A Quick Q&A with Jennifer Thomas

Just a quick Q&A with some questions I have been asked before and/or recently.

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Tell us about your newest album:

WS - v3 Square“Winter Symphony” is my most recent album – it was released November 20th, 2015 – so just a few short months ago.  Typically with a new album, I’d be busy promoting it constantly after it’s release – but since this was a Christmas album I can’t really talk about it much until it gets nearer into the holidays again this year.

It’s a bit weird actually – to have worked so hard on a new album and then not get to talk or promote it except for the 6 weeks of Christmas music season between the U.S.’s Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s like you had a baby but can’t show anyone for a while.

At any rate though – it’s a wonderful album that I’m extremely proud of.  With every new project – I try to make it better than the last.  So a lot of hard work went into this album. 🙂 It is my signature cinematic/symphonic piano music, this time featuring The Ensign Chorus (recorded at St. Edwards Cathedral at Bastyr University), with orchestra and soloists.

What’s your favorite work at this point in time?

B008KW9V1OsmallI’m very proud of my 3rd album “Illumination” still.  It was a 4 year labor of love. In particular from that album, I really love “Etude For the Dreamer” because it’s very fast and fun to play, but I also love “Eventide” which is slow and dream-like.  I often play Eventide at night after my children have gone to bed and I am just wanting to wind down at the piano.

What, or who, inspires you?  

I am inspired by success stories – whether it be empowered women, weightloss transformations, healing, or anything positive.  I always feel very motivated about life in general when I see people accomplishing big feats like that; it makes me feel like anything is possible if you try hard enough.

When it comes to music though – to be honest I’m very inspired by the music that I love the most.  When I listen to my favorite composers, it fills me with such drive and passion towards music and creativity that I just want to go to my piano and write new work.  I’m also very inspired by the beautiful outdoors, especially the ocean and the beach.  I’m sure you can hear that a lot in my work given certain song titles.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

hqdefaultThat’s easy.  “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception movie score.  It’s perfect in every way – from the chord progressions, the way it starts softly but builds and builds until it reaches epic proportions.  Yes I wish I wrote it.  It’s genius. It is so simple, yet so larger-than-life at the same time.

How would you describe your sound in movie genre form?

Probably either Historic Drama or Epic, if that is even a film genre.  At least those are the images in my mind a lot when I write music.  Everything I write tends to build up to a big swell or epic emotional climax in the song – even on the ones where I try to tone it down a bit.  I can’t not have that in it.

f3f7cf5399f02e7808658a92b1732d9cExcuse me while I nerd out for a second, but it’s sort of like the movie “Sense and Sensibility” where a lot of it is really pretty, but there is that scene when you think it’s Willoughby carrying Marianne home through the rain, but then you realize it’s actually Colonel Brandon and he is this amazing hero figure now and you can’t help but swell with romantic notions and feelings and pride.  THAT swell of emotions you experience is how I think of music when I write.

How do you compose music?  Do you write it out, memorize, use software, or…?

I’m really old-school when it comes to composing. I hand-write everything out on composition paper. I have dozens of composition books that I leave laying around – some containing various albums all in one, others just random works.  I leave them near the piano with a pencil and a sharpener and I write in them when I feel inspired with something.  Or even just sketches of ideas.

This past year, my thing has been writing down any descriptive words that come to my mind when I start a new song. This helps me later as I figure out a title.

After a song is finished, I’ll record it and then eventually transcribe it into Finale for sheet music.  Oh, and one big reason I do it this way is because I’m really not great at memorizing new songs I write. I write them down so I won’t forget them, and then when it comes time to perform them publicly I usually have to re-learn and memorize at that point.  I also feel that I can write more technically challenging music with this method because it allows me to really dig into certain passages of the music and tweak things – which I can’t necessarily do live or on impromptu.

How do you find time to do music and be a mom?

12768307_10153603513813425_4509925277828146166_oThis is a great question – if you figure out the answer please let me know. 🙂

I think the key is just trying to not do it ALL at once.  I can either be an awesome mom, or an amazing musician – but not typically simultaneously.  Fortunately I’m lucky to have a husband who is very supportive of my music career and he helps out a LOT.  If I am working on music projects, he is the one taking care of the children and doing the stay-at-home-Dad thing.  But like right now, he is busy working on our 2nd home remodeling, and so I’m currently doing the full-time mom thing while he works, and so composing new music is not really happening much right now.

10358991_10152206405203425_4520012190882494127_oI honestly don’t know how I could be doing what I do with my music if I didn’t have my husband.  There was a time, not too long ago, when he had a great position with Microsoft – but he was also hardly ever home. He would sometimes work 60 or 70 hours a week. I’d wake up at 3am to find him on his laptop stressing out over trying to finish a report that needed to be done by 7am that morning.  And if I had music to work on, I would either have to stay up through the night while everyone was sleeping, or hire babysitters (which got very expensive).

