A Conversation with Ryan Thomas

 

KWL sat down at Dichotomy to chat with the very thoughtful and talented Ryan Thomas.

Thomas hails from Houston, but found his calling to perform while living in Waco. We first saw him perform at the Free Comic Book Day event in Waco at Bankston’s (which if you haven't been please stop reading this and go there immediately).

After hearing him Rap about Pokemon and Ninja Turtles, we were hooked. He brings a sense of purpose to his work and he appears to be successfully straddling several universes between his faith, love of music, love of all things nerdy, and a strong yearning to leave behind something for the future generations of musicians.

Photo Credit: Corey O’Connell

Photo Credit: Corey O’Connell

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, from H town. H town raised. Wacotown made.

KWL:
So, living in Houston, what did you draw from the city for inspiration?

Ryan Thomas:
So, actually all I did when I was in Houston was a lot of sports. I was a basketball player, top 20, coming out of high school. That was my life. The only thing that I would do that music had to do with my life was before games I would listen to it or after school or before school I would listen to a wide arrangement of music or genres, such as Coldplay, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Drake, 21st Coming Out.

KWL:
So, you're building your inspiration?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. Yeah, I just liked good music, not popular -- not just the music that was trending. I would bump it, for sure. If there were bops, I would listen to them. But, I love good music that is unique. If you sound like somebody else, I'm just going to listen to the first person that sounded like that. Do you know what I mean?

KWL:
I appreciate that. You dig back the layers to find the root if it?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, exactly.

KWL:
I love that. So, your inspiration for music came about in the city of Waco then?

Ryan Thomas:
I would say I developed my ear for what I liked in that time, at least. Then when I went to college, I learned about all these new genres, specifically like faith-based music. I didn't know people that weren't... I didn't know they made that. I didn't know there was people making music like that outside of little churches. Because at Baylor, you have to go to a chapel.

I thought it was so strange. But, I mean, it was cool. But my only experience in church was people were excited to be... like they genuinely wanted to be there. I didn't go much, like maybe once or twice a year after that experience.  So when I came to Baylor, people were just kind of sitting down. Some people were napping. Some people were studying. I was, "This is kind of contradictory." Anyway, this is a rabbit trap. But then I heard Gungor, and they're kind of on the edge where it's very uplifting music, but they wouldn't pin themselves as like a Christian artist. They are uplifting and creative. I was, like, man, this is cool. And so, I started opening my ear to that kind of music, and I can't listen to too much of the corny stuff, though.

KWL:
The corny stuff?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, just like faith-based music, like conscious hip-hop or conscious music. And then there's... it's like the corny Christian stuff like... all right. You probably know what I'm talking about.

KWL:
Yes, I do. It's got to have a creative edge to it.

Photo Credit: Corey O’Connell

Photo Credit: Corey O’Connell

KWL:
So, when did you come to Waco originally?

Ryan Thomas:
2011. I moved around after graduation, which that is where I really started getting... that was the time where I really started developing my songwriting and finding out what really kicks music out of me.

KWL:
Sure.

Ryan Thomas:
Just like, there you are.

KWL:
You do have this energy in your performance. Let's talk about your first album, which is “Journey of a Kid”.

Ryan Thomas:
That was my first shot, really, at recording, having the concept, having the story I'm telling through multiple songs. I was learning things like from what's a decibel to how far from the mic do I stand, what's tinder, how do I... delivery, like what's my... what things do I that fall from the sky, what things do I grab from the sky and twist a little bit. I was learning.
I was going through growing pains.

If you look at the album cover, it has my hand in soil as if I'm planting a seed and in the emblem it's a seed. And it's just me like making a statement on the ground of, man, I'm going to make this sound the best quality and the most authentic to me.

If it's not amazing, I will have accurately captured my growing pains as an artist and as a young man. People who were in college like I was at that time can probably relate to the lyrics in just like anything from being a nerdy. It could be as nerdy as Ninja Turtles and using that as a metaphor, live your life, or like dating nuances. Like, how do I figure this out?

Everybody thinks they have it figured out and getting advice from people, but, really, no one gets it, you know?

So I have got to figure this thing out. Like all of that stuff was growing pains captured in that album.

KWL:
So an appropriate title then?

Ryan Thomas:
Yes. Yes, it surely is. I probably should have called it Growing Pains, though. Whatever. Journey of a Kid was...

KWL:
I like that, “Journey of a Kid”. I like it. It's beautiful. So, that one came out in 2017?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah.

KWL:
So, your most recent stuff, “Domicile”. Let's talk about how you've progressed.

