The genius behind bliss & alice

By Joey Grihalva

It is unwise to employ the term “genius” loosely. Gratuitous use can degrade its meaning and discredit your judgement.

That said, I find Brandon Thomas also known as bliss & alice to be a genius. Since his debut project Poetry Volume One – The Shit Talker Tape was released in 2014, he has been heralded as a hip-hop virtuoso.

Thomas can be understood as a “rapper’s rapper” not particularly popular with the masses, but well respected by his peers. Above all else, Thomas is a genuine artist. He creates art for art’s sake not as a means to an end, be it fame, fortune, or accolades.

The latest release from bliss & alice Mama Tried expands Thomas’ limited yet extraordinary body of work. The record is a heartfelt masterpiece.

I spoke with Thomas over the phone in early December.

Insularity

Brandon Thomas grew up an only child in Wausau, Wisconsin. The town is located almost directly in the middle of the state, with a population under 40,000.

“It is very insular and to itself. I guess it shaped me in it’s own way,” Thomas says of his hometown.

His father was born in Wausau and met his mother by chance, while she was visiting a friend. His parents played a significant role in shaping the man Thomas became, but were hands off when it came to influencing his tastes in music and art.

[Photo by Kenneth La’ron]
“I was very independent and they were very supportive. I was inclined to explore and learn on my own,” he says.

Musical exploration proved difficult in Wausau, where the radio was “a full year or two behind everything” when Thomas was a child. But, in his teenage years, the internet leveled the playing field, opening up new artistic outlets. He recalls Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea as one of the first albums he loved.  

In high school, Thomas was a focused painter, drawn to the work of Banksy and Basquiat, among others. He was also an avid reader.

“I still read a lot,” says Thomas, who was reading alongside the Wisconsin River when I called. “I might spend too much time reading.”

“I think through the practice of reading you gain an understanding of voice and the value of a word,” he adds.

Painting was important to him, but he never lost focus on words, especially rhyme schemes and how they fit together to create stories.

Thomas began writing poetry near the end of middle school and he began rapping in high school. While he appreciates the natural beauty that Wausau has to offer, he says the town lacks any semblance of a music scene. As a result, he was exposed early on to the idea of creating for the sake of creation, a process and approach he still enjoys and finds value in.

Incredulity

After high school Thomas moved south to attend UW-Milwaukee. He was an intended arts major but switched to psychology and graduated in December 2015. Before living in Milwaukee Thomas had not been exposed to other rappers. He recalls the first time he met Sam Ahmed also known as WebsterX one of the top hip-hop prospects out of Wisconsin.

“We met at Jay Anderson’s place while he was still living over by Alium. When I walked in, I saw a kid rapping straight through the living room. He was freestyling and we went verse for verse for a while. We didn’t hang out right away, but as we got to know each other, we formed a pretty tight relationship. He’s one of my best friends in Milwaukee. He’s a super supportive dude and he’s got quite the vision.”

‘Poetry Volume One’ artwork

Before putting out Poetry Volume One, Thomas had only rapped for himself and for friends at parties. This first project was a culmination of everything he had learned, reflecting his understanding of what he wanted to accomplish with poetry and music at that moment in time. As it was with Mama Tried, the writing and recording process was cathartic.

The response to Poetry Volume One was positive across the board. DJ Bizzon and Jank of 91.7 WMSE’s ‘Those Hip-Hop Guys’ crowned it the best Milwaukee hip-hop record of the year, while 88Nine Radio Milwaukee gave it an award for Best Independent Release.

“I was blown away by the response. It truly did change my life. To go from being a completely unknown rapper to doing interviews, going into radio stations and having people say really thoughtful, encouraging words about the work.”

“All the while I was still in college and didn’t actually have anything figured out. A lot of people believe that you have things figured out if you can do one thing successfully. It was an interesting way to grow. It was something I didn’t know I needed until I had a chance to step back from it,” recalls Thomas.

