 41 minutes from the
So here are the questions I put to
Leigh Thomas at our meeting-
1. You have been a musician all your working life -
why music? What were the key ingredients or forces that compelled you? Was it the feeling you got when listening to
music you were growing up with? The idea of wanting to be famous? Or was it that you
wanted to make an impact on others through the telling of stories, in a melodic way? Or was
it that you just did not want to do anything else?
Probably a combination of all those things. As a very young child, I was
drawn to music. I was obsessed with it and internalized it on a deep level. I felt it
manipulating my emotions and was curious as to how and why mere sounds and rhythms could have this
effect on me.
I internalized it to such a degree that by the time I started school, I
could pick up the classroom instruments and make them sound musical. I thought this was
completely normal until I realised that none of the other kids could do more than make a
terrible cacophony of noise! When I didn’t have any instruments around, I sang constantly, and
often got into trouble at school for singing during class, and in fact I was not even
aware that I was doing it.
As I got older, I realised that I just wanted to play music, or make
music, in the hope that I could make others feel what I felt when listening to music. I tried other
jobs and started other career paths, but they left me feeling quite empty, and never went
anywhere. In the end I just accepted that being involved in music was what I was born to
do, for better or for worse.
2. Ive read about who influenced you musically. Were
there any indies in there too?
The first music that I was exposed to, was my mother’s collection, which
was pretty mainstream. And growing up in the country, all we had was commercial
television and radio, so, when I started buying my own music, it was mainly what I had heard
through those mediums. Although there was quite a bit of alternative stuff, by the time
these bands reached my ears they were signed, and not independent anymore. It wasn’t
until I was older and moved to Melbourne that I heard a lot of indies, but really by that
time, even though I liked a lot of them, they never became strong musical influences.
3. How did you learn about writing singing and
playing the guitar?
Simply by doing. I sang a lot, and was pretty natural, although I didn’t
really know much about the technical side of it. When I started my first band, and ended up
getting really busy singing hours per night, night after night, I did get some tuition just to
know when I was singing with correct technique and when I wasn’t. That really helped, and
allowed me to sing professionally for hours each night without struggling or straining my voice.
With guitar, I just struggled along with no teacher and really nobody to help me. It was a
slow process, and it wasn’t until I jammed with others that I really learned a lot. And again,
just playing constantly was the key. I’ve never had any help with songwriting either, I
just follow my instincts. I probably break all the rules, if there are any.
I know there
are courses for songwriting and workshops etc but that’s not really my thing. I think with
songwriting, I would rather follow my instincts for better or worse. I always loved
writing and poetry, wordplay and language, so I just combine that with music, and try to marry
the two. Again, it is also something that you get better at the more you just do it.
4. Who are your favourite guitarists / why and whats
your top 3 guitars?
I have many favourite players and it is hard to pick just a few. It often
changes depending on what I listen to. I will say that a player’s sound and expression, and
their ability to integrate their playing into the music as a whole, and their creativity, means more
to me than technical prowess or lightning speed. Notables for me are David Gilmour,
Andy Summers, Brian May, Hendrix, Jimmy Page, B.B. King.
As for guitars, well I do love
my Duesenberg. It is a wonderfully engineered instrument and beautiful to play with some great
sounds. It is my main guitar live, and features in all of my recordings. It is great to use
live because it is quite versatile sounding, so can cover a range of other guitar sounds like
Gibson and Fender to an acceptable degree and saves me carting 3 or 4 guitars around. It is also
great for playing rhythm as well as solos. Most of my recordings though, heavily feature my
3 favourite stand alone guitars, Fender Strat, Fender Tele, and Gibson Les Paul. Call me a
traditionalist, but between those three, I can get all the quality sounds that I need on a
recording, and the Duesenberg is great because it isn’t as identifiable, but still sounds
5. As an indie it's important to ensure you are heard
. Is it hard work promoting yourself? Do you do it yourself or does someone else do it for you? What would you
consider as the ideal fan? And where would they be ? online / attending a live show/ buyers or
streamers or a combination?
Like most indie artists, I do all the promotion myself. Of course, there
are people involved in the industry who help, and give a boost just out of their own passion and
generosity and to whom I am very grateful. But mostly it is trying to use those resources
that are free or of little cost, like social media. Nothing is truly free of course, and you
pay in endless hours of work, getting the music out, getting seen and heard, interacting with
fans, networking with curators, radio programmers and other artists, across multiple media
It’s a relentless undertaking and can really burn you out. There is paid
promotion too, but I find that to be a minefield trying to sort out the legitimate from the
scammers. There are reputable publications, but they are expensive, and it is very hard to
tell if the result is worth the money.
