Thomas Stoneman is 20-year-old Thomston. New Zealand producing, singing and songwriting extraordinaire, he’s already amassed thousands of plays via Spotify and Soundcloud. He toured Europe just last year, playing festivals like Pukkelpop, Lowlands and Soundrive to his adoring, and constantly growing overseas fanbase. More recently, and closer to home, he’s supported Perth Future Classic signee Wafia on her XXIX EP tour, and released a collaboration between the two of them – the pulsating and melancholy duet Window Seat. With two hugely successful EPs already under his belt, and an album on the horizon, we managed to catch up with this up and comer on his come up. Here are the words of a young man about to break through more than ever before.
You’re only 20, what’re you doing aside from music?
Music’s kind of consumed my entire life, to the point where someone asked me the other day what’s been my happiest memory recently that isn’t about my career and I found it difficult to answer. I feel like everything that’s happening in my life at the moment is just music. So I’m not really doing anything else other than writing and releasing music, it’s just kind of taken over my life.
Before you got into music you have a history of acting, filmmaking and writing – are you continuing with any of that at the moment?
I feel like all my interests from when I was a kid have rolled together into what I do now, so I still get to make films in the form of a music video and I get to write songs and, acting is something that I’m not super interested in anymore but we’ll see what happens, I might get bored.
You’re also super active in the visual components to your work. How important is having an aesthetic to what you do?
It’s extremely important to me. I think just because these days especially you see music before you hear it. Unless you kind of discover new music through the radio, you’re seeing visual content on blogs and things. You look at it before you decide to click it in an instant, so I feel like more than ever visual content is extremely important, and it’s also just something that I really enjoy. So for me to put a lot of emphasis just makes sense to me.
What made you realize that you wanted to pursue music rather than your other creative fields?
To be honest it kind of fell into my lap in the most bizarre of circumstances where I was kind of just offered a management contract. I really wasn’t serious about it. I enjoyed making music but I was really not serious about it, and then at the end of 2013 I got asked in for a meeting with a management company which ended up becoming my managers and I kind of just caught up with the expectations I guess.
What’re you hoping your audience feels when they listen to your music?
That’s an interesting question. I hope they feel something. There’s a lot of music that’s super easy to zone out to when you listen to it, and I don’t want to make music that’s easy to zone out, I want people to have to hang on every word and to relate to it and just have it mean something for them. That’s ultimately what I want to do, or I’m trying to do.. what I hope I have been doing.
Initially in your career you weren’t playing many shows, but how does it feel to be performing more regularly?
I feel like in the grand scheme of things I haven’t been writing for very long. I’ve only been songwriting for two years, but the live component I’ve really enjoyed. It’s such a different level of stress verses pay off for me. When I’m playing shows, you’re so stressed before you go on but when you’re up there and when you come off it’s the biggest high. Whereas when you’re writing music, it’s just fun the whole time. It’s interesting.
How do you feel that playing your shows has affected the way you write your music?
I don’t know if it’s had much of an affect. I think that seeing a lot of bands play live made me think a lot more about what kind of songs rev up a crowd, and what kind of songs get people excited. If anything it taught me that it’s really varied, but it’s so different from artist to artist, you can go watch and artist like Alt-J, that has some really down tempo music that people go crazy over, and then you watch Major Lazer and people are losing their minds the whole time. So if anything I came away from playing my shows and watching other shows being like, “I don’t actually know anymore”. I feel like I’m just going to keep writing and keep making music that I believe in, and I just hope that it translates and people like it in a live setting.
On the production side of things, do you feel that since you’ve started your growing production skills have allowed you to further the sound that you’re going for?
100%. I feel like I’d taken a real back seat with my production for a year where I was kind of observing and just saying what I wanted, but recently I’ve really taken the reins and I’m loving what it’s allowing me to do, in terms of the creative freedom it’s giving me but at the same time it’s such an interesting aspect, and such a huge aspect of the music that I make that I think it’s important that I learned how to do it myself, and I’m really enjoying it.
You’ve got a huge following in France and greater Europe, how did that start? And how did you end up playing shows there?
So basically Spotify France put me on a couple key playlists. I remember one of them messaging me on Facebook and being like “By the way, your song is number 50 on our chart,” and I was like, “Wait, what?” So I checked and everything and sure enough there I was, just at the very bottom of the chart. Over time people were sharing it within France, and it moved up and then suddenly my name was among all the pop-stars. It was really really strange how it happened but to me it was really re-affirming. I felt like if my music’s given a push and it’s given a platform it’ll reach the casual listener and people will share and people will get behind it. Then in terms of playing shows in Greater Europe I just had a really good booking agent over there and he noticed some demand and I just played some of the cool festivals while I was over there. It was incredible to see the response, and it’s kind of weird for me cause I’m so far from Europe. Going over and seeing people who know who I am and who know my words to my songs and having them sing back to me, it’s very strange, kind of unnerving.
You’ve recently supported Wafia on her XXIX EP tour, and you both worked on Window Seat – what’ve you learnt working with her as an upcoming artist herself?
We’re just very similar in a lot of ways. She’s taught me a lot about the value of collaboration. She’s really scouted a good group of people that she consistently works with, and I’ve become one of them which is really cool for me because I’m now getting to work with people she’s been working with for her projects and stuff. She’s just got a really cool way of championing the people that work on her music with her, and that’s something that I’ve taken away from it. I just want to get a key group of collaborators and really get behind them and support eachother on all our various different projects.
You’re working on an album at the moment, and just collabed with Wafia – what guests will feature on the album?
There’s not actually going to be a lot of guests on the album. I wanted it to be because it’s my first record, not “all about me” but at the same time, I’m aware that I just wanted to keep it in a pretty small circle of collaborators on this record.
And when can we expect it?
I’m not sure to be honest. I’m trying to finish once I’m back home, but we’ll just see how it rolls out. Yeah! I can’t confirm nor deny a date at this stage because I don’t know.
What’re your plans for the rest of the year?
So much is hinging on the album, It’s so close to being done, it’s in the mixing stages at the moment, in its final vocal takes and stuff, but as soon as it’s done we’re really formulating plans and stuff and figuring out what my year is going to look like. At this stage, apart from things I can’t really talk about, it’s pretty sparse till we’ve locked the album down.
Finally, if you could give yourself a message when you just started out, what would it be?
Oh my gosh I actually talked about this the other day. Over the course of the last year I’ve really learnt to let myself be wrong about things and just to accept that some people know better than me. At certain points in the beginning I really thought that my gut was the most important thing, but the further along I’ve gotten the more I’ve realised that I don’t know everything. There are so many people around me that want to help me and are experienced and well versed and know a lot of things that I can’t. So yeah, I think that’s the thing I’d tell myself. I’d tell myself, “Be humble, listen to people because people know what they’re doing… sometimes.”
Thanks so much for talking with us Thomas, we look forward to seeing you very soon!
Thank you very much Jack!