Now you can read us on your iPhone and iPad! Check out the BTRtoday app.
Justin Dean Thomas is a NYC-based musician cookin’ up some classic rock’n’roll tunes for you to get down to. He’s got some soul, some blues, and a voice that’ll darn near break your heart.
“Standing In The Door” slowly introduces Thomas’ smooth vocals with tragic picks on the acoustic guitar over melodic “oohs” in the background and a sliding guitar that slides right into your heart. “Anytime I’m Feelin” is a different kind of feeling. It kicks into overdrive and immediately wakes you up with some fast electric guitar riffs, hard hitting drums in the background, and lyrics belted out that make you want to get up and stomp your feet; it definitely has an early Ramones feel to it.
Thomas started playing guitar around 10-years-old when he saved money from his paper route and bought himself a Fender. Before that he had to sneak into his dad’s room to secretly play the off-limits Gibson Les Paul. He’s heavily influenced by every melody out there, though his aesthetics tends to give off a 1950/60’s vibe—-yet he makes sure to embrace every sound he hears.
His goal is to get the listener to feel; if his tunes bring you comfort, escape, blues, love, happiness, whatever, then he’s done his job.
He’s got an EP coming out in late December and a 7’’ coming out on vinyl in January. Make sure to follow him online (Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud) to catch his next show and see what he’s cookin’ up next!
Courtesy of Justin Dean Thomas.
BTRtoday(BTR): How did you get your start in music?
Justin Dean Thomas (JT): My old man was a drummer, a studio musician. My mom didn’t have any music talent per-se, but she was a musicologist of sorts. She would listen to an album and she would be able to tell you who the producer was, and the context, and when it was released, and all those little minutiae that would make the music romantic.
BTR: Did you grow up playing music?
JT: Oh, yeah! I remember I bought my first guitar selling papers at the docks and I’d put a little money aside everyday and go into the guitar shop and put that little bit down each time to buy my first Fender. I probably started playing when I was about 10 or so. My dad had to give up music; we had a lot of kids in my family, so he gave up on music and worked odd jobs. My parents were kind of gypsies and would go to yard sales and thrift stores and they would buy all kinds of things.
I remember my dad had a Gibson Les Paul and he put it up in his room and was like, “don’t touch this!” and I was like, “yeah… I’m definitely going to touch it.” I’d wait everyday till he went to work and I’d go up there and open up the case and have to remember exactly how it was put so I could put it back in the same way and that was the catalyst for me falling in love with playing guitar. I taught myself.
I went back and forth between Boston and New York growing up and I started busking and then that led to meeting other musicians and getting a community of that going. Then I started to venture out to do my own solo stuff and now I’ve just been kind of doing that. Now I’m based in New York.
BTR: Are you only working on solo stuff, or do you have other music projects you’re working on?
JT: Yeah, I’ve had other bands here and there. Now I’m just primarily doing this, but I really love what being in a band teaches you. The diplomacy of it all, the democracy, it humbles you and teaches you to work better with others and to be open to other ideas that probably you wouldn’t have normally been open to. Though, I think sometimes at a certain point you just know exactly what you want to do and you don’t want to compromise those things. I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of musicians playing with me, particularly one that’s been there from the start, Brandon Collins, he’s always playing drums. I’m able to put moving pieces in here and there. The last show that I did, we played with a pedal steel player and a Vivaphone player and we had a rotation of different bassists—-we had Andy Rourke, from The Smiths, play bass on this EP that’s about to come out and on the single that’s already up, “Anytime I’m Feeling.”
BTR: What’s your creative process like when you’re writing your music?
JT: It all varies. Sometimes I’ll get a melody in my head and it might be like three in the morning and I have to jot the melody down and then the words just kind of take shape. Sometimes I write poems first and then I adapt them to some melody I jotted down. A lot of the times it just comes. I don’t ever strain about writing. I don’t sit down and say, “ok, I’m going to write a song,” it just kind of comes to me and just happens. I might have like four or five songs thought out, but I know exactly how they’re going to be. They’re never really an intentional thing, if that makes sense. It’s always just kind of things that are sitting on my subconscious or things that I feel like are about to happen. Just things floating around in the universe, and I’m able to get a hold on them and put down.
BTR: Is there anything in particular that you want your listeners to get out of your music?
JT: Yeah! I mean, I think that often times if you see a photo or when you hear music, or read a book, it’s really what it means to you. I never really like to explain what things mean to someone else, or explain what a song is. I love to hear what people think that it means, and sometimes nail it. Growing up music was always solace for me, so if it [my music] can do what it did for me, for someone else, then I feel like I’ve done my job. Sometimes it’s escapism, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s realism, if it helps somebody to get through something, or brings them into another world, or makes them happy, or makes them cry, then I’ve done my job.
BTR: You have this sort of 1950/60’s vibe going on, what lured you to that era’s style?
JT: I guess I’m always apprehensive to taking hold of some sort of throwback thing or anything like that. A lot of the stuff that I listen to definitely stems from all of that stuff, but it’s a little more expansive than that. I listen to a lot of music from the 50’s up to now—anything, from jazz to garage, a lot of stuff from Ghana I’ve been listening to right now and I just kind of pull from everything. You know? And like a lot of obscure soul music. I guess I never really think to much about the aesthetics that I’m putting out, I guess it’s just how I feel at the time—-it could be something completely different next year.
BTR: What should we be looking forward to in the future for your music?
JT: We’ve got vinyl coming out with Greenway Records, it’s a 7’’—-so an A side and a B side. Both of those songs are up digital right now, “Standing In The Door” and “Anytime I’m Feelin” should be out in January. The EP, a five to six song EP, that should be out a little bit before that album drops, I want to say late December. That’ll be out digitally first and then we’ll have it on vinyl as well.