Shawn Thomas: The OUTmusic Interview

-by Jeremy Gloff
-appeared on OUTmusic’s Myspace Page
-November 1st, 2008

Happy November everyone!!!! Is anyone else nervous about the election? I am!!! We will see how things go!

So are you ready for OUTmusic November 1st featured artist? This time around we have Shawn Thomas! I had great fun interviewing Shawn. If you like his music check out more at www.shawnthomasonline.com

As always, thanks to J.D. Doyle for his help with our featured artists! If you like this feature make sure to also explore www.outmusic.com and www.queermusicheritage.com. Here’s what Shawn had to say:

1) where are you located?

West Palm Beach, Florida.

2) how many years have you been making music?

I started recording in the early 90’s — mostly secular stuff — then in 2003 released my first spiritual/Christian CD.

3) faith is a big part of your music. tell us the importance of faith in your life?

I know that Christianity is sometimes not a “popular” topic within the GLBT community — and even more so sometimes as a genre of music. It’s completely understandable because there is a history of those in our community being excluded, removed, condemned, and abused by some within “the church” who don’t believe that we too are children of God, made in God’s image. I was recently reminded that it is important to remember that it has never been God doing those things, but only those who say they are doing God’s will. My faith is what brings joy, security, confidence, peace, and purpose to my life. I believe that is what is promised to everyone of faith. So my prayer is that by sharing my own faith and walk, others who might have been turned away or told they can not be a person of faith because of their sexual identity or orientation, may be able to hear a different message of love and grace and not of condemnation. There are many others who are sharing that message as well with their music, and I am very grateful to be a part of that outreach to our community.

4) at what age did you start writing?

I remember writing some silly songs as a child and early teen, and making things up on my guitar and stuff — but it all really kicked in my freshman year of college when I started studying music theory and began to understand how music and written and formed. It was like someone turned on a light switch for me and writing songs was a process that made sense to me and not so much of a mystery or random effort.

5) was coming out difficult for you?

Well — I know we all have our own personal coming out stories, and describing that experience as “hard” or “difficult” I’m sure could be seen as relative to whatever your own journey has been like. But I will say, that regardless of whatever obstacles I had to overcome or struggles that I went through, I’m very grateful that through that experience I did not feel abandoned by God. For many that’s not a typical story. My dad is a pastor, and I am so thankful that I grew up knowing a God of grace and love and forgiveness and understanding, and not of hate or condemnation. My prayers to God were not asking for God to change me or make me straight, but they were asking God to help me through this, to help me understand who I was, to give me strength, and to show me those who could help me in my life. I would imagine that going through any kind of major life defining period of your life, such as coming out, and thinking that God is not there to support you, would be its own kind of hell — and I will forever be thankful that I did feel God’s hand of support with me at all times.

6) tell us about your current project?

The CD is called “Worship & Desperation” and is taken from a lyric in one of the songs that says “You are here, Lord — in this place of worship, in this place of desperation.” The idea being that God is with us not only in our mountain-top experiences, but also in those most desperate and deepest of valleys moments — and that even then, we can worship God — whether in our brightest or darkest of times. What I’m really excited about with the whole project, is that all of these songs are written with the intention of being used in worship — whether in a church or group setting, or even just by yourself in the car or your living room. They are meant to be sung. The CD is also accompanied by the release of a media package resource for churches and individuals that includes a songbook, accompaniment tracks, and video media with lyrics. It’s the first time I’ve released anything like this with such a strong intention for other people to sing and use the music. Usually my songs are about my personal experiences, and so I’m not sure they always translate well to someone else singing them because their topics are sometimes so specific. But that’s what makes this project different because every song is meant to be a song for every individual to be able to relate to and sing.

7) has there been another artist that’s been a big influence on your career?

Oh man — well I’ve always been a “diva” admirer, and so vocally I’ve always loved singers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, or more recently Leona Lewis. But songwriting wise and as far as my journey into Christian music, Steven Curtis Chapman has probably been the most influential. When I heard his music for the first time, it totally changed my perception of “contemporary Christian” music and what it was all about. More recently I would say Chris Tomlin has been a strong influence as well.

8) what are your future plans?

I began touring full time in 2003, but then a couple of years ago took a part time position as music minister at a church in West Palm Beach, and have only been touring on certain weekends each month. However, beginning in January, I’ll return to full time touring again — and I can hardly wait! I’m sooooo excited about it. I love visiting churches all over the country and experiencing the variety of worship and faith-expression that is out there. I’m also anxious to see how the new songs work in live settings as far as everyone being able to join in the singing, and it becoming more of a worship experience and not just a concert.

9) any advice for other upcoming OUT artists?

Well, I realize I’m in a very specific genre of “out” music, so my experience is much different than a lot of artists and the many pieces of advice they may have to offer. However, regardless of what type of music you’re doing, my two biggest advice items are always: 1 Don’t go into debt!!! and 2 Learn recording and production and invest in your own equipment — you’ll save TONS of money in the long run in studio fees and production expenses.

10) fave madonna song? (my traditional final question!)

Ha! Love that one! “Like a Prayer” … of course! 🙂

Thanks agian Shawn Thomas! I love the diversity of the aritsts out there. It wows me. Well, see you guys on November 15th with my feature on Gaye Adegbalola. Who will our president be on that day?!

With Outmusic love!
Jeremy Gloff

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