The ideal fan for me is a person who just likes listening to my music, and
gets something out of it. If they are passionate about it, and want to share it, and want to
come to live shows, then that’s even better. To make the effort of going out to a live
show is really great though, and does mean a lot to me. It’s also great when people like to
interact on social media, by chatting on live streams or leaving comments, which I always try
to respond to. I think that is a really nice way of showing that they like what I do, and
care enough to want to be a part of it.
6. I love the accuracy and pristine sounds of music
that has been recorded mixed and mastered to perfection. Yet for me to actually be there watching listening
and experiencing an artist performing is something I feel cannot be replaced. As the
performing artist what are your views?
That’s the great thing about music. People can get to know the music
either way, by listening to the recording, or going to a live show. In most cases I guess it is by
listening to the recording, which represents how the artist intended the song to be in a
kind of perfect state, allowing all the ideas to be presented clearly. I think live performance
can work on different levels. If you know the songs and are a fan, then experiencing those songs
being reproduced and even reinterpreted by the artist in a live situation, is a real buzz.
And there is the skill factor, watching and listening to an artist do their work in real time,
and the atmosphere and energy that you don’t get from a recording. And that is something you can
enjoy and appreciate even if you don’t know the songs, or never even heard of the
artist. Personally, I have spent infinitely more time performing live than in the studio. I will
always love performing live, and feel that is ultimately what being a musician is all
I used to find the studio a little daunting, but now I really love recording, and I think
I have become more confident in experimenting and being creative with it.
7. You used to do cover songs…
do you still perform
these at live shows? Would you consider recording a cover song?
When I was a teenager, I got really smashed on vodka. It was so bad, that
I have never ever drank vodka since. I feel that way about playing covers. I did it so often
for so long, that I am completely turned off by it. It’s probably an over-reaction and one day I
will probably be more relaxed about it, and I don’t have an issue with anyone playing
I never say never, and if the right song hits me, I may record a cover, but at this
point I cannot imagine it. I do play one or two chosen covers in my live set, but only because I
often have to fill a two hour spot, and don’t quite have enough original material to do it.
8. Have you collaborated with anyone? Is it
something you would consider in the future?
It depends what it means to collaborate. I have had a couple of guest
artists play on some recordings. I had American artist OrangeG play harmonica on a track called
“Rain”, and had Londoner Joe Adhemar play organ on my latest release “Find My Way”. Both
are great artists and both brought something special to the recordings that I couldn’t
bring, and the experience was fantastic.
I guess in some way, all of my work is a
collaboration with my producer Sam, who adds drums, bass and synths to my music, and
mixes/masters it all. We also trade off ideas and I welcome any input he has. But in terms of
sitting down with another artist to actually write and record together as a collaborative
project, I am not overly keen to do. In that respect, I am a bit of a lone wolf, and I kind of like
it that way.
9. How do you view the live performances scene here
in Melbourne & Australia?
It has always been a very healthy scene, but the pandemic really killed
it, and has probably changed it for a very long time to come, if not forever. Whilst gigs are
returning slowly, I think for many indie/original artists, it’s a real struggle. Bigger acts are
looking at festival gigs now, rather than pubs or venues, and smaller venues have been hit hard, and
seem to favour open mics, which is fine if you are a beginner, but is a bit of a cop out for
free entertainment, and doesn’t help smaller indie artists who are well seasoned in live
performance like myself.
There doesn’t seem to be much in between. Either get a really big
following and play big venues or festivals, or go play an open mic with beginners for free. I
hope it improves, but it may take some time.
10. Whats the strangest place you have ever
I’ve played some pretty weird gigs over the years. One of the strangest
that always comes to mind is a gig my band got hired for by a particular fellow way out in the
foothills of a mountain range on his property. He was quite an eccentric fellow, and
liked to throw parties for his friends.
He paid us well, and supplied us with everything you
could imagine, and some things you couldn’t imagine! We played literally from dusk til dawn, and
as loud as we could possibly play. During the course of the evening, he disappeared into the
woodlands of his property, and spread some napalm type stuff around, and turned the whole
surroundings into a massive fireball! It was quite a spectacle and quite a night.
11. What goes through your mind when you write a
song? Do you imagine scenarios, write about real life experiences – your own or someone you know?
All of the above, in varying combinations. I never force anything. Music
comes to me, melody usually but sometimes a riff or chord progression. That will conjure
emotions or mental images, from where the theme of the song grows, and hence forth the lyric.