Emotionality

After the release of Poetry Volume One, there was a lot of anticipation for Thomas’ next record. But any pressure he felt was internal. Thomas recognizes that his brand of hip-hop is outside of the vein of traditional radio play and not easy to commercialize.

“To me it’s not really about the reach. I don’t sit down to write projects and think, ‘This needs to be better than the last,’ or ‘This is going to be my big break.’ It’s about the feeling and the emotion. Now that I have a platform, hopefully I can touch one person that needs some motivation or inspiration.”

“At the end of the day I’m writing songs that I need as a human. There’s always this artist in you that wants to be there for your fan base and try to articulate things as a public figure. But then there’s a 24-year-old that has stuff going on.”

“There are a lot of aspects to life. I have a lot to sort out and music is one of those things. I was very blessed to be put in a position where people listen, which comes with a certain level of responsibility and I’m still navigating that.”

Between album releases, Thomas worked as a consultant on a film in Milwaukee, helping the crew utilize local musicians and “think about the process of making something organic in Milwaukee.”

He took his time with Mama Tried, holding on to it for a while. Some of the production was done in-house, but mostly he reached out to remote producers through the internet whose music he resonated with and “tried to do their work justice.”

‘Mama Tried’ artwork

The result is a gorgeously hypnotic and cohesive record. Thomas’ poetry hasn’t lost its ferocity or wit, but there is not as much bravado. The tempered confidence remains, yet there is a vulnerability and emotionality that cuts deeper than anything on Poetry Volume One. Ultimately, Thomas is able to say more with less words on Mama Tried.

It is clear from the album art that this is more than music. The cover features an adorable picture of a young Thomas on his mother’s lap overlaid with a film-style “R rating” for “violence, grisly images, language, some nudity and sexuality.” Like Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City, the album elicits the feeling of cinema from the sound of the glass bottle rolling on the floor at the end of “Bathwater,” to the funeral procession horns in the middle of “Silver Buttons,” to the voicemail from his dear friend Tebs Maqubela on “Requiem Mass – July ‘15.”

“I think I had a lot to say that I wasn’t getting across on Poetry Volume One. Discussions on race and violence in Milwaukee, trust and relationships, how they fit together and how I fit into that. I think it touches on fears and emotions that people don’t really want to tap into.”

“A lot of it is just trying to write about your own life, instead of always seeking a narrative. Sometimes people need an honest opinion. There’s a lot going on right now. And I think that in a lot of ways this project breathes that into the world.”

The night before Mama Tried was released, Thomas posted the following message to his Twitter account: “It takes years – to better understand process, to consider the weight of a word, to broaden a sense of identity. It is inherently detrimental to conflate the pursuit of catharsis and perfection. Tomorrow my life changes – the moment when it all switches hands, this work becomes yours – the blemishes intact, knowing that once this was all in my head. I want to thank you for your patience if you’ve waited. This is a product of letting the universe unfold and learning to feel everything. I wrote this as a reminder to myself: Thomas, B Well.”

Vitality

When I talked to Thomas, hip-hop superstar Kanye West was in the news. Without addressing West’s situation directly, Thomas offered his perspective on celebrity and the media.

“I think there is an inherent restructuring going on with the internet age. Artists might have personal boundaries, but now people are allowed to cross those boundaries unabated. In that way, you’re either put on a pedestal or on the chopping block. You can be demonized very quickly for any sort of outburst.”

“It’s worth recognizing that information is moving so quickly and generally speaking, we’re not getting most of the story. Having an outlet like I do, it allows a certain lens through which you can process things in a different way without having to speak on them as they’re happening.”

“I also think there’s something to be said about the dehumanizing nature of entertainment in general. That’s something that young artists need to recognize now, because it’s not going away. It has a lot to do with how well you know yourself and what battles you’re willing to pick. What you say is out there, it can be found. It’s important that you really know where you stand before you start talking.”

