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A couple of years ago, former Seymour resident Owen Thomas was dealt several blows at once.
A romantic relationship he thought would be forever suddenly shattered. The major-label, internationally touring pop/blues-rock band he had fronted for a decade, The Elms, was disbanding. A beloved grandmother died.
Like many artists before him, Thomas began releasing his feelings the most natural way he knew: through songwriting, openly allowing feelings of deep pain and betrayal to bleed onto paper. The result of that two years of writing has produced Thomas’ first solo recording, “Languages,” available on iTunes and at hiowen.com.
The recording was released in November. In addition to the disc, he has busied himself with Absorb, his new video and design company that handles everything from music videos (Christian pop’s Steven Curtis Chapman, country’s The Band Perry, rock drummer Stan Lynch of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) to album cover and web design.
The disc’s sound is softer than The Elms’ latest of four releases. Thomas, 33, said that is because he’s a new person with a new direction.
“Walking on stage and playing in front of 80,000 people — we’ve already done that,” he said, referring to crowds at festivals. “Now, I have a much more expressive palette to create from than simply blues-based rock ‘n’ roll.”
The first tune, “Houdini,” is about the woman he loved, painting her as an emotional escape artist and himself as a “heartbreakaholic.” He’s already getting social-media messages from lovelorn listeners, whom he encourages, saying, “Hang tough, because it eventually gets better.”
How did you get your start in music?
My dad (Hywel Thomas, a Columbus pastor, singer and keyboard player) and mom (Ruth, a bank worker and keyboard player) both were college vocal performance majors. My dad is Welsh, and I remember singing Welsh standards on stage at Welsh conventions of 2,000 people when I was only 4. We were kind of like the von Trapps.
How did you recover from the end of The Elms?
The rock band was my identity. But what I didn’t do was allow myself to wallow in the
How did you approach this record?
It was completely outside the box and atypical. I would find an hour here and an hour there for the songs. We (friend and ex-Elms bandmate Thom Daugherty, who served as producer and guitarist) took two years to put it together. And we finished only a few weeks ago. So there’s been no big, three-month roll-out for publicity.
The record is mostly about horrible heartbreak and darkness, but listeners online already seem to love it. How is that?
That, to me, is the quintessential magic of, say, Bruce Springsteen’s music. If you read the lyrics of the song “Glory Days” on paper, it’s enormously depressing.
You know, it’s the idea that the best parts of your life are gone. But the musical buoyancy of that track turns it into an anthem. Music actually has the capability to turn a sobering narrative into something very uplifting.
How has your pain changed you?
I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’ve resolved to be the most authentic version of myself that I can be. It’s a choice you make.
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