Thomson Andrews is a contemporary R&B singer-songwriter, recording artist, live performer, and playback singer. His new single ‘People Ain't Things’ — which is currently doing the rounds on television and radio — is now available for purchase in over 700 digital music stores worldwide. In this heart-to-heart conversation, Thomson’s passion for his music comes shining through. It is said that the toughest steel gets sent through the hottest furnace. Well, Thomson Andrews is clearly a fine example. Please scroll to read.
Singer-songwriter, recording artist, live performer, and playback singer. How do you juggle your many hats? Don’t you fear that you are spreading yourself too thin?
I strongly believe that if you truly are in love with what you do, the passion helps you get through. Music has always been my passion. Throughout my journey as a professional singer, juggling my many hats has never been a hardship. I have sung playback songs in Bollywood films, done ‘character singing’ for Walt Disney cartoons, Broadway musicals (including a Japanese opera adaptation), and television/radio ads jingles in over 15 languages. I have also arranged vocal sections for films and being a singer/song-writer, I also compose my own music and perform with my band. At one point, I used to lecture in colleges as a western vocal faculty too. Diverse as it is, I'm blessed with multiple talents and love multi-tasking too. I find my work to be truly therapeutic.
It is now common knowledge that you traded your corporate job of 4 years for music. What triggered that change over?
My mind has always been inclined towards music. I used to juggle my school life with singing in choirs, college life with singing in bands, and more recently my corporate life with solo performances. My teenage years were challenging due to a sudden financial crisis that had hit my family. No one in my entire family tree had ever ventured into doing music or anything art related as a full time career. This compelled me to take up a corporate job as a means towards financial security. Then due to a chronic illness, I lost my mother when I was 17. My family was devastated. My very foundation was uprooted. This got me to re-think of what I wanted to be doing 40 years from that point in time. And that led me to the stern life changing decision… to dedicate my all to music. Slowly but surely it all worked out. My first big break came along when I got an opportunity to sing with A.R. Rahman. I realized that there is no greater joy than to do what you truly love and also get paid for it. I was (and still am) ever ready to spend days and nights on end working on my music without getting tired. I'm a workaholic and I love every second of doing music. I’m proud of the decision I made to dedicate my life to music.
What has been your highest high and lowest low in your career as a singer so far?
My highest highs have been quite a few. Like singing for A.R. Rahman on various projects (including the Hollywood movie ‘127 Hours’ and the international album ‘Superheavy’ featuring Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damien Marley, and more). Some of my other highs include working with Hollywood director Mira Nair on the Broadway musical adaptation of the movie ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and more recently, releasing my debut R&B single ‘People Ain’t Things’. That’s a track produced by Candy D’souza and engineered by the Grammy Award winning Mixing/Mastering Engineers Deepak Palikonda and Reuben Cohen. The music video for the song has frequented MTV, VH1, and 9X0 amongst other popular Indian channels. Then there are other high points like my singing debut in Bollywood, Tollywood, and Kollywood. Rumani and Sheher Mera are two songs that I have sung for Bollywood luminaries Shankar Ehsaan Loy that are particularly close to me. My stints at MTV Coke Studio and MTV Unplugged were special too. To be honest with you, I have never looked at any point in my career as a low point. There have been hurdles, challenges, competition and low phases, but these experiences taught me how to survive and made me stronger to become the person I am today. So it has all been worth it.
Having attended your last concert at The Little Door in Andheri, it’s amply clear you love performing original music. Have you experienced a shift in the way audiences have responded to original music over the years?
Indeed. Non-mainstream original music is now receiving a lot of airplay and keen ears worldwide. And thanks to the ever growing social media platforms like YouTube and iTunes, a whole new world of original music is being discovered every waking hour… music that is otherwise not showcased by big record labels. Channels like MTV, 9XO, VH1, and RadioOne have been promoting independent music too, thereby creating a rise in awareness about acts to watch out for at local venues. What a blessing!.
R&B, jazz, soul, funk, blues...these are clearly the genres that define your music. Even though they are not nearly as mainstream as say pop or Bollywood, how have you managed to carve a niche for yourself?
