Thomas Stanton Releases Debut Album "LATR"
Interview by Kenneth Bransdorf. Listen to LATR by Txmorrow #np on #SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/txmorrow/sets/latr
thomas stanton '19
"I'm just content to be showing off these talents God had blessed me with. They've allowed me to get this far, they've allowed me to make this project, allowed me to tell my story. I'm content to keep being that person for as long as I can. I would expect some big things in the future, like, this is by no means the end, this is only the beginning. I'm just glad to be along for the ride."
Thomas Stanton (‘19), aka “Txmorrow,” is from Silver Spring, Maryland. He just released his first album “LATR,” the culmination of a two year effort to capture the experiences he’s had since starting on his journey as an artist. His music defies categorization, pulling influences from multiple, very different genres and blending them into a diverse yet clearly refined style that can seamlessly transition from raw, hard-hitting raps to sweet R&B-style vocals, production that can fall anywhere between heavy, industrial beats to muted, jazzy chords.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Voices: Thomas Stanton, you just released a new album. Would you like to share what it’s called?
Thomas Stanton (TS): Sure, it was released in April, April 13th, I believe. It’s entitled LATR, which is an acronym - #LATR, for “lotus and the rain” or for “letters are too real” for an alternative title. It’s been a project I’ve been working on for the past two semesters, I would say, and a little bit this summer as well just writing songs, finding tracks that fit. It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve had a lot of people collaborate, a lot of students work with me on it, and I’m really happy with the end product.
Voices: Cool! Who did you work with to produce these tracks?
TS: I worked with so many different people. The final cut of songs that are on this album, I worked with two primary producers, being AURA and Yusei, who I both know over the internet and been working on developing stronger relationships with. And with the help of my in-house engineers and producers such as Gabriel Meyer-Lee, such as Moses Rubin, and Azikiwea Green, who ended up putting in a lot of hours doing work on the tracks themselves, editing sound levels, adding instruments where we felt like we needed them, and just altering the tracks so they fit my sound a little bit more specifically rather than be for anyone to use. I’m really grateful for their help in the process. Those are probably the main five people who contributed on the sound.
Voices: Who would you say, if you have distinct musical influences, who would you say that they are?
TS: My influences as I see them are Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Drake, Kanye West, I see a lot of Kid Cudi in my musical influence. These are the people I grew up listening to, especially Prince and Lenny Kravitz. Our family is very R&B oriented, so there’s a lot of R&B influence in all of my tracks and my vocals, but there’s also a little bit of rock in there, and that’s just from my past and my history of listening to music. Just growing up, I remember listening to a lot of different artists - I had a rebellious phase, just like everyone else and I listened to a lot of Green Day and some really hardcore stuff like System Of A Down and other heavy metal music. There’s a lot of everything in there but primarily people like Prince, I would say, is who I really listened to. Actually it’s because it was played a lot in my household.
Voices: I could really see that R&B influence and the attention you paid to your vocals, which, by the way are really consistent throughout, to a level I think a lot of artists today could try to aspire to.
TS: Wow, thank you.
Voices: But really, there’s only so much you can achieve with autotune, and you don’t really use it that much, only for effect in some songs. You’ve got talent. Anyways, sorry for going on a tangent. For this album, specifically, what were some of your inspirations?
TS: That’s a great question. There were a few, in specific. It was really all about the climate I was in, and everything that was going on in my personal life in combination with some things that have been prominent over my lifetime, things that were happening in a specific moment of my life. A lot of it has to do with my relationships, past and present, and me just being very discontent with the state that they were in. There’s not always a route for me to talk to these people anymore and a lot of times I was harboring resentment that I think I just didn’t need to, and I needed an outlet. I try to avoid talking about people specifically, so it was very easy for me to try and basically write about what I was feeling, so a lot of my lyrics just go into writing about those relationships, but they also go into writing about myself and things I’ve been feeling for a while now - depression, anxiety, other mental illnesses, things that are becoming more prominent in the hip-hop sphere, the hip-hop world. They’re starting to talk about these things a lot more than they ever have in the past, because music is changing. To be a part of that was really innovative, and has just been interesting, exciting, and an amazing experience. It’s just a lot of emotional difficulties that I was dealing with at the time. If I had to give you an ultimate answer, it would just be some pain that I had to work through. I felt like releasing this album, getting all my thoughts down, putting it all into something cohesive was the best way to do it at the time. I still think that.
Voices: Yeah, that was a good answer. And yeah, often pain is such a source of creative inspiration, so that’s not surprising. Yeah actually I was thinking about how some songs you had these background vocals that were kind of like humming slash warbling a la Kid Cudi.
TS: Almost like crooning a little bit.
Voices: Yeah. And that combined with the lyrics that explore themes of depression, heartbreak… I got really strong Kid Cudi vibes from that.
TS: I get that.
Voices: Which is totally a good thing… so if you broke into the mainstream right now, what space do you think you’d you occupy? Because, you know, as you said, music is changing. There’s this tide of introspective, emotional subject matters to songs now. So do you think you would be part of that wave or something different?
TS: I guess I would fit into that wave a little bit, but I’d like to think that I would stand out a little bit more because I’m more versatile as an artist. I think there are a lot of different things I can do in terms of lyricism, in terms of energy and intensity, so I think it’s hard for me to put myself in one genre right now. I feel like I could fit into alt rock, I could fit into R&B, I feel like I have the lyricism to go hard in hip hop if I wanted to. Right now, at this stage, I don’t feel like I can be confined to any one space really. But that’s an interesting question.
Voices: Well said. And I’d have to agree. With each of these songs, you go in such different directions. There’s a lot of jazzy, smooth, melodious songs, but there’s also the hard-hitting, driving songs where you show off your flow… a lot of artists really pigeonhole themselves.
TS: In one space, exactly. As an artist, that’s something I’m really afraid of, becoming limited to “this is what he does.”
Voices: And I think you did that effectively with this album. Does that put pressure on you for future projects? I imagine there’s a lot of work and difficulty in making songs that sound so different and have such different approaches to lyrics.
TS: It absolutely does in the sense that I feel like I’ve set the bar for myself, told myself I’m going to be diverse and interesting. In terms of future projects… this was a very long, difficult project to make conceptually, and to stay true to that as the precedent for me is gonna require just as much effort as the first one, I have to be diligent with that… I know people who sell out or basically decide to do something because it’s popular. This is the wave, this is the norm. I want to make sure I’m never in that group, that category. So in terms of future projects, it’s funny you would ask, that’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’m really considering what I’m going to be doing in the fall because I want to make a follow-up project. What sound do I want that to have, and what form do I want that to take? I’ve been going back and forth and this is why I’m glad not everything has to be an album, not everything has to be a mixtape. I may do some EPs, I may do some collaborative projects which show more of one sound than another, but because I made the start that I did with this project, I feel like I left myself some room to maneuver, if that makes sense. To just change up and do something different, if I really feel like it, at the end of the day. And I do, I love everything that I do. There’s not one specific song that I like more than another. They do have different vibes and different feels but they all mean something to me because they’re all from me. That’s the beauty of this expression, in my music I can express all these different sides of myself, with people able to listen to them and decide what they want.
Voices: That was a very thorough answer, thank you. So I noticed there was a lot of narrative buildup throughout the song, with the skits, which I thought were really interesting, and especially with the last song, which is so dense and shows off such technical skill, but also the lyrics themselves are so rich with content. More than all the rest, it felt like the song was really building a story. So do you feel like that’s something you would try to do with every project?
TS: Yeah, this is what makes this project, I won’t say iconic, but just unique for me. It was about my story up to this point. What do I have to say about the things that have gone on since I started being really passionate about music? And that’s not to say… I was doing music before I started writing, before I started rapping, before I started singing. The things that have happened and how I wanted to project those into my sound… it wasn’t a recent thought that occurred to me, but there was a moment where I got serious about it and I said, “Let me think about the things that have transpired in my life up to that point and try and get as many of them as I can.” So obviously there’s more to tell, that’s not the end of the story, but I talked about a lot of things. There are things I can revisit, there are things I haven’t said yet. So I think it’s very possible that I could do this again, but it’s about, “Do I want to at this point? Or do I wanna just go in a different direction, maybe show you a different side. Focus on one thing in specific and push that as a concept. I have a lot of artistic freedom at this time, I only have one project out, so I’m not really sure… to answer your question, I’m not sure.
