Singer-songwriter Nathan Thomas is something of a rarity, in more than just one respect. A lifelong Nashville resident, he’s the son of an in-demand musician who played with acts as varied as bluegrass legend Del McCoury and future Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell. From shadowing his dad during local performances, to playing in bands in high school and now to the present-day, creating and performing music has been his passion. As a young man, there was music everywhere around him, but more importantly there has always been that spark inside of him to create and perform. With the release of his debut project, ‘Simpler Times’, the spark has become a bright, colourful inferno.
Co-produced by Thomas with producer/musician/songwriter Foster Ferrell, Simpler Times is laced with elements of anthemic contemporary country and powerful pop, echoing the stadium-filling, fist-pumping drive of songs by Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts, but also the intricate, acoustic works of such artists as John Mayer and Fleetwood Mac. At the same time, the songs are also imbued with raw intimacy and delivered with a soulful, authoritative vocal style that’s warm, reassuring and mindful of the tradition from which he has come.
Rooted in compelling, relatable lyrics and irresistibly catchy melodies, the emotional trajectory of the songs on Simpler Times are as autobiographical as it is universal. Thomas evokes childhood memories in the opening title tune, which builds with a palpable intensity before its slow, quiet distillation into what feels like an eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart conversation. The radio-ready songs throughout the album, including ‘Look Up’, ‘Distracted’, and ‘Talk’, address the importance of communication and connection, and of recapturing the best of those simpler times.
“‘Simpler Times’ was actually the last song we wrote on the record,” said Thomas. “I had been writing all year, trying to find the right song to glue it together. When you’re writing a record, you want it to be a body of work, to tell a cohesive story, even if it’s different. At this season of my life, and I think a lot of people can relate to this, we all lead lives with a lot of noise. We have these permanent distractions that are in our hands called iPhones, and we’re connected to everything, but we’re as least-connected as we’ve ever been from a realistic perspective.”
The uplifting ‘When I Grow Up’, offers a passionate rumination on parenthood, a natural expression from the married father of three young sons, who range in age from 2 to 8 years old. The nostalgic ‘We Were Boys’ recalls Thomas’ early musical pursuits with high school friends, while ‘Best in Me’ closes the record on a deeply moving note. It’s an emotional love letter to his children, on behalf of parents who aspire to, in his words, “be all that our kids see in us and to live our best for them.”
While the songs throughout ‘Simpler Times’ are written with wisdom and compassion, qualities borne within the artist and fuelled from an early age, the road to his becoming a songwriter and performer was anything but direct.
“I was definitely obsessed with anything my dad did and thought it was so cool,” said Thomas. “My dad was super supportive, but also encouraged me to maybe not go into music. He went through a lot of hard times, especially in the world of being a sideman. He was like, ‘Go to college! Get a real job!’ I dropped out of college, got a developmental record deal at 19 years old, and in my mind, I was gonna make it. I had the dream so many kids have.”
Like other longtime Music City residents, Thomas has been a witness to Nashville’s staggering growth in the past several years. But some of his most cherished memories are of a lower Broadway that today’s more exuberant tourists would likely find surprisingly quaint.
“My dad used to let me go with him into Tootsie’s,” he said of his father’s frequent gigs at the famed watering hole, mere steps away from the legendary Ryman Auditorium. “It wasn’t as rowdy as it is now. It’s such a party town. It’s so funny just thinking about that. I’d sit behind the sound booth, watching my dad play in the small room downstairs. You can’t do that anymore. I mean, I’ve got an 8-year-old, and I don’t think I’d ever imagine taking him to Tootsie’s with me to play! But it’s awesome, it’s good for Nashville, it’s a lot of opportunity.”
With ‘Simpler Times’, Nathan Thomas endeavours to provide a sense of hope and inspiration in extremely challenging times.
“People need to know, number one, that it’s possible to make your own music. I think a lot of songwriters out there really need hope. A lot of entertainers are waiting for a record label to find them, or for somebody to come along like a big-name producer or manager and make them into something. In all reality, it just takes putting in the work. I’m just out here trying to be myself, and writing songs about everyday life that I hope are relatable to everyday people.”
Another release from Nathan Thomas is the timely music video for his song, ‘If The Sky Is Falling’. Owner of Radar Talent Agency, Doran Eichenberg shares,
“There are times in history that, although chaos, fear, and discouragement seek to rule, an artist takes the despair surrounding them and creates inspiration for us all. That’s what I see in this song from Nathan.”
Many around the world are struggling with incredible challenges and devastating loss; however, for native Nashvillian Thomas, this comes on the heels of personal heartache as well. Just days before his album release show of Simpler Times, Nathan Thomas was crushed with the news of loss. His best friend was tragically killed in a car accident. This was also amidst the tornado that ripped through music city leaving many friends and neighbors homeless and in a vulnerable place.
“In this new reality that we have all come to know because of the Coronavirus, there has been a song in my heart and I want to share it. Even in the midst of uncertainty and fear, we have seen light in the dark, and beauty come from the chaos. Healthcare workers are still on the front line working around the clock serving to get our country well. Delivery drivers and grocery stores are ensuring that shelves are stocked. Moms and dads around the world are choosing to make the most of their unplanned isolation by leaning into their family. And those are just a few. I think we all can agree that our eyes have been opened to how blessed we are and how much we take for granted. My hope is that in sharing this song you might be inspired to join me in trying to find the good in all situations and finding some joy even in dark and uncertain times.”
Check out the video for ‘If the Sky Is Falling’ below: