Interview: Patrick Thomas Chats Songwriting Process & Self-Titled Debut EP

Patrick Thomas’ self-titled debut EP is bold and powerful, a dynamic set of piano-driven songs that highlight his impressive vocals and adept songwriting. We caught up with the artist to hear more about his country-meets-Coldplay sound and his raw, evocative performance.

The Shotgun Seat: What’s your writing process like? Are you typically lyric or melody first, or does it vary?

Thomas: The process tends to vary. Growing up it was fairly simultaneous. I’ve always had melodies running through my head, but they would never take a definitive form until inspiration struck. Back then that would mean a major life event, a break-up, losing a grandparent, or something of the sort. Today I have been, (sadly), trained to write the Nashville way. In other words, keep a running list of titles, sit down when it’s time to write and do my best to unravel the mystery of that particular idea or hook.

Still, I feel like my best work, albeit not my most commercial, has come from those lightning-strike moments of inspiration when the melody comes just seconds before the words and sort of flows through you in a stream of consciousness. I think that’s creativity in its most enjoyable and fulfilling state. 

You have an incredibly evocative voice. How did you approach the vocal performance of each song?

Each song is VERY personal to me. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on the record. In the vocal booth it generally takes me a couple of times singing the whole thing down to get in the right headspace. I do prefer to sing in large chunks and try my best to embrace the imperfections and the emotion. I also think I generally get the most out of my voice when I try to re-live the song in real time. I sometimes trick myself by pulling up old pictures on my phone and singing to them. Thankfully no one can see me.

How did you choose each of the songs you included on the EP?

Honestly, hours of re-listening, re-living, and asking anyone who knew anything about my music for their opinions. Picking the songs was my least favorite part of the process, because I felt such a weight with this being my first album. I think the next time around will be much easier. At this point I just want to release as much music as I can, as fast as I can.  

When did you first start writing music?

I wrote my first complete song, “Shepherd” when I was 9 years old one morning before church. Most of my songs at that time were either religious or about my parents, (I’d write songs for every Mother’s and Father’s day or any other excuse I could find.)  With that said, I was composing music from a very early age. My parents discovered that I could hear a song and play it back on piano at around age four. From there I would spend hours improvising, taking melodies, songs, musicals, movie scores, or anything else I could, and making it my own. This is still how I spend a great deal of my time today, sitting at the piano at starting to play whatever comes out without pauses or breaks. It could go for a minute or multiple hours, but it’s just something I’ve always done.   

What were some of your favorite artists growing up, and who are some of your favorites now?

Admittedly I had way too limited of a musical knowledge growing up. I spent so much time creating that I never sat down to listen to records the way most of my peers did as children. Still, I was a huge Elvis and Elton John fan from an early age. I also loved the music of “Phantom of the Opera” and the scoring of the movie “Titanic.” In high school it was anything from Incubus, RHCP, and Yellowcard, to Lonestar, Diamond Rio, Faith and Tim, and maybe even some Josh Groban. Definitely some Josh Groban actually. Lots of Groban.

Now my tastes are incredibly varied. In country music today I think the women are ones producing the most consistently high quality music. Maren Morris’ album is perfect, Jillian Jacqueline is another favorite, Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbery, Carly Pearce, Maggie Rose… it’s just all on a completely different level from most male artists. I do love guys like Keith Urban, Lee Brice, Stapleton, and David Nail. Outside of country, Bruno Mars wins for me. He is the complete performer and the closest the new generation is going to see to a Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley.  

What advice would you give to other artists looking to find their own sound?

That’s a tough one. I think I would just say don’t get discouraged. And don’t try to label it too soon. Sometimes things don’t have to have a label. iTunes does us a bit of a disservice by making us choose a genre when we upload music. I completely understand why it’s necessary, but it’s hellish particularly for those of us artists who feel drawn in a hundred different directions. Lastly, don’t think of it as “finding” a sound, but rather “eliminating” anything that is not authentic to you. The sound is already there, you just have to get past the fear of rejection and the pursuit of perfection to realize that.  

Grab the EP on iTunes or stream below: