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An interview with thomTide: San Diego's multi-genre artist who can't be put into a box

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

The first track I ever heard from thomTide was 'zeroSum'. As soon as I heard the melody I stopped and said to myself "who is this guy?!". Well, through the powers of the internet I would soon find out, and after approaching him on Instagram (@thomtide) he then agreed to do an interview with me to discuss his artistry. The 26 year old artist/producer draws influence from a wide range of genres including R&B, Pop, Hip-Hop and even Classical music. There were a few things that stood out to me though, beyond just his music. There was innovation everywhere I looked and even the way he released all of his creative content was enticing. With bi-weekly single releases that make up seasonal projects and thematic artwork that connects with each other, revealing itself over time - it was clear to me that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts with thomTide. The San Diego, CA based artist manages to simultaneously exist in his time by feeding the habits of consumerism in the digital age, and also operate in a lane of his own, on his own terms, as a creative.

(thomTide - Season 2: Winter)

thomTide Interview

Brad: First of all, how’s life been going for you lately?

thomTide: Always grateful! I’m alive and feeling. Hope you are doing well, and everyone reading this as well.

Brad: I noticed you had listed the genre of your music on 'aujourdHui' to ‘French Pop’ - Do you have French ancestry?

thomTide: No French ancestry haha. I forgot how many I listed as French Pop, was it just aujourdHui? I took French in high school but my friend Pierre actually translated that one for me.

Brad: How do you record your tracks? Do you play any instruments?

thomTide: I record in my living room. Every song is different honestly. That’s how I keep things interesting is rethinking the creative process itself with every song. I love every step of the process, I think there’s a lot of room to be creative in recording, engineering, etc.

I can get around on a few instruments yeah. I played all the instruments you heard throughout the series, whether it was a keyboard emulator or an actual instrument. My first instrument was flute but then I picked up guitar and then keyboard.

Brad: What inspires you most in your music career?

thomTide: Hmm, I would say I’m inspired by life itself, just being alive. Happiness, sadness, anger, tranquility, anything I’m experiencing. I’m always just glad to feel anything, and music helps me capture these feelings and recreate them for others. Also family and friends are a huge inspiration, people are great. I learn a lot from them and they make me feel things the most.

"I feel like I’ve seen super deep into the video-making process already in these first 2 visuals working alongside Giles and Jacob. Dom once said “video is more immersive than music” and I agree, video includes stimuli for your eyes and ears and even your touch..."

Brad: Your visuals are obviously a big part of your storytelling… I’m talking specifically about your artwork and the Spring Season music video. I’m hoping we’ll see a Summer Season vid too! What is it about video that makes it such an important piece for you in telling your story?

thomTide: I’m definitely still learning a ton on how to connect the visuals to the musical story. The visuals have come together great considering how fast paced this year has come together, shoutout Dom, Giles, and Jacob for enduring the year. Yes there is a Summer and I feel good about it, I’m excited to release it. Giles and Jacob snapped on this one.

I feel like I’ve seen super deep into the video-making process already in these first 2 visuals working alongside Giles and Jacob. Dom once said “video is more immersive than music” and I agree, video includes stimuli for your eyes and ears and even your touch, if the speakers are knocking haha. We all went with the flow this year for music, covers, and videos which is very congruent to the fluid nature of seasons 1-4. In the future I want the music, cover art, and videos to all be connected though. That would be a cool follow-up to this debut project.

Brad: …. also, how do you go about approaching the artwork in the manner that you do?

thomTide: For the artwork, in an abstract sense, me and Dom just had a bunch of talks and eventually came to the idea of this “big picture” that would be built from a 3 x 9 grid of single covers on Instagram. There would be this sense of episodically revealing a bigger story with the songs and with the cover art at the same time.

(Screenshot taken from @thomtide Instagram page)

Brad: The way you use seasons as a means to express yourself reminds me of Stevie Wonder in some ways. What is it about the seasons that inspires your creativity in music?

thomTide: Wow. Shouts out Stevie the goat. I mean the seasons, or a lot of naturally occurring processes like that just encode so much information beyond what we might see at the surface level. I like to connect different things in my music because I think a lot of things in life are super similar. Seasons specifically are cyclical. They exist in this perpetual cycle that has this sinusoidal shape. There’s a crest in the Summer and a trough in the Winter, and the Fall and Spring transition between the highs and lows. And this whole cycle is balanced as well. All of these themes are present in the series, but zoomed in on different episodes/moments in this bigger series.