I do write poetry and lyric as stand alone pieces, but never seem to use them. I think
because the music tells me what the lyric or theme should be, and also because I like to use words
as a rhythm, so the words must work as another instrument. But once it is time to write
the lyrics, then yes, I imagine the narrative almost like a scene, with imagery. These things seem
to come from my subconscious, so like dreams, they are probably rooted in life experiences
of events and people, but are not always specific, but rather are amalgamations of these
Sometimes though, I do write with a more direct intention, so it’s good to
be flexible and versatile I think.
12. Creating melodies and riffs - do they come easily
or do you have to work on them ? Are you a perfectionist preferring to delay recording until you are satisfied the
song is indeed finished?
The initial ideas for me are usually melodies, and I never go searching
for them or try to manufacture them. They just come to me, and often when I am not doing
anything music related. I think the key is just that, having a quiet, empty mind.
down anything that comes, and then when I am in a writing mood, I go through them and develop
them, using guitar to flesh out chords or riffs. They come pretty easily as I just let
the melody guide me.
That’s not to say the whole process doesn’t require work and thought. And
I may try a few different things until I am satisfied that the song is going where I think
it should. On the flip side, I may be noodling on guitar and come across something that I like, and
usually let melodies come to me from that, even by free forming with my voice and
seeing what comes out.
It’s kind of the same process really, whereby I don’t try and
calculate or use any type of scale theory or anything. It’s all just letting it flow from wherever it
comes. By the time I get a song to the recording studio, it’s mostly complete, even though a lot of
the ideas are just in my head. I’m not meticulous though, and most often, many guitar parts, and
even vocal parts and lyrics, are made up or changed during the recording. I quite
like the spontaneity of that.
13. Your sons work with you on your recordings in the
studio and in creating the visual media. Do you find it can be more creative in the process or disruptive if
someone does not agree on something?
It’s definitely more creative. They are both very talented and creative
people, and having their input for me is very satisfying and I really welcome it. We listen
to each other really well and respect each other as creatives. I don’t think there really has been
I trust their judgement and suggestions. We usually have very similar
expectations of how something should sound or look, and once I hand over my work to them, I am
always excited to hear and see what they do with it, and to have their stamp on my work,
for me, is a priceless thing.
14. WHERE did you learn to paint? Amazing artwork!
Thank you! Drawing and painting was another love of mine as a kid, and I
studied art at school and then at Uni. But I was never quite as obsessive about it as I
was music, and actually have done very little in my adult life. I have painted some of my
cover art, and to be honest more out of necessity than desire. I had to relearn quite a bit,
and fall back on some trial and error, but it was very satisfying. It is definitely something I
will do again in the future.
It did revitalize my passion for painting so maybe I will do some
practice before I do another cover painting!
15. WHAT is your favourite food and do you eat it on
days you record music / video? ( this is my favourite question!)
That’s a hard one, because I like most food, except junk food. I do favour
Mediterranean food though, Spanish, Italian and Greek. By the way, I class pizza and nachos
as Mediterranean, not junk haha.
Because I travel to Melbourne to record, it’s pretty common for
us to get a pizza in, after the session. I usually eat very little before singing, whether live or in
Now, you will see the image of an owl.. its one of Leigh’s tattoos.
Something I have always found of interest, is the back story of why someone
selected a particular image to wear..and this is Leigh’s owl story…
My tattoos are very personal to me and represent
aspects of my life and certain ideologies that have a permanence, like a tattoo
itself. The owl stems from my childhood. I had a deep fascination with them and
would go out to the forest at nightfall to watch them. I could get very close
to them, and we would sit and stare at each other for long periods. To me they
were magical and mystical, almost otherworldly. They conjured feelings of
endless possibility, fearlessness, and otherworldly wisdom, and fostered
such imagination as only a child can possess. I think as we grow older it is
difficult but important to try and stay in touch with such feelings, so my owl
is there to remind me of that.
EXTRA! Leigh has kindly sent me
some ‘Behind The Scenes’ photos! Now we can sneak a look at how he works hard
with his team in delivering his music to us! A big thanks to all the team.
** (If you love Leigh Thomas - go to his online store and buy his music –
and if you scroll down the page.. you can download ringtones of some of his
is AWESOME!!! ) **
Leigh it’s been
a delight to meet you and Thank you so much for your time and especially
answering all these questions… I wish
you all the best and look forward to
listening to more releases and who knows -may even rock up to a live show!
a listing of some Leigh’s releases
followed by links to buy or stream…
Cheap Cherry Wine, Lightning, Decent Guy, Something About You, Rain, Take It
all The Way, Tunnel
Vision, These Times, Higher Low, Find My Way.
Music ( sites vary depending on country)