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Interview with Melbourne indie musician

Leigh Thomas

June 2022

 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 start.

 https://soundcloud.com/newacidplanet/new-acid-planet-conection-show-202105001-part-one-novamerica?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

 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?

 LEIGH:

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?

 LEIGH:

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?

 LEIGH:

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?

 LEIGH:

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 great.

 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?

 LEIGH:

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 platforms.

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?

 LEIGH:

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 about.

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 songsdo you still perform these at live shows? Would you consider recording a cover song?

 LEIGH:

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 covers.

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?

 LEIGH:

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?

 LEIGH:

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 performed?

 LEIGH:

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?

 LEIGH:

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 things.

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?

 LEIGH:

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.

I note 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?

 LEIGH:

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 any disagreement.

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!

 LEIGH:

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!)

 LEIGH:

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 the studio. 

               *********************************************************

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…

 LEIGH:

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 best songs!

HERE:

https://leighthomasmusic.com/store

Higher Low 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!

Angela

 Here is a listing of some Leigh’s releases  followed by links to buy or stream…

Miss Me, Cheap Cherry Wine, Lightning, Decent Guy, Something About You, Rain, Take It all The Way, Tunnel Vision, These Times, Higher Low, Find My Way.

 Website:

https://leighthomasmusic.com/home

https://www.viberate.com/artist/leigh-thomas

https://jaxsta.com/profile/7e848c7a-592f-4a2f-8fb5-88493cbd7f95/catalogue?view=tile

BUY:

https://leighthomasmusic.com/store

https://leighthomas.bandcamp.com/

 STREAM:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/2qgekgGrHSevwRj6JVuRq4?si=mnmM09bkSJmdTGSYxMCidw

Amazon Music ( sites vary depending on country)

 

                    
 

 

 

 

 

 

image of musician Leigh Thomas
Leigh with the staff at  The Windmill Cafe, Toora 3962
Leigh with the staff at The Windmill Cafe, Toora 3962
where I interviewed Leigh Thomas

 " 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." ... Leigh Thomas

EXTRA!

Some  Behind the scenes  shots courtesy of Leigh Thomas

© Leigh Thomas, 2022

That famous Blue Guitar!

Not just a musical talent... Leigh painting his cover art for Find My Way

Artist Interviews

Angela H Evans

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