Brad: I feel like the way you release music is very innovative. It’s kind of like subscribing to a bi-weekly magazine that you can look forward to every other Tuesday. It’s also perfect for the streaming age as well and the single-driven music world we live in… what are your thoughts on the way we consume music now & how do you think your strategy fits into that?

thomTide: I love that you asked this. These are my exact thoughts. Honestly I remember I used to buy albums on iTunes, and before that physical CDs (I avoided pirating music). I felt like in that era, I was sort of committing to entire LPs or CDs. Yes I would preview singles but I would only buy a small number of LPs that I previewed, and I would re-listen to them quite a bit.

Today I streamed 3 different highly anticipated albums and I honestly feel much less committed to each. I subscribe to a streaming service which gives me unlimited access to almost all the music in the world and I can listen to anything whenever I want. I guess most of my attention is on playlists and songs as opposed to albums and artists nowadays.

I don’t think this is bad though, it’s just different. I think the most exciting thing for me is to say “this is how things are now, how can I design a project that is exciting in this world as we know it”, or “how can I push us into a new era”. I think I did the former, I embraced the culture and still did something I thought was innovative and exciting. I added structure and (hopefully) kept people captivated with these short story instalments every 2 weeks. I want to play the game but still break all the rules. I hope I’m challenging people’s way of thinking if you’re listening or watching.

"I don’t think thomTide will ever release an LP or EP in the traditional sense. If I do, it’ll be like a “TV show box set” as opposed to an “album”."

Brad: I’m not asking for any spoilers but have you thought about how you might release a full length project differently to this?

thomTide: Hmm, I think this is a nice segue from my previous answer. I think my series is a “project”. I think we associate the idea of a “project” with a collection of songs in the form of an EP or an LP. But the sum of all the singles and seasons is my “project”: The biweekly release schedule, the big picture cover art that is revealed one at a time, everything. The sum of it all is the “project”. I don’t think thomTide will ever release an LP or EP in the traditional sense. If I do, it’ll be like a “TV show box set” as opposed to an “album”.

Everything thomTide does, I want to exist on a sort of spectrum instead of in a box. Genre, project design, release schedule, I want it to all blur lines and challenge the way we think.

Brad: Some of your instrumental pieces (‘sunBirth’ & ‘ofDreams’) are incredibly cinematic. I wondered how your creative process works for these types of songs and if you have any ambitions to score films one day?

thomTide: I mean I cheated on those actually haha, I made most of those orchestral pieces in high school, so they were already done before the series. I was into classical composition back then. I would 1000% love to score films one day. I want to work with directors to bring their sonic vision to life around their movies, tv shows, all of that.

I would love to push the envelope in film scoring as well if any directors are so open minded. But I think that sort of innovation would more likely happen with thomTide. I want to work on my own long form series where the music creation is interleaved with the video creation. Like an episodic version of MBDTF by Kanye.

Brad: Favourite album of the last 10 years?

thomTide: Hmm I would have to go with To Pimp a Butterfly. That’s hard because Blond(e) crossed my mind.

Brad: Favourite album older than 10 years?

thomTide: I would have to go with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy because of the Runaway movie, plus the buildup with G.O.O.D. Fridays. It wasn’t just the album for me, it was the whole progression of events that led up to it and followed it even.

Brad: What’s your main motivation for making music & what message do you want to put out there with it?

thomTide: I think I just wanna inspire. At this point I think that’s all that I want. If it’s just one person. If you ever reached out, even if you didn’t but you’re still inspired I really appreciate that anyone cares what I’m doing. That keeps me going when it’s hard.

I want to expose people with new ways of thinking. I often think of that old saying like give a person a fish they eat for a day, teach them to fish they eat for a lifetime. I want people after me to go farther than I could ever go. I don’t want to create any dependency on me.

Brad: I’m going to be enjoying the rest of your Season 4 rollout but what can we expect from you after that?

thomTide: A long break haha. Videos will continue to close the loop on the Fall and Winter. But the music, I think there’s a lot to pick apart there and re-listen to.

Brad: Lastly, anything else you want to put out there to the people…?

thomTide: Thanks to everyone listening, seriously. Thanks to everyone supporting.

Follow thomTide via the link below:

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