Persistence, patience, and courage. Fortunately, R&B, blues, soul, gospel, and funk have been a source of inspiration to many of the present Bollywood music directors like Amit Trivedi, Salim Sulaiman, A.R.Rahman, Pritam, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and more. This opened various opportunities for me, even in Tollywood and Kollywood. All of my work has a strong flavor of my contemporary R&B influences. I guess I created my own niche by demonstrating my versatility across many different genres and languages, while staying true to my roots at all times.
What is on your playlist these days?
Currently, I am tuned into John Legend, Eric Bennett, Pharell Williams, Erykah Badu, Chris Brown, Usher, Beyonce, Tower of Power, B.B. King, John Mayer, One Direction, Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Red One, Babyface, and Tony Bennett to name a few. You will also find foreign language artistes Te’te, Thomas Dutronc, Tarkan, Sinan Akchil, Juanes and Sergio Mendes on my playlist.
Why did you choose to release your single independently as opposed to seeking help from a label?
Record labels do not offer in entirety what musicians need or expect of them. Over the years, they have shifted their focus away from driving the careers of their artistes. Labels now make the artistes pay for everything themselves. They only take on the marketing and distribution responsibilities within India. And, the revenue streams of the Indian labels are largely dependent on Bollywood music. Hence, why would an artiste sign up with a label if he/she needs to create the music, mix/master it independently, and also bear all costs of production and the music video? Rather the artiste can directly sign up with online music stores to sell the music while retaining 80-90% of the royalties to themselves. The labels on the other hand claim 50% or more of the royalties with no investment made in the making of the content. Thanks to social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, artistes no longer need these labels to promote their music. We all know how digital downloads have replaced the traditional physical sales. Honestly, the tables have turned. It is not the artistes who require the labels. It is the labels who need the artistes. Question yourself and see if you know of any non-film music being promoted anywhere by Indian labels on a big scale. There you go. So now you know why I went the indie way!
Tell our readers about your soon to be released R&B album. How did the video for ‘People Ain’t Things’ come about?
The album is being produced by Candy D’souza (like I said earlier) and mixed by Chester Misquitta. It has been a great musical journey so far, one that has offered me opportunities to collaborate with some of India’s best musicians. The single ‘People Ain’t Things’ conveys the message that no one should be judged, ill-treated, under-estimated, or abused based on their race, color, social status, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or choices in life. The video is extremely well conceptualized and is completely in sync with the emotion of the song. That is the work of my genius director friend Angshuman Ghosh. Angshuman heard the song and loved it. Together, we involved our close friends to put together this masterpiece. By that I mean our DOP Mithun Gangopadhyay (aka Mitch), our choreographers Prosenjit Guy Kundu and Priya Gonsalves, our dancers Namrata and Elvis, and our makeup artiste Zahbia. It was all self funded/produced over a period of one year with countless favors extended by all involved. As for the album, the musicians are playing on it for the love of it alone. That is how much they believe in the music I am working on. For me, it is the biggest testimonial I could ever ask for. Making this album has been a beautiful life changing experience in many ways.
Any words of encouragement for musicians who are just starting out?
Art is never manufactured. It is a result of heartfelt passion. Create your own niche. Have immense patience. Never give up. Talent always finds its way to the light. One must continue to believe, persevere, and strive to get better every day. Don’t do music for the fortune and fame. Do it for the love of it and the rest will follow. Always strive to do nothing less than an excellent job — whether paid or unpaid — and never over-promise and under-deliver. Listen to a lot of different styles of music as there is always more to learn. Remember, you are what you listen to. So expand your musical diet. One last thing. Never think you’ve achieved everything and that you’re the best. This will only bring your career crumbling down.
Article By: 2Blue
2Blue (a.k.a Tirthankar Poddar) forayed into the Mumbai rock circuit in 2000. Having gained notoriety for his powerful high-pitched singing and on-stage charisma, he was soon invited to sing for Vayu. After 5 years in Vayu and countless monumental shows, 2Blue formed the hard rock band Zedde (pronounced z?d). Always a man for his heroes, the self-taught singer attributes his vocal prowess to his childhood heroes: David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner, Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, and Bruce Dickinson. For him, if a thing was good once, it always is.
Image Credit: nh7.in
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