introducing: thos henley
Thos Henley isn’t one to stay in one place. He is a singer, a poet, and a playwright, but what really characterises him is that he travels - a lot. Born in Southampton, Thos Henley has lived in the UK, in Paris, and currently, he is based in Stockholm. Last Friday (18th November), he released his third album, called Blonde on Basically Ginger, on Pan European Recordings.
Opening with Long Time Feeling, a dreamy track threaded through with summery melodies and optimistic piano, there is a sense of endlessness. The opening lyrics to Long Time Feeling almost act as a subtitle to the entire album: “And even though my strings are braking, my singing carries on” -music is the thing to cling to after a long journey, a lost love, the end of summer. The fourth track Escaping the Shade is Thos at his most vulnerable, with just the piano to support his effortless vocals, akin to Harry Nilsson’s sweet, sepulchral ballads. But in the album as a whole, as in life, there are highs and lows. Witness and 1994 are bright as sun pennies, winking and glimmering on water made up of unpretentious lyrics and clever, refreshing melodies.
Youth and vibrancy courses through the songs, many of them reminiscent of fairground rides, whirling and spinning to their own rhythm that you can’t help but be swept up by. Musing on days past and to come, Thos creates music for the love of playing in the present, a style inspired by 70’s piano pop. His raw, unedited vocals that are grounded by meditative lyrics: “No offence meant by my present tense, I’m just lost in time” (Dust in This Town). Also available on vinyl, Thos’ album steers clear of techno beats, looped lyrics and edited sound, keeping its roots firmly in soil sown by the likes of Carole King and Paul Williams. There are also hints of Jack Johnson’s soulful melodies, especially in Aubrey Lane and Ouija Board with their sun-drenched beats exploring the effects and perceptions of time passing, lessons learnt and people encountered.
The music video for Long Time Feeling encapsulates a relaxed, impulsive musical aesthetic. The film is three-and-a-half minutes of Thos gliding along a sun-dappled, tree-lined road on a skateboard, singing from his heart and skating on into the distance. Its simplicity effectively captures the essence of Thos’ lively, feel-good music, enticing its audience to delve further into his music.
The album is out to buy on iTunes and Bandcamp, to listen on Soundcloud, Deezer and Spotify, and the vinyl record can be bought on Pan European Recording’s website. I would highly recommend having a listen if you want to be transported back to hazy summer days, feeling warm sun on your back, salt water lapping your toes, and perhaps a summer romance by your side.
Hearing Aid asked Thos some questions about his musical journey and the story behind his brilliant album:
How long have you been a musician for, and what got you into it music - was there a specific moment or a conscious decision?
Me and my friends started a band when we were around thirteen years old and from there it never stopped. But back then I couldn’t even play a chord on any kind of instrument. I taught myself to play guitar when I was 17 and that was when I started writing my own solo stuff.
Your label said your music is not far from that of Tobias Jesso Jr. How much of an influence are his songs on your work? What other artists inspire you?
I like Tobias Jesso Jr but he is not an influence at all. In fact, I only heard his music recently, long after we recorded the album. However, I think we both have the same influences, from most notably Harry Nilsson and Carole King.
What can you tell us about your new album? Where was it made and how long did it take you to make it? Is it the culmination of various events and songs or did you write specifically to create an album?
I had some songs floating about. But they were all on the guitar as my other albums have been. I showed some of them to my friend Judah Warsky and we both agreed that they had this 70’s, piano ballady feel to them, so we moved them over to piano and that’s when the album really started taking shape. In the end, we booked a studio for 48 hours and recorded everything live and we got it done! That’s what you are hearing on the record, 48 hours, live, warts and all. But I also have to say I had incredible musicians behind me. Mathieu Geghre on the piano for example. I could never play like he does.
What was the idea behind the title of the album?
I was bored of trying to come up with a title for the album. Everything either felt too simple or over complicated and pretentious. Someone suggested Henley on Henley like the Dylan album Blonde on Blonde, and I think it was Judah who jokingly suggested “Blonde on Basically Ginger”, as a recurring joke between us is the colour of hair which I like to call blonde but in all reality, it’s basically ginger. And I liked how unpretentious and stupid that was whilst at the same time it is referencing one of my favourite albums.
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Phillip Goodhand Tait or Kate Bush.
Have you been anywhere that has especially inspired you to write music?
I live in Stockholm right now. I can feel that the next album will be heavily inspired by this city. It’s impossible not to write ten songs about this place. I love it here.
If you could go back to any period in time, when would it be?
That moment when Al Kooper first laid down the organ on “Like A Rolling Stone”.