12928191_10153682559418425_1534486033198862920_nFortunately though, my music career has reached a point where it supports our family all on its own. It was a no-brainer that Will would quit his MS job and support me in my music.  The stress and lifestyle we had while he was working a corporate job was not something we enjoyed.  But now we get to be together all day everyday, and the boys get to actually have a Dad around while they are growing up instead of just 2 hours in the evenings every night (like previously).  We’re almost 2 years into this new lifestyle of making my music the “main gig” around here, and we love it.  But seriously, if Will wasn’t around, I definitely wouldn’t be being able to do the mom and musician thing as well as I do. I’m very grateful.

What’s next for you?
12828493_10153633520113425_906410915010265947_o (1)

I just finished a very very busy concert season and album release which all came to an abrupt stop January 1st (refer to question #1), and since then I have been laying low and playing the mom role at home while my husband finishes work on our other home soon to be put on the market.  Many have asked me if I’m booking concerts or what my next album is going to be  -but I really needed the break after I finished Winter Symphony – both physically and mentally.

But aside from currently being lazy (actually being a full time mom is anything BUT lazy), by the end of the year if things come together in time, I hope to make a couple more music videos for “Winter Symphony”, travel around for award shows (the nominations are coming in which is great), work on a couple of collaborations, as well as scoring a short film.

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But all of that is just sort of up-in-the-air in terms of when. When it happens it happens and I am putting no pressure on myself with deadlines this year. I’m also working on some health goals (finally losing my pregnancy weight as my “baby” just turned 2 years old, and this is the first time in 2 years I’ve had the time and motivation to dedicate to it), I  also need the downtime to grow and create new music, and part of that is experiencing “life” in between projects so I can be inspired with new material and ideas. I guess that is the advantage of being my own boss – I can continue on with music or just take a break for a while if I choose to. 🙂 I’m grateful to have such loyal fans that keep assuring me that they will still be here when I DO put out the next big project. Until then…

Where can we keep up/follow you?

youtubeI tend to post pretty regularly on my Facebook Fan page, but if you want to see a more personal side to me you can follow me on Instagram (@jenniferthomas623).  It’s a mixture of my music stuff, my kids, outdoor adventures, travelling, and more. I’m also on Twitter but admittedly I’m horribly at it – if I remember to check it once a day that is on a good day.  My teenage fans tell me I need to do Snapchat but I’m not on there quite yet (nor have I figured it out). Oh! And of course Youtube! Please subscribe to me there – I post my music videos there, and also my vlogs. 🙂

 

 

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Hey, Can I Get Your Orchestral Back-Up Tracks?

1186258_10151574329411689_801381861_nQ&A TIME. I get asked almost on a daily basis if I would be willing to sell or distribute my backup orchestration tracks to people so that they can perform my songs with them for their own recitals, concerts, etc.

I sell almost all of my original compositions from all 3 albums on my website in SOLO PIANO form. I write all of my music as piano solos to start, and it is only usually after I’ve finished a song where I will add orchestration to it if I feel it needs it. I will then spend numerous hours to compose, come up with and record the orchestrations to my music. I do all of my own orchestrations. I am my own producer.

The only parts I do not do myself are beats/effects which I typically recruit help from a circle of talented musical colleagues. For example, on my album “Illumination”, I had Swedish based composer, Glen Gabriel, fill that task for me. If I have featured soloists on any songs of course those are added in later on as well. And then I have a sound engineer who then adds their magic to the album with the proper mixing and mastering. But as for the orchestrations, I mostly do those myself.

With that said, when it comes to performing my music, I totally get why many of you would want to perform the solo piano pieces with the orchestrations. If I were in your shoes I totally would want to have that power to perform with on stage or for my recital as well! It is a rush.

However, I am sorry to say I DO NOT SELL OR DISTRIBUTE THE ORCHESTRAL BACKINGS FOR MY MUSIC AND PROBABLY NEVER WILL. These are my babies. The reason for this is simple: It is because I use my orchestral backups for when I perform in my own concerts. If I sold my original back-up tracks, there would be little reason for me to put on concerts and perform my music for you guys because there would be plenty of other people who would be performing “my concert” everywhere else.  Not to mention the amount of work I put into these orchestrations – I honestly don’t think I could put a price on them.

I do know that other artists, Lindsey Stirling, for example – sells her own “karaoke” versions of the orchestral back-ups for her songs. She has hired someone to create these “B-side” orchestral backup tracks for her so that she can still use her originals in concert and still remain authentic and unduplicated. Sounds like a pretty smart idea I’d say!

While I do get quite a lot of requests for my orchestral backings through email, youtube, and Facebook – it is not enough for me to really justify spending thousands of dollars to hire someone to create, record, mix/master karaoke backup tracks for me, when I would much rather spend that money on new music videos, or a new album.

What you guys CAN do for me though is keep spreading the word about my music. Keep purchasing my CDs and sheet music. Keep listening to me on Pandora and Spotify. Just help me as an independent artist to grow so that, who knows! Maybe one day I will have extra funds to hire someone to create awesome karaoke backup tracks that you guys can perform with.

I’m truly honored that you guys love my music enough to keep asking for the back-ups, but I hope you understand why I don’t distribute them.  Thanks for supporting me as an artist – it means so much to me!  I hope to put out a couple of new albums in the next few years and also some more music videos for you!

All my best,

Jennifer

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