He is an exceptional songwriter and his voice carries the listener through his songs with an irresistible ease. NEIL THOMAS is based in West London‘s Ladbroke Grove, a melting pot of different cultures, where Notting Hill Carnival, the world‘s second biggest carnival (after Rio) turns everything upside down in August. NEIL really is an exceptional case in a time, when most artists spend their time counting facebook friends. Instead, he has spent the past months in the studio, writing outstanding songs, recording them on his own and teaching himself to produce. „I‘m a bit of a control freak“, he laughs. „I’d rather hear my own mistakes than someone else’s perfection.“ His songs surprise with perfectly elaborated arrangements, great melodies and a playfully changing scope of styles which melt into his own unique sound.
His mother taught NEIL the first guitar-chords before he began to create hiphop beats for his school friends. He even won an award King Of The Jam (a forerunner to the UK Human Beatbox Championships) and later joined Matthew Herbert on a world tour as a singer beatboxer and bassist, which took him to huge venues around the world, including LA’s Hollywood Bowl, and the Melt-festival in Germany. It was Joni Mitchell‘s Both Sides Now which led him into the realms of songwriting: „I was really interested in the way she was dualities: Two sides of something in nature, two sides in your mind, two sides in your heart. That inspired me to start writing lyrics which is when what I was doing became songwriting. “I still consider myself self-taught“, he says. „I had a guitar teacher for a while but he only taught me how to pick fast; I didn’t know how chords and harmony worked, so I had to learn that stuff on my own.“ Well, NEIL’s exceptional guitar playling, can be seen in various YouTube-clips and in his self-released 2011 EP.
NEIL grew up listening to the rock and soul greats and took particular inspiration from the Stevie Wonder record Innervisions, which was frequently played in his family home. As fate would have it, Stevie heard one of NEIL’s songs and had his number passed along for NEIL to call him. When he did, Stevie was very complementary and said he’d like to help NEIL in his musical journey.
It is not surprising, then, that NEIL THOMAS‘ songs offer a blend of skilful songwriting, pop and a good dose of soul music. The song Close To Your Heart gets you with its Tarantino-esque guitar parts, up-tempo-groove and the funky horns (the only instrument NEIL did not play himself on the recordings). Home also sparkles with insistent groove. NEIL says: „It’s a song about losing your mind, being full of worries and problems, trying to get away from the city. It’s about madness.“ His personal favourite on the EP is the highly atmospheric Waterline, which showcases Neil’s producing-abilities at the most. „It’s not a big chorus song, it’s just kind of relentless sort of mood poem. It’s probably got the most soul on it“, says NEIL. „The idea is you are stuck in a well and you are trapped. It’s about the natural urge to fight the inevitable. Sometimes you need to go with the flow, so to speak.”
NEIL THOMAS emerges as a songwriter who has got his own unique and sometimes edgy sound and who wants to be real: „People can smell authenticity and they can smell fakery. If your heart isn’t really in it, they will know. If I can convince people that I’m worth listening to as an artist, maybe I can keep them listening and keep making music..“