We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelley Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shelley, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
How many hats an independent musician wears! All in one person, we are entrepreneurs, performers, songwriters, arrangers, bookers, promoters, graphic designers, tour managers, accountants, marketers, videographers, photographers, editors, project managers, music producers, mastering engineers, data analysts, copywriters, administrative secretaries, and visionaries. Each musician’s career is unique and there is no blueprint for us to follow. We face rejection and inner fears, experience financial instability, and must be disciplined and self-motivated. Our work is so very vulnerable and personal. We must practice, eat well, and have self-care too!
It is not a career for the faint of heart, but the reward is immeasurable: to see your songs come to life by amazing musicians, straight from your soul, and exist out there in the world and touch someone else’s soul.
Music is a sacred work that accompanies every landmark event of life, but it is deeply undervalued by society. Musicians make $.0035 cents per stream on Spotify. So please buy music on Bandcamp and support musicians however you can.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a performer-composer-producer (voice, oud, percussion) creating a new genre of music called World Chamber Pop. I immersed myself into the styles of Balkan, Arabic, Hindustani, Pop-Soul, African, and Classical music which I am now blending in this new sound.
I’m most excited about the album I’m working on! It’s written for a ten-piece microtonal world chamber pop ensemble and I’ll be doing a crowdfunding campaign to support it. You can pre-order by signing up for the newsletter at www.shelleythomasmusic.com.
I have a BFA in World Music from CalArts and I’ve traveled to seventeen countries, studied with over forty teachers, and toured and performed with diverse artists including Yo-Yo Ma & Silkroad ensemble on the GRAMMY-winning album “Sing Me Home” with vocal trio Black Sea Hotel. After studying and performing traditional music for so many years, I dove into writing my own compositions.
I seek to take the listener on a cathartic journey with cinematic arrangements and lush, emotive soundscapes. I integrate spirituality with sound, fueled by creative self expression and innovation. I believe in the power of music to heal and unite, which is so needed in our world. I also collaborate with organizations for commissioned works, and look forward to more projects writing music for sync, film, tv and orchestras.
I am on a path of self discovery through music full of growth and lessons. I overcome the challenges with faith that I have been given this vision for a reason, and I am an extension of the divine expressing itself, ever supported by the universe. Also remembering the kind words from listeners over the years about how I’ve touched their lives helps fortify my creative practice.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Definitely Pearl Street in Boulder — there are tons of great shops and restaurants there, like the little gift shop Bliss. My favorite coffee shop is January Coffee, which I frequent regularly — their decor is so uplifting, fresh and inspiring. The hiking here is amazing, I love Chataqua Park Trail with the view of the Flatirons. I’d also take them to a women’s circle with the lovely Sacred Sister Collective that nourishes the soul. I love the Portuguese restaurant Ultreia which is in downtown Denver, and then catching some music at the summer concert series at the Boulder Bandshell.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to Caveday for keeping me on task every day. This is an incredible online community of people co-working together from all around the world, with cave leaders and focused work sessions day in and day out. I’ve learned so much from Abe Duque and Brent Arnold, music production teachers at 343 Labs, as well as Jane Arnison from Music Production for Women. And countless other teachers over the years teaching me fantastic vocal stylings and music from around the world.
And lastly, to my late mentor and friend Bassam Saba, the Artistic Director of the New York Arabic Orchestra, for creating a wonderful world and community to exist in, and always supporting and believing in me as he taught me to innovate within tradition.
Other: Linktree with all relevant links: https://linktr.ee/shelleythomasmusic Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/14PTY5GQNB3rtBh4anhW3L Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/shelleythomasmusic
First ensemble photo collage: Photos by Jesse Selleck / Banyan Studios, Brooklyn, NY. 4 nature photos: Cynthia Munoz