1) What is your name? Val Thomas
2) What type of artist are you? I am a folk singer-songwriter
3) Where were you born, and where are you living now.?
I was born in Montreal and now I live both in Montreal and Quebec city, travelling between both.
4) What is your education, training or mentorships?
I studied theology and philosophy which helped to give me perspective, I specialized in spirituality in palliative care and worked with patients who were terminally ill. This was a profoundly transformative experience that changed the way I write. It taught me how to be grounded and look into my relationships in a more profound way. The people I worked with were my greatest teachers and showed me how to face reality in a bold and brave way. I have enormous appreciation for the encounters I was privileged to have with people who were on their way to transition to the great Unknown. I learned to appreciate and navigate through the uncertainty and focus on the quality of presence needed in every moment. This attitude translated into songwriting as a way to practice that and bring out all the things that are so hard to say.
5) What is your mediums to express yourself?
I write a lot, constantly to clear my mind, to make connections and try to decipher patterns that may be at work in the circumstances around me. Writing is a necessity and is my biggest ally. Music is a way for me to go straight to the heart space and come out of the rational or linear way of dealing with life. I can dive into whatever I am feeling to acknowledge it and honour it by giving it a voice, a melody and beauty through the tone I give the words. It is all about the ‘flow’, through music I have a safe space where there is no judgement over any experience or emotion, all is welcome and all contribute to creating something that feels good, that resonates and breathes life into the abandoned parts in me.
6) Who inspires you or influences your work?
There are so many inspirations constantly. It is all around, all the time. It comes through many forms, sometimes its one sentence someone says that resonates so deep that I feel like it’s a universal theme, that theres something there to explore. Most songs start with an image or a sentence that I can dive into and see all the layers it has. With words and sounds I can explore those layers. Silence is a GREAT teacher for me, it is a necessity also, just listening to the silence gives me so much, being alone regularly is also very important for me. I can be inspired by something a kid does in a grocery store, by something happening in a bus, by a conflict happening with a loved one, by new circumstance that awakens a new side of me I didn’t know. There are some artists that I have a great affection for. Sade and Bon Iver are two of my top favourites.
7) Why create? What is the purpose for you?
Creating is definitely a necessity, it is what comes most natural and is something that is constantly happening inwardly, I just have to tune into it, and listen to it. It is for me a practice of listening to what is going on, how things are resonating inwardly and translating it in a way that brings beauty to it for me. Beauty is in letting what is there speak and exist. I love poetry and exploring the mysterious, music and writing is my way of journeying, move and be moved.
8) What is your theme or subject ? If it varies, what is it now? and why this theme. ?
It has been mostly about patterns that exist within me, between other and me, and in others. Experiences with people I love the most have been the triggers to write and expand on a certain subject. Love can be so complex and irrational and confront us to the most unpredictable part of ourselves both beautiful and dark.
9) Can you tell me a bit about your process? How you go about it?
I definitely create alone at first. I begin just with the guitar no pen, no idea to develop, just strumming. I then tune in to whats going on and find a word or sentence that sums it up. Based on a couple of chords and a sentence I expand and dive into the lively feeling that animates me. The goal is to welcome and love it, kind of like making love to it on another level. Fusing with it and at the same time taking step back to look at it. I choose to be consumed by it, with the help of music and words I can be moved by it, while at the same time moving through it. It is also deeply empowering.
10) What are the biggest struggles in your creative life as a artist in the city or just in general? How do you generally move past any blocks?
A big struggle is finding some sort of balance, because the creative life is not a regular type of process and the lifestyle is up and down, it can be challenging to stay grounded. When I am having trouble I know I need to get grounded big time
11) What projects are you working on now, and what are you dreams for your future for your work and life ?
Right now I have just finished recording my first EP, I am looking to play shows to present it and allow the songs to take form live and be exposed. Part of the creative process is also the promotion, so I am looking at how this can also be creative, as a way to connect with others, build relationships. I am also preparing the next album, working on the concept and writing songs; piecing together the foundations of what will be the next project. Writing is a necessity for me so I am constantly writing new songs. My dream is for the craft to be a means of connecting with others in different communities, countries and settings and to continuously evolve and learn as a singer songwriter to get better and develop an aesthetic that truly resonates with what drives me.
12) Any words of advise to other emerging artists on being a creative person..any motto’s you live by or remind yourself on a daily basis.
There are two fundamentals that have significantly helped me which are to be patient and to trust the process. The artist life works in cycles of projects, so knowing where we are in the cycle is important I think in order to respect our rhythms and have a sense of direction, without pushing too hard or pulling away. This can be very challenging at times but it is also what allows our craft to speak to us and to build a sort of dialogue with it, which makes us grow as people. It all comes down to learning to listen, to really listen. That attitude of listening is key in all phases of the cycle.
13) Does the city you live in influence your work?
Yes it definitely does. Wherever I am influences the kind of insight I will get. These insights come from piecing together different elements of what surrounds me and what I am going through. Being in a place like Montreal is stimulating on many levels because of the diversity, the clash of difference which helps to think outside the box. The metro is particularly fascinating to me and I get a lot of ideas there because it is so strange yet so basic. These experiences of paradox are particularly inspiring to me because it allows me to get out of linear thinking and to more creative piecing together of ideas and feelings. Being in the countryside however is also necessary at times to have that step back, to let these ideas and the feelings settle in.
CONTACT & WEBSITES - www.valthomasmusic.com