Though Fred Thomas has been making his own music since 2001, he didn’t share it with the world until five years ago. Striking out on his own, he found that the life of a solitary musician was far different from being a member of a band.
He’s played in bands since his teens and toured as a musician almost his entire adult life. But since he retired his last band, Saturday Looks Good To Me, to start a solo career, he’s rarely played with anybody else on stage. “It’s mostly just been me driving around by myself,” he tells BTRtoday.
When we chatted with Thomas, he’d just played two solo sets in Austin and Houston, Texas. On that trip and other recent ones, he’s hit the road alone, a new experience for him.
“It’s so weird, but I also really suggest it,” Thomas says about touring alone. “You drive around, show up alone and look for ways to get through the world without any help. It’s really interesting. I’ve gotten to know myself and find new levels of self-reliance, boredom and self discovery.”
Fred Thomas “Good Times Are Gone Again”
Having to tour alone has made him realize he’d been a primadonna while touring with bands. Since he booked shows and usually fronted the bands, he thought he was already pulling enough of the weight. Now, having to go it alone, he’s realized touring involves so much more than he thought.
“The years when I was touring [with bands] I was sort of like the songwriter who was the crybaby who was sleeping for the eight-hour drive,” Thomas says. “I kinda went back and apologized to everybody I toured with—I was like, ‘I didn’t realize that you were doing everything, all the heavy lifting.’”
Now back in his hometown of Michigan, Thomas is prepping a U.S. tour with Anna Burch and Common Holly in October and looks forward to what he described as “melancholic melodic” fall shows.
Two weeks ago, Thomas released Aftering, a tragic and relatable indie album featuring singer-songwriters like Elliot Bergman, Anna Burch and Ashley Hennen. The intro track “Ridiculous Landscapes” kicks off the album with a shimmering soundscape, setting the perfect mood for Thomas to sing “January’s colors curdle fast eclipsed by their own fading, as the world changes to glass.”
Though most of the tracks have a feel of impending doom, the melodies on tracks like “Altar,” “Hopeless Ocean Drinker” and “Alcohol Poisoning” provide a much-needed breath of optimism.
Fred Thomas “Altar”
“It’s a bummer record, but people still seem to get some good energy out of it,” Thomas says about Aftering.
All the songs are inspired by his personal life, but he zooms so far into the details that the lyrics end up too vague or abstract for anyone to discern the real-life inspiration. “The specific things to me [in the lyrics] I mention like the year that it was happening, certain landmarks of the town, down to like names and addresses—it’s pretty direct,” he says. “[But] nobody would really know that except me and maybe some of the people I’m lowkey calling out in the song.”
Hear the entire interview with Fred Thomas on this week’s The Music Meetup and his newest album Aftering in its entirety.