Thomas is no longer based in Milwaukee, having relocated up north. He doesn’t paint like he used to. These days, his words are his brush. After being exposed to a community of artists in Milwaukee and getting a taste of success, Thomas remains invested in the virtue of his work and what it does for him.

“It’s going to change and fluctuate and hopefully resonate with who I am at the moment. I’m making stuff for me and as long as I’m growing through it, I’ll be happy. There’s more coming, it’s just a matter of when and how and being proud of the work.”

WebsterX and bliss & alice on stage. [Photo by Kenneth La’ron]

[FULL INTERVIEW]

WiG
Where you at right now?

THOMAS
I am reading on the Wisconsin River.

WiG
What city?

THOMAS
I’m up towards Wausau, Wisconsin right now. It’s my hometown.

WiG
I read that you were from Wausau. What was it like growing up there? Is it in the western part of the state?

THOMAS
No, it’s almost dead center in the state of Wisconsin. It’s a town in the middle of nowhere. It’s pretty. It is very insular and to itself. I guess it shaped me in it’s own way.

WiG
How’d your parents end up there?

THOMAS
My father was born here and my mother met him by chance while she was visiting a friend. So they are here now.

WiG
They are still there?

THOMAS
Yep, they’re still here.

WiG
Do you have any brothers and sisters?

THOMAS
Nah, I was an only child.

WiG
What were your parents exposing you to musically and artistically growing up?

THOMAS
They were pretty hands off actually. I didn’t really grow up listening to the music my parents listened to. I was very independent in that way. I found my own thing and always sort of moved towards that. They were very supportive of it. They played a very significant role in shaping the person that I am, but musically I was inclined to explore and learn on my own.

WiG
When you were a child, what music did you gravitate towards?

THOMAS
I was kind of all over the place. Again, being from a small town, I would say that the radio here was a full year or two behind everything while I was growing up. With the advent of the networked age, you know in my teen years, being able to explore a little further into what music was available, that just opened it up.  So I started listening to a lot of different stuff. I wasn’t necessarily pinned down or particularly interested in what anybody else was listening to. My group of friends growing up they were all really interested in eclectic, “this is not what other people from our hometown are listening to” type music.

WiG
Can you recall  some of your favorite pieces of art, whether it be an album or a book or a movie or a play?

THOMAS
I remember listening to so much different stuff and being really invested in the arts while I was in high school. An album that really resonates with me, I think the first album that I ever really loved was Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It was one of those things that always sort of popped up and people jammed that a lot. Learning how to start writing, that was super important to me. I was always reading. I still read a lot. I might spend too much time reading, just in terms of having a lot of other stuff going on. I’m partial to a lot of writers, but it’s hard for me to pin one down and say, “This is a writer that defined me and helped me grow.”

I think through the practice of reading you gain an understanding of voice and the value of a word. So I guess just reading in general shaped me as an artist. In terms of visual arts, I don’t know, I was all over the place with that too. I totally went through a Banksy phase of being a 15-year-old kid totally disconnected from the rest of the art world. So I had a lot of those topical, not to say that Banksy is a topical artist, but the visual artists that rose to the top and have things written about them and were pretty prevalent in culture, and I think that I’m strayed from that in a lot of ways. I was super into Basquiat. I was doing recreations of Basquiat when I was 16 in my painting classes and trying to channel that, he’s just such a different person than me. I was definitely all over the place.

WiG
Besides painting, what other art where you actively creating as a teenager?

THOMAS
I was in a really, really great arts program at my high school. I was a focused painter through that time. It allowed me to use various materials to really get into painting. That was by far my most intimate outlet. I guess I started rapping when I was probably 15, 16. And I was writing poetry before that, so rap was the logical next step I think for me in that era. I don’t know, it was mostly words. I loved to paint, but I was always much more focused on words,  rhyme schemes and how things fit together to create stories.

