New-Zealand-born, singer-songwriter Thomston, is honing his alt-pop R&B-infused artistry from his visuals to harmonies. With his latest release, Magnolia, expressing itself as the second diary entry on Thomston’s experience moving from NZ to L.A. There is something mystic about his truthful and expressive lyrism. We caught up with the talented musician to introduce him to our IndustryMe readers…
How have you been this past year?
Of course! Well, the world contracted for a lot of us, and I’ve been looking for the silver lining in that. My personal world got very small, and I spent a good amount of the year reflecting and being really regimented and intentional.
Congratulations on your latest release ‘Magnolia’, I am so in love with the music video! Can you tell us a little bit about how the song and the very-fitting music video came about?
Thank you! The song was conceived in Dallas, Texas after a particularly trying time in my life and relationship. I felt super disconnected, and this was pre-pandemic, purely by geography. I was in this flat, landlocked suburbia away from my friends and family and the ocean, all the things I thought kept me balanced. The video is just supposed to visually capture that feeling of being suffocated by an environment, and a yearning to be somewhere beautiful.
You said that you initially wanted the song to be a solo performance, can you tell us why Zeph was the perfect addition for you to change those plans?
The song kinda just happened. I had a completely different approach for the second verse that expanded the story and got incredibly specific but I heard Zeph’s voice and lyrical approach on her song “Lucky” and was really blown away. She has such direct and unashamed honesty in her angst, which feels really refreshing and cool to me. I tend to poeticise the angst into abstraction, to make it pretty, to make it softer, but hearing Zeph say “I don’t hate you, I hate my life” was a lightning rod moment for me. I love it and am so happy that she added a facet to the story.
What is it like for you collaborating with other artists? I can imagine it to be a very natural and beautiful process.
I don’t do it often because I am very precious with my lyrical approach and do the bulk of the work in isolation. When you find an artist that speaks a complimentary language it feels really special.
You take inspiration from many great lyricists like Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Taylor Swift, growing-up what were the musical or non-musical influences that have impacted the type of music you make today?
Being from Aotearoa, Lorde was the soundtrack to my last year of high school and she had a pretty profound impact not only in her approach but just in showing me what could be done from our corner of the world. Falling in love with more formula-driven pop was a hugely important moment for me from a songwriting standpoint and I started to see music as a game of Tetris, finding the pieces and feeling that satisfaction when everything fit perfectly when a line feels right and complete like it fell into place. Artists like James Blake, Jai Paul, and FKA twigs really expanded my production palette and Taylor Swift is the blueprint for adapting while keeping an artistic essence intact.
Something I have noticed about your music is the deep level of emotion you choose to acknowledge, what is it like for you to express these to the world?
It’s second nature, honestly. When it comes to production, vocal delivery, and genre, I tend to consider the listener. When it comes to what I’m expressing, it’s purely diaristic and I’m pretty bold in what I’m willing to share.
How has being a New Zealand Native impacted your approach to life in comparison to RnB artists who curate in the hustle and bustle of a city like New York or London?
It feels like a different thing. So much of RnB and Hip-hop in iconic cities is centred around a community. People come up together, they hop on each other’s singles, they navigate the industry in collectives, etc. Being a white kid from New Zealand I don’t even consider my music RnB, my privilege has allowed me to wander into this industry without the community that makes RnB so specific and special. I draw influence from the genre for sure but being so detached from the rest of the world has created a really mosaic approach to the sonics for most NZ acts, at least for me.
How did your stage name of ‘Thomston’ come about? It seems obvious but why was it particularly sticking to you?
I try to lean into my feelings, and Thomston felt right. It still felt like me with just the right amount of separation, it felt like drawing a line in the sand.
Who would your dream collaboration be and why?
I think SZA is an icon at the beginning of her story and that’s so exciting. We’re lucky to witness it.
If you had to pick one artist to listen to for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
Probably Taylor, for the quality of the writing and the sheer level of output. I would say Frank Ocean, but he seems to be an ‘album-every-5-years’ kinda guy.
Who do you think or hope you write music for?
I hope that the music resonates with the lonely, the observant, the emotional, the queer, the self-assured. I hope it resonates with everyone on some level too.
We are so excited to see where you are heading, what is next for you? Any more releases?
JPA989 and Magnolia are both parts of an album that I’m very excited to continue rolling out. The next single is pretty fun.