From Busker to Barrowlands
In an age where many choose – or desire – to be monoymous, it’s refreshing to come across an artist known not by one name, but three.
Dylan John Thomas is a Scottish singer/songwriter currently enjoying a UK tour which includes three sell-out dates at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, a fact the former busker is clearly thrilled about.
“The Scottish thing… it blows my mind how well it’s gone, especially in Glasgow, it’s on another level.”
Needless to say, the Glaswegian is looking forward to playing in his home town, but the venue itself is also significant. Although he’s set to perform on stage in the city’s iconic Ballroom, it wasn’t long ago he was busking outside. Maybe that’s why it means so much to him.
“It’s always special,” he says now. “The Barras is one of those venues where everything’s great about it. There’s nothing annoying about it. From the minute you walk in… even queueing up is fine, the security is fine, all the way up to going to get a pint. The sound is great. There’s enough space for everybody to enjoy it, it’s not a crammed venue. Everything’s just great about it.”
The fact that all three of his Glasgow dates are sold out suggests that he could, perhaps, have performed at a larger venue. That, however, was not on his agenda.
“There’s a lot of venues that I could play that might be bigger and I could make more money, but to me, none of that matters. The thing about Barrowlands is, I could play it for the rest of my life.”
But as fond as he is of the Barras Market venue, he has fans elsewhere that are equally keen to see him perform. In fact, at the time of our conversation, he’s on his way back from two festival gigs south of the border, namely Leeds and Reading.
“It was bonkers!” he exclaims. “It was mental being able to go down and play shows in England.”
It also confirms the growing popularity of this talented 24-year-old who plays both guitar and piano and cites Johnny Cash as his biggest influence.
“Also The Beatles,” he tells me, “and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. But ‘Ring of Fire’ was the first song I learned when I got a guitar.”
Dylan was just fifteen years old when he began writing songs. It wasn’t long after that he took his music to the streets and tried his hand at busking.
“That’s when I started getting a bit better about playing in front of people,” he admits.
That self-confidence is evident in his music, not least in his latest single ‘Yesterday Is Gone’.
“It’s a simple song, with a synth kind of element to it,” he confirms.
It’s certainly listenable. In fact, having heard it once, I’ve since sang along to it countless times, his undisguised east end accent somehow adding to its appeal. So much so, I’m keen to know when his debut album is due to be released.
“It’s finished. I recorded it in Liverpool in a place called Parr Street. We’re just sorting everything out for a release date.”
I can’t wait. Particularly when he tells me what and who influenced the sound.
“I don’t know how to describe the actual sound but in terms of influences, I was influenced by a lot of sixties folk… Simon & Garfunkel, and especially Paul Simon. That was the music I was interested in the most. It was trying to put those kind of things into some contemporary kind of pop or indie piece that gets people moving but where I can still showcase some sort of dexterity.”
By contrast, his rhythm is influenced by Ska.
“I was obsessed with Ska…The Specials is one of my favourite bands ever. The first time I heard ‘Ghost Town’ I was maybe about 12 or 13. And Madness as well, songs like ‘Our House’ and ‘It Must Be Love’, they’re not especially Ska songs but there’s a way about them, they just resonated with me. So there are elements of Ska in the rhythm, that was the idea. And then the melody and the lyrics come mainly from The Beatles.”
Some songs, though, stem from personal experience, as Dylan explains: “It makes it a bit easier to write if you write about the things that you’re going through. Some of the songs I’m maybe writing about childhood and the things I went through when I was younger. There’s that, and also things like relationships and whatever else you go through. Sometimes you do get the imaginary narrative and you come up with different ideas but the basis of it comes from different general life experiences.”
It’s an interesting amalgamation of sounds and subjects and I’m really looking forward to hearing the as yet untitled album.
As for Dylan, what comes next?
“Just to be able to write, to be able to record, and to be able to tour, that’s the dream of any musician. It doesn’t really matter what level. As long as you’re making a living, you’re getting by and you’re enjoying it, that is where you want to be. As it grows… like bigger venues or wherever it goes, that’s class, but for me the only thing that matters is that I get to do it anyway.”
He also gets a wee bit of variety when it comes to his songwriting.
“I’ve got some mates that are in bands and I’ve been writing with them, with different ideas. I like that process because I think it’s important to try all different avenues and not to get stuck.”
In the meantime, however, it’s all about the upcoming tour. And although tickets are sold out for the Glasgow dates, there is still availability (at the time of writing) for his Edinburgh gig at O2 Academy on 24th November. For tickets, and to keep up-to-date with other news, including his album release date, visit: www.dylanjohnthomas.com
“It’s really cool,” he concludes. “I’m buzzing about the tour.”