WiG
Was there an outlet for spoken word or rap performances in Wausau?

THOMAS
No, not at all, and there still really isn’t. I mean, it’s a beautiful little city, but it is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a place that a lot of people come back to after they leave, but there’s also a lot of people that never really leave here. I would say my first real experience being around other rappers wasn’t until I was 18, 19 and that was all in Milwaukee. Just trying to get a feel for what an actual music scene looks like.

I think in my hometown I was just connected enough that I knew every musician in town, but there was no movement, there was no collective, there wasn’t anything that was really going to progress other than these kids making music, probably going off to college and their bands sort of splitting up and going separate ways. A lot of what I was exposed to early on was this idea that you can create things and enjoy it for the sake of creating. And that was in and of itself very valuable, but my take on rap and trying to grow into a rapper, being a particular type of artist, I don’t know if that ever really caught hold. I think I was exposed to it in moving to Milwaukee, but overall I’m pretty invested in the virtue of my own work, what it does for me I suppose.

WiG
And what brought you to Milwaukee?

THOMAS
School. I attended UW-Milwaukee. I started as an intended arts major, then recognized the program wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted out of it. You know, at seventeen, it’s pretty easy to look at things in a short sighted, “This isn’t what I want right now” way. But I ended up switching over to psychology and last December I graduated with my bachelor’s, so I’m pretty stoked about that.

WiG
How did you develop a relationship with Sam (aka WebsterX)?

THOMAS
Sam and I met each other at Jay Anderson’s place while he was still living over by Alium. And I remember when I walked in with a buddy of mine, I believe it was Chris Thompson, who actually executive produced this last project that I just put up. And I remember I saw a kid rapping straight through the living room into this sort of dining room area. And you know Jay, there was a sort of drum set in there and instruments everywhere, and I remember seeing this kid rapping, he was just freestyling. I remember just walking into that space and we went verse for verse for a while. That was the first time I ever met Sam and you know, we didn’t hang out right away, but as we got to know each other, we formed a pretty tight relationship. He’s one of my best friends in Milwaukee. He’s a super supportive dude and he’s got quite the vision.

WiG
You put out your first project in 2014. How did that come to be? What was the process like?

THOMAS
Well, I guess it can kind of be said of any first project, it’s sort of a culmination. I was 20-years-old when I put that project out, so I had been rapping for myself and for friends at parties in the vein of just learning to rap and understanding what I wanted to do with it, or trying to understand what I wanted to do with it.

And so the process of that was just collecting verses that I already written and packaging things, trying to put together a narrative. Challenging myself to create something that was more than just a verse and finding the production, starting to understand the steps that it takes to really craft something.

It was definitely a process of learning and so was Mama Tried. It’s all, for me, this sort of cathartic, get this off my chest, understand myself a little better and hope that other people might enjoy it and go from there.

WiG
How did you process the response to the first project, which was overwhelmingly positive?

THOMAS
I was blown away by the response. I’m still blown away by it. I love to think that rap is something I will always have as an outlet. It’s a process of putting words together and expressing things that I think that I need for myself and hopefully that rubs off on other people. But the response, I don’t want to say it was overwhelming, but it truly did change my life. It was something else to go from being a completely unknown rapper to doing interviews, going into radio stations and having people say some really thoughtful, encouraging words about the work itself. All the while I was still in college and sorting through life and didn’t actually having anything figured out.

A lot of people believe that you have things figured out if you can do one thing successfully. It was an interesting way to grow, just learning a lot about an industry and a the process, a business, but never having had to go through any of that. I did it on my own with no real management or resources. I don’t know, I think it was a growing experience. It was something that I didn’t know I needed until I had a chance to step back from it and to this day it still blows me away.

