Miss FQ’s Skye Ross caught up with Auckland-based muso – who’s hotly tipped for Lorde-level success – Thomston aka Thomas Stoneman just in time for the impending release of his first album, TOPOGRAPH.
His current single ‘Float’ has already garnered over 1 million streams on Instagram, just behind his other standout song, ‘Window Seat’ which was a collaboration with Brisbane vocalist Wafia. Not bad for 20 years old, huh? Well, as it turns out age doesn’t actually faze this up-and-comer… At. All.
Miss FQ: Tell us your background story… Who are you? Where are you from?
Thomston: 20 years ago I was born in London to New Zealand parents who decided the water in the UK was rotting my older brothers teeth so we moved to Auckland when I was really young. I’ve grown up here.
What was it like growing up for you?
I’m not sure I trust my memory, I feel like it’s a highly edited thing. But in saying that, there was lots of time spent outside, riding bikes, walking through the forests my house backed onto, trawling early internet alien-abduction forums. It was pretty quintessential but I’m sure I was bored for most of it and just chose to forget.
It looks to me like your moniker is a mash up of your real name, Thomas Stoneman. Is there an interesting story behind how the combined name Thomston came about?
I just wanted something mononymous, and felt like Thomston was good because it felt stately and strong but not like some “character” I needed to play. It being so close to my name made me feel kinda comfortable.
You’re only 20 and you’re releasing your first album – being a 20-year-old is normally intense enough! Do you feel a lot of pressure to prove yourself, particularly because of your age?
Truthfully, I feel like 20 is so old. There are kids everywhere churning out incredible albums at such young ages, so really it’s just a matter of getting it out before I’m ancient.
How do you cope with the pressure of success?
I have to constantly remind myself that my point of view matters and people care what I have to say. Self-doubt is rife within emerging musicians, and when things are a little tough it’s easy to think that no one cares and there isn’t any point making music. But instead of focusing on success, I focus on what I have to give and the people that have contacted me and told me how I’ve impacted them. Someone letting me know they had the courage to tell their parents about their eating disorder because of one of my songs stunned me. I focus on that, that’s how I cope.
Your first record, TOPOGRAPH was written in five cities on three continents over almost two years. Where did you go and how did travel influence your music?
The record was predominantly written in Auckland, but there was a song I wrote in Sydney, a couple in LA, and another in London. I’ve been really fortunate to travel so much at my age, and I think it really propelled my growth as a person. I look back at photos from 2 years ago and barely recognise myself. That has such an effect on my music, it’s just more mature and considered.
Can you tell me about the meaning of your album name?
Topograph came about when I was on a plane from New York to London. I was pretty lonely in New York and was overwhelmed by the scale of it. As I was leaving in the plane, the higher we got, the smaller New York became. Until I felt like I was bigger than the city, and suddenly it didn’t seem so huge and scary. I could write about my experience because having that birds-eye view gave me this sense of clarity in a way. I realised this was true of every song I had written, that every track was this birds-eye view of a heartbreak, a crush, the loss of a friend etc. To me it was very much like drawing a map. Getting a higher perspective to record the details of, i guess, an emotional landscape.
You’ve been compared to Lorde before which must be a huge compliment. Who, musically, are you influenced by?
That is a huge compliment, initially it’s hard to hear yourself compared to anyone because you’re still trying to figure out who you are. But I’m a lot more comfortable with it now. I’m influenced by Michael Jackson, Frank Ocean, Drake, Beyonce, FKA twigs, the list goes on.
What’s next for you with this record? Can we expect to see you on the festival circuit or on a tour?
I’m still not sure at this stage. I’ve had my brain in album mode for so long (it’s taken me 2 years to finish this) that I can’t even comprehend what comes after.
If you could open for any act in the world, who would you like that to be?
Oo, probably Ariana Grande. The love of my life.
You’re in Auckland at the moment, but are clearly well-traveled. Do you have any plans to move overseas to advance your career?
I’ve been eyeing up LA for a little while. I really like it there.
Did you ever have a plan B?
No, I’ve had enough affirmation to let me know that music is the place for me. It’s also a really fluid profession, you can be touring, selling albums as a solo artist, but then you can also write for other people, produce for other people, have remixes commissioned etc. I couldn’t really do anything else.
What drives you to be a successful musician? Are you interested in the fame side of things or is it pure artistry?
There is this very poorly-veiled answer that I see a lot of musicians give where they denounce fame, because “true artists don’t care what anyone thinks”. I refute that. I think that with anything, it’s about balance and some craving of fame is healthy. “Fame” is affirmation, if you’re making pop music it’s a sign you’re doing something right. Fame is a platform to reach people, to work with other musicians you admire to make art, to have your message impact the largest audience. I don’t crave fame as a concept, I crave a bunch of the things that come with it. In this reality-TV generation fame is more of a dirty word than ever but I refuse to be anything other than transparent about my ambitions because it looks “cooler” if I pretend not to care.
Thomston’s album TOPOGRAPH is available for pre-order now and will be released on September 30th.