Album Cover-Domicile.jpeg

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, that one was hard. That was a labor of love, for sure. I came out of the season of my life, period of my life, where I was doing all these great things, like good things, helping people, meeting needs overseas. I went to Greece to help the Syrian refugee crisis. I lived there for like three and a half months.

KWL:
Athens?

Ryan Thomas:
We were on Lesbos, which is where 2000 refugees a day were coming in. They'd have their whole life packed in a backpack and you hear their stories. You're, like, "Wow. I've got it made." And so, coming out of that, I didn't know it, but I was dealing with PTSD, and that album is me journaling myself out of depression, anxiety that I had no idea I had. It's me expressing in the before and then realizing the middle of, whoa, depression. This is still okay that, man, right now I... my emotions towards God are, like, volatile right now. Is that okay?

KWL:
A dangerous place, huh?

Ryan Thomas:
And then getting to the end of it is, you know, that no matter where I go, I'm always going to be looking for the sense of home. I think we as humans, just like the refugees, we're all looking for this sense of home, whether it's the people we're around or little moments like someone comes home from work and their wife hugs them and says hi and they have dinner; like little things like that. I found through my own journey of faith, I know that no one can take this antidote that I found, this feeling of home that I found from me. Because I genuinely blocked it, and so that was...

KWL:
That was firsthand.

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. Domicile means home. It's a place you call home because of a connection you have to it. And in French, it's the French word for home. And so, I wrote it in hopes that I would actually be able to perform it in France, and now I'm doing that in a month.

KWL:
So, let's talk about what the future of Ryan Thomas music is.

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. So, actually I have been writing, to those who have been asking, "All right. When are you coming out with new stuff? What are you doing?" I am writing and actually producing some things. I will release a set of live songs with three live recorded songs from my last concert in Waco.

KWL:
Will that be on Spotify?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, that's the idea. And then in the meantime, I'm working on a really, really... I don't know if I'd call it a sound shift. I think I'd call it like a honing; like I'm honing my sound. Like this is the stuff that naturally flows out of me.  I'm thinking I've got some points of where if you give me a trap beat, I could probably eat it. I could probably- I could do that. That's easy. And I don't mean that in like a proud way. It's just that I'm finding that I've gotten used to that. In order to stay creatively interested in my music and how to impact people, it's going to probably start sounding more melodious. You will hear more instruments. You will hear more of my singing. You will hear... it will be like a rapper-singer-songwriter. At least, that's the hope. It could come out and it's, "Dude, you're still rapping." You know what I mean? It could be like, "Bro, nice try." But I don't imagine that, but it could.

KWL:
You have a clear vision...

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. I've been pondering a name change, like an artist name change, just because Ryan Thomas is so common, and I've literally gotten text messages of people taking pictures of bulletins. It's, like, "Oh, are you performing at some place in Chicago?"

KWL:
Some random white guy?

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah, it's some country artist dude named Ryan Thomas. Well, dang, mom and dad.

Photo Credit: Ricky Galindo

Photo Credit: Ricky Galindo

KWL:
Who should we be listening to in Waco that we don't know about?

Ryan Thomas:
Judah. This guy named Judah. I think his name is the Tribe of Judah or...So this guy, this kid, Judah, is a special kid. He's got a special heart. His heart shines through his music. You can tell he's ... some people are driven to do music. This guy's called or made to do it. It's, like, "Wow".

KWL:
That's amazing.

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. Yeah. So brilliant. He's got a great band, better heart. The Thinking Caps, they're a good group to listen to. They actually opened for me their first time playing live. They opened for me a while back. It was cool to see them...

KWL:
They put on a great show.

Ryan Thomas:
Yeah. They're still doing it. It's awesome.

KWL:
And they're still young, too.

Ryan Thomas:
And that's one of my passions is I don't want to be the only one doing anything. I want to make a way for everyone to realize they can do it.

KWL:
That's beautiful.

Ryan Thomas:
You know, I'm not going to live in Waco all my life. There's opportunities to live other places and do music other places. But I am a firm believer that there's gold here in this city.

KWL:
I couldn't agree more.

Ryan Thomas:
And I'm blessed, honored to be one of the people who were at that spear, the tip of the spear, for doing creative things and not just haphazardly, but like, man, I want to do it with passion and do it with excellence. I'm not saying I'm the best. I'm not. I shouldn't be and I don't think I am, but….

KWL:
Well, we think you're pretty damn good.

To keep up with Ryan Thomas (as you should), you can check him out here or follow him on Instagram here!

Ryan Thomas’ next show will be at Cultivate 7Twelve on June 27th

 
Katherine Selman