“Apex” had 600 plays the first week it came out and I still am completely in awe of the idea of 600 plays on a song. Even though I’ve had tracks that have far surpassed that, I kind of always fall back to 600 plays and how many different times and instances people were hearing me, regardless of whether or not it was affecting them. It’s really interesting to think about how small of a count that is in relation to the internet, but it’s still hard to believe.  So I feel very blessed.

WiG
And you know “Madness” was being played on 88Nine on the regular and to this day I’ll still hear it occasionally. It’s such a breath of fresh air to me every time I hear it. It never loses its power.

THOMAS
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And you know, 88Nine, what they do for Milwaukee is understated by a lot of people. Just having had the opportunity to go in there and speak with the DJs and all the people that hold that place together. They do outstanding work for their community and they’ve done a lot for me as an artist and always have extended this belief in the people, in the community, and I really do appreciate that. I think that it can’t be taken for granted how important it is to have your local radio station actually put on for you.

It is kind of crazy when you get that phone call or that Snap or that text saying, “You’re on the radio right now.” It’s very surreal. A lot of artists all over the world spend their entire career trying to get some radio play. And so to be in a position where a widely listened to station goes out of their way to play local stuff and for them to sort through it and enjoy my stuff enough to put it in rotation, it’s something that I thank them for greatly. With the Radio Milwaukee Awards that year, it was this elevated distinction. It’s a super cool thing for Milwaukee artists to have and we should all be very thankful that they do that, so shouts to 88Nine.

bliss & alice and WebsterX at the 2015 Radio Milwaukee Music Awards

WiG
As a result of the reception and success of Poetry Volume One, did you feel any sort of external or internal pressure in terms of the follow-up?

THOMAS
Yeah, I think that there’s pressure involved in anything, right? I think most of the pressure I feel is internal. I’m really invested in becoming a better writer. And a lot of what I’m writing is very much outside of the vein of radio play, it’s not necessarily easy to commercialize. A lot of the things that I’m trying to get across. So it’s not really about, I don’t know, to me it’s not really about the reach. It’s about the feeling and the emotion. Maybe touching that one person.

Now that I have a platform, hopefully I can touch one person some motivation or inspiration. But I don’t sit down to write projects and think, “This needs to be better than the last,” or “This is going to be my big break, this is my magnum opus,” or anything like that.

At the end of the day I’m writing songs that I need as a human. Not as an artist, but I need to get some of this stuff off my chest and I need to process a lot. It’s interesting. There’s always this artist in you that wants to be there for your fan base and try to articulate things as a public figure. But then there’s a 24-year-old that has stuff going on, you know?

There’s so much to life and music is something that I don’t want to say fell into my lap, like I work really hard to create what I create, but it’s not the only thing. There a lot of aspects to life. I have a lot to sort out and music is one of those things. I was very blessed to be put in the position where people listen, which comes with a certain level of responsibility and I’m still navigating that.

WiG
I want to talk briefly about live performances. You’ve only done a handful over the last couple years. How do you feel about live performance?

THOMAS
I love performing. Because I don’t perform a lot, it’s a moment for me. And I want it to be special to the people that show up. There are definitely people that have waited a long time to see a live show. And a lot of it for me is just making sure that if we’re going to go out and do it, we’re going to do it right. Put soul into it and performing in spaces that I prefer to perform at. Being cognizant of the fact that it’s pretty specific material.

You know, a lot of it is not stuff I want to throw out at a dance party on a Friday night when people are trying to have a real good time and get loose. It’s a specific brand. To an extent I would  like to make sure that it’s in the right place. It’s not that I don’t care to perform or that I won’t be performing in the future. It’s totally a matter of making it right and feeling like it’s the right time and the right space. And maybe I over think that to an extent. For now I’m very happy with how often I perform. I think it’ll pick up in ‘17, but for now I’m coolin.

bliss & alice at Freakfest 2014 in Madison

WiG
In the time between when you released Poetry Volume One and Mama Tried, I think Kristina had mentioned to me that she talked to you at a party and you had said you were working on some non music stuff. What were you getting up to creatively in the interim?

