BRISTOL – Bristol native and daughter of a local teacher, Tori Thomas has released her first music video.
The video for Thomas’ single, “It Gets Better,” directed by Nick Vigue, can be viewed on YouTube and, according to Thomas, will soon be followed by another release in May.
Thomas said music has “always been a big part” of her life. However, it wasn’t until college that she said she “really began testing the water” and writing her own music.
“I’ve played the guitar since I was 15, but those first few years were mostly folk and country covers, and a lot of Taylor Swift,” she said. “I paid a big part of my way in college by playing on the streets in Boston with a guitar and local gigs and once I realized I could make money doing something I loved, I just kept going with it.”
Thomas said the idea of it being “difficult to get into the music industry” never bothered her.
“It’s difficult getting into any job, so you might as well go all in on doing something you love,” she said. “I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunities that have paved the way for me to pursue what I’m doing now, and I know not everyone does.”
The first time Thomas played in front of a crowd, she said, was during her family’s annual Labor Day campfire. Her father, she said, had been in many bands with his brothers and friends and they were also playing at the event.
“This isn’t your average campfire, it’s this giant octagon and there might have been anywhere from 30 to 50 people but in my mind it felt like 10,000,” she said. “He finished a song, stood up, put a microphone in front of my face and handed me his white Yamaha guitar. I’ve never been so petrified in one moment, but I remember in my head thinking ‘This feels like a monumental moment.’ I could run or I can take a small leap. So I quieted the fear to the best of my ability, and just started strumming.”
Thomas counts among her top five musical influences Sara Bareilles, Julia Michaels, Dermot Kennedy, Amy Winehouse and Jon Bellion. But she said it also depends on who she is listening to at the moment.
“Usually whatever is on my most recently saved Spotify list inspires the production or a song I’m working on,” she said. “Right now, I’m in San Francisco and my friend played some Shakey Graves for me which I know for sure I will go back, dissect and write from.”
The music video, she said, was the culmination of “a really long project.”
“Whenever I write or sing, I usually can see things visually. Images, colors I just let my mind go,” she said. “That’s probably why a lot of the time I have to remind myself to open my eyes when I’m performing. When I started plucking even the initial notes of this song, and emotionally I felt like I was under water trying to catch a breath. So you could say that’s when the original concept of the video began.”
In Los Angeles, Thomas said she is connected with a “huge network” of Emerson College alumni with various roles in the film industry. Her director, she said, is a close friend.
“He does this for a living so it was fantastic to have someone who had been through the process on board,” she said. “We slowly began piece by piece putting together mood boards, discussing the shots, the tone of each phrase and what it meant.
Then the detailed planning began. We shot the whole thing in a day-and-a-half over various locations outside of LA in the fall.”
Thomas said as an independent artist who didn’t have access to a huge budget, she made the shoot work by “feeling our way through” while staying true to their “authentic vision.”
“I am so grateful to have had Nick on board from the beginning, because he’s one of those people that has an incredible attitude and finds ways to keep going,” she said. “We’d hit a setback, and we ran into a lot of setbacks, and not even seconds later, he would have the next idea.”
Thomas said while she grew up on albums, full length records “aren’t conductive to emerging artists anymore.” So, she plans to release music as a series of singles.
“People aren’t finding music through albums they are finding them through playlists and it’s rare to have more than 1 or 2 songs on a singular playlist, so you set yourself up better by releasing singles,” she said. “It also helps me creatively, because I can get more out in to the world that way. I don’t spend as much time wondering how a song would fit in full album, I can just create it exactly how it comes out.”
Thomas’ single, she said, was written after a tough break-up, but that was “not the focus or reasoning behind the song.”
“It’s meant to capture the moment to moment thoughts that happen when you’re trying to find yourself again,” she said. “I remember at the time being really taken aback by how fine I could feel one moment, then knocked down the next and all the in between. I didn’t set out to write an ‘anthem’, although I’m glad it has become that for some people. I just wanted to try and capture the messy, ups and downs, steps forward, and steps back it takes to heal even in just one particular moment. The song was written within the period of about a half hour, and all of the lyrics are just the various thoughts that transpired in a brief window of that healing.”
Thomas said, so far, the response to her music video has been “absolutely incredible.” The song has been featured on Spotify playlists as well as the blogs Neon Music and Buzz Music LA.
“So far everyone has been very kind and supportive, especially because this is a whole new level of a project I’ve never done before, there are people seeing that and cheering for me,” she said. “Even if the music video sucked, it’s awesome to feel like I have people invested in my journey as a whole and that they’ll still look forward to the next thing.”
Thomas plans to release another single in May, which she says she is “thrilled about.” She said she is working on “ground-level” ideas for another video to accompany it.
“Live music seems to be slowly returning, so I’m definitely eager to play live again soon,” she said. “It’s important for me to workshop my songs live, because I never want to record or release something that couldn’t stand alone with just a piano and guitar.”
Thomas encouraged those who wish to stay up-to-date on her music project to follow her or sign-up for her email list.
“I probably send out two to three emails a month and go further into detail ranging from behind the scenes, what I’m working on etc.,” she said. “It’s kind of like I’m catching up with people over coffee.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.