THOMAS
I was working on a film. It was being shot in Milwaukee at the time by a director and screenwriter who are beautiful people. I was really kind of exploring the idea that there’s more than one creative outlet and looking at the different ways that people put things together, in terms of how do people make movies versus how do people make music videos. How does that all conflate and differ? What is there to see and what is there to do?

Being artist can be about being very well-rounded and not necessarily always being in the public eye with material. I’ve learned so much in the last two and a half years about entertainment, the business, the practice, and the purpose of going out of your way to create something for other people. And you know, at the same time I’m writing and developing my sense of what I want to do with this work and the forthcoming work. So yeah I’ve been working on films.

WiG
In what capacity? As a writer or actor?

THOMAS
For them I wasn’t acting, I was doing a lot of consultation. Talking to them about music, seeing what could be done about using local musicians. While I was working on the last film that they shot, a lot of location scouting and thinking about the process of making something organic in Milwaukee. And just trying to take care of a process and a city that needs good work to come out of it. So for that I’m very behind the scenes. I have the opportunity to look at a process that is not necessarily my own and start seeing how to make it better.

WiG
How did Mama Tried come together?

THOMAS
I think that project is kind of here and now for me. I think I had a lot to say that I wasn’t getting across in Poetry Volume One. I think that there’s a certain sense of maturity to it. I think that there’s things that I wanted to speak on, like discussions on race and violence in Milwaukee, trust and relationships, all of these different things and how they fit together and how I fit into that. Especially being sort of a called upon representative for a city. There’s a lot to unpack and come to understand about the circumstances that exist.

I think Mama Tried in some ways is a commentary about being me in Milwaukee and looking at it all. There’s so much more to it, there’s a lot that I want people to be able to uncover by themselves. It was definitely a process of being honest and emotional and vulnerable. I don’t think I’m trying to be particularly unique as much as I’m trying to be me.  Sometimes people need an honest opinion. There’s a lot going on right now. And I think that in a lot of ways this project breathes that into the world.

WiG
I definitely feel there’s more vulnerability on Mama Tried. The personality and the emotion comes across heavier and cuts deeper, even though there may be less rhymes…

THOMAS
Yeah. There’s definitely an emotionality to it. Without getting too deep into it, a lot of it is just trying to write about your own life, instead of always seeking a narrative. Trying not just to be a writer, but being a person that people can connect to. But maybe foremost a person that I can connect to within the music. There’s a lot to stomach in that project. It’s not necessarily something that I think people will sit down and play front to back always. I think that it’s effective in that way. I think it touches on fears and emotions that people don’t really want to tap into.

I’m not necessarily sure what the response is yet. People are listening and digesting it still. To that end I’m happy. That within itself says a lot about the content and the weight of it. I also think that it took a lot out of me to make a project like this. The continuity of it and sort of the whole structure, it’s something that I wanted to make. It’s not necessarily something that I think a lot of people want to hear in terms of just emotionality.

A lot of that tends to be lost on people. Maybe not in a bad way, but it’s definitely a specific listener that will take a whole lot out of it. And maybe more so it’s for those people. It touches a lot. And sometimes I think that that’s important, maybe more so than racking up plays or being in the spotlight or  having any sort of acclaim attached to it. I think it’s important work for the people that are going through it, or I least I hope so.

WiG
And how do you connect with the producers?

THOMAS
Almost all of the producers on Mama Tried are remote to an extent. People I’ve never met personally. Long email chains. But I think how I connect to them is that I found their music through one outlet or another and it resonated with me to an extent that I felt obligated to try and reach out. I tried to do their work justice. A couple tracks were done in-house with people close to me, but to a degree I was looking for production that I thought fit the general feel of it.

WiG
I’ve been thinking about this lately, I don’t know if you saw Dave Chappelle when he was on Inside the Actor’s Studio…

THOMAS
No I didn’t.

WiG
At one point he was talking about when Martin Lawrence allegedly went crazy and was standing on the roof of his car with a gun shouting, “They’re trying to get me, they’re trying to get me.”  Dave said something to the effect of, “To call somebody crazy is dismissive,”  and “maybe there’s something sick about their environment.” I’ve been thinking about this in light of what’s been going on with Kanye lately and I’m interested in your opinion as a psychology major and as an artist and a thinker.

THOMAS
Without commenting directly on Kanye or Martin Lawrence, I think that there is an inherent restructuring going on with the networked age. Artists might have personal boundaries, but now people are allowed to cross those boundaries unabated. In that way, you’re sort of put either on a pedestal or on the chopping block. You can be demonized very quickly for any sort of outburst, whether it’s a serious thing or not. Being in the public eye and being expected to be sort of perfect, there’s a lot of pressure in that.  

I think for me the way that that manifests is that I personally have opinions on everything that is going on. I personally am paying attention to the realities that are, but then again I take care of myself. It’s not that I don’t care to comment. I have a responsibility to dig through it all and process it and try to understand every angle and not caught up in the frenzy of any event. To try and look at it objectively. I don’t know if that’s necessarily something I conflate with having studied psychology. I just think it’s worth recognizing that information is moving so quickly and generally speaking, we’re not getting most of the story until it’s all played out. Even then a lot of people are only getting one side of the story from whatever media outlets they choose to associate themselves with.

It’s stuff that I put into my work. I think that having an outlet like I do, it allows a certain lens through which you can process things in a different way without having to speak on them as they’re happening. But I’m not some multi-millionaire artist, I’m not on billboards and I’m not playing stadiums. So my perception of it and the coverage of anything I say is very, very different.

I also think that there’s something to be said about the dehumanizing nature of entertainment in general. And I think that that’s something that young artists need to recognize now, because it’s not going to go away. It has a lot to do with how well you know yourself and what battles you’re willing to pick. Some people pick those battles just for the sake of having their name somewhere. It’s worth considering, especially as you’re crafting a career. What you say is out there, it can be found. It’s important that you really know where you stand before you start talking. I guess that’s the biggest takeaway.

WiG
Do you feel like you’re taking care of yourself better now than in the past?

THOMAS
I think as you grow up you try to.  I’d love to think so. I think I have a different perspective than the last time I was making other music. I wouldn’t say that I’m better than I was when I was making Poetry Volume One. I might be a little more focused, a little more self assured, a little more able to process and articulate what it is that I’m looking at in front of me and what my career is to me. It’s hard to say if you’re “better.” I think we all get very, very concerned about whether or not we are better than our last showing, especially artists. I’d like to think I’ve grown. But I don’t really look at it that way for the most part. I’m pretty healthy. I’m working towards goals. There’s not much else I’m intending to do right now, so in that way I guess I’m very much the same.

WiG
I guess that brings me to my last question, which is your creative goals and what you have coming up?

THOMAS
I’m just looking for growth. All of it in terms of having opportunities, having conversations like this, having opportunities to be heard. I think my biggest creative goal is to continue to make anything that advances and articulates the person that I want to be, the person that I feel like I am at the moment. I’m going to keep creating. It’s going to change and fluctuate and hopefully resonate with who I am at the moment. I’m making stuff for me and as long as I’m growing through it, I’ll be happy. There’s more coming, it’s just a matter of when and how and being proud of the work.

WIG
Are you still painting?

THOMAS
Yeah, I’m still painting. Less than I’d like to, but I will continue.

WiG
I appreciate you taking the time. I love the new project. I’m still digesting it and finding new things.

THOMAS
Definitely. I’m interested to see the reviews if they ever come out. It was a labor of love and I’m kind of glad that it’s not easy to digest. It’s something you kind of have to hold on to. I held on to it for a long time for that reason.