Voices: That must be such a struggle to think “where do I go from here? I could keep going because I know that this works but I want to try other things…” I admire your dedication to being versatile and not letting yourself get boxed in. That’s really important.
TS: There’s too many people riding the wave right now.
Voices: And they all come off as knock-offs of the original.
TS: Yeah, copies of themselves. I love the term “carbon copy” or “cookie cutter,” because there’s so many cookie cutter rappers these days. I won’t even call them rappers, necessarily, but just people who, no shade intended, just sound like each other.
Voices: Capitalizing on a sound that works. So what has the response been to your album so far?
TS: I would call it mixed. There’s people who have chosen to listen to it, and I’ve gotten great feedback from these people. A lot of people have given me positive commentary, and I think they were impressed with what I had to say and how it came out. But there’s a lack of publicity, and I didn’t expect this to go crazy overnight, but there’s this waiting period now where I can’t exactly make the next move right now, because this one’s barely settled. It’s only been two weeks. But I’m excited about it, and I want people to listen, so I have to worry about, you know, how am I marketing myself now? And these are things I didn’t have to concern myself with before, but it’s like, “How am I getting this message out there? How am I encouraging people to listen to this and take part in this experience?” Which is difficult, and I don’t really have the answers. And I don’t have a bunch of people to do that for me, so it’s just me on my own. But that’s one of the beauties of being independent is that this whole process is mine. I alone have the ability and agency. But it’s still hard, that being said. In the future, I don’t really want to break from this norm. I don’t consider myself to be like a lot of mainstream artists. I don’t consider myself a mainstream artist, I mean obviously I couldn’t. I’m content to be underground right now, and try and influence people that way, have people who genuinely listen because they want to hear what I’m saying and are genuinely impressed, rather than have people who might play my song and say, “Oh, this sounds like everybody,” or “You sound like this person, therefore I like it.” Instead I want to have people discover me on their own, come and find me as an artist and find who I am, find my sound and say, “Okay, I resonate with this,” or “He said this thing and I like that.” Rather than comparing me to people who have been doing it longer than me, they may do it differently than me, or maybe they do it the same but they just aren’t me at the end of the day.
Voices: Sorry if before when I mentioned the parallels to Kid Cudi… your sound is much different, but you can still see…
TS: All music has influences, all music is tied to other music. I like the expression “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Everything that you could do has been done before, but how are you going to twist it and make it your own? What does that mean, what does that sound like? That’s an important distinction to make. So you’re saying I’ve been influenced, and I should be. It would be weird if I wasn’t.
Voices: But I think you definitely refined these influences and something of your own into a unique style. So you talked about how you’re content to remain underground… that makes sense, that’s where you have the most freedom, but do you think you’d ever… I feel like this album is so intimate and feels a lot like a journey, so that you have to listen through, listen to the lyrics especially, to get the full effect. But I also think there are songs on this that you could push as ways to hook people in. Is that something you’d be interested in doing?
TS: Any musical experience has selling points. Not even necessarily selling points, but things that are meant to mass market you and make you appealing. And of course there are tracks like that on this album, but I was just careful to try and fit them in the story and that’s why the track listing was important. I wanted it to make sense when you hear it and play it. I agree, it did tell a story, that’s the whole point. The way that I listed the tracks, there’s a progression. You’re supposed to listen to it as a musical experience, supposed to listen to the whole thing. About being underground… I say that I’m content, I don’t know that I am but I also have so much other stuff going on in my life that it’s hard to say that… I mean obviously I’m passionate about this, I love it, but I wouldn’t give up the other shit that I’m doing for that. My photography, my film… these are all important parts of who I am as an artist and as a person.
I’m not so quick to cast that all aside for commercial success. I mention in one of my songs, “I never cared for a roll or a record deal…” These are things people sell out for, and I’m not in the field to do that. I’m not looking to be that person who says, “I’m going to do what I have to do to get signed.” I feel like I can make my music. There’s people who sell out because they want to be able to make their music. I’m in a position right now where I can make my music, and I think I’ll continue to be in a position where I can make my music, because I do so many collaborations, I do so much fun stuff with people who are around me, other artists. So I’m not left at a point where I have to worry about “who’s signed? Who’s my DJ? What is my label going to let me do?” I’m pretty happy with that. And I still have time to make movies. I’m making a documentary this summer about go-go in DC, which is a powerful musical influence for me.
I live in Maryland, so that’s not DC, but the culture flows right over through PZ, through Essex and all of that, so… it’s the start of something I think is beautiful because I’m able to come off of making a musical project and go right into making my first film project. It’s something that I’m excited about and passionate about, something that’s had influence in my life already. I don’t see any reason to give up one to have the other, it’s more about finding a balance between all of them that works for me. Summer’s gonna be a lot about experimenting with that, because obviously I’m still gonna have my music, I intend to still be working on music so I can have something to show at the end of 2018 as well, and so it really would be a good year for me in terms of my art.
Voices: Where can people find you and your music? What channels should they go through?
TS: Thank you for asking, I haven’t done the best job of marketing. Some of the issues we ran into leading up to this were just… folding on release dates, saying, “Oh, we’re gonna drop now.” I remember I originally had said… wanna know something funny? Way back in the day, about two years ago, I said I wanted to release an album, called “Lotus and the Rain.” That was 2016, and I never did. It was something that nagged me, stayed in my consciousness for a long time, it was just driving me crazy. I was like, “I was serious about that, and I think I have the ability to do it.” So I didn’t know why I didn’t do it. I went back to it, I rethought the concept, and that’s when this album came to life, when the songs came to life. Getting all the instrumentals together and making each song tell a story, that’s where all that came from. But the idea came much earlier, and I remember thinking about all the setbacks that I’ve had… the initial release was supposed to be March 1st of this year, and that flew by and we were nowhere near ready to release. Even on April 13th we still were not ready, but it was my second time committing, my third time if you count the first time I thought about it back in 2016. Third time I’ve said, “This is what I’m gonna do.” At what point am I gonna be serious about that? So I was like, “You know what, with the state that the songs are in right now, we’re just gonna release it on Soundcloud so that the fans who keep asking about it have something to listen to and take away from this. Because they’re as much a part of the journey, for me, at least, listening to their opinions and hearing them and seeing them and talking to them, and have them embrace me, talk about my artistry. They’re as much a part of the experience as I am, in a sense, so I had to give them something.
There’s the link to Soundcloud, but that’s the unfinished version that we dropped on the 13th. There’s a better version on “Spinrilla.” My name’s “Txmorrow.” You can find me on Soundcloud or Spinrilla. On the better version, we went back in and we fixed the skipping, cleaned them up, adjusted the level, so it sounds really good on Spinrilla right now. And that’s the version you can download, you can take it wherever you want, you can take the zip file, the audio. You don’t even need the app at a certain point. Spinrilla is the one I would suggest everyone lead towards, but it’s also available on Soundcloud, and the songs sound fine there too. We weren’t releasing something we weren’t going to be proud of. We just went to the next level, I think, when we remastered the tape. Either of those platforms works, I have links on my social media. My twitter is “@txmorro,” my IG is “_txmorrow_”... I’m on Facebook, Thomas Stanton. I have links to basically everything on social medias, or I will be putting them up in the next few days or so. Just so people know and are aware and keep paying attention. I’m really proud of what we did, happy with the feedback… you have to take everything kind of relatively. I’m a small time artist, I don’t have the fanbase, I don’t have the acclaim, the platform to be doing the numbers other people do and I’ve only been doing this for what I perceive to be a short time. I’m also just proud of the music I’m making regardless of how it’s received. This is me unadulterated, this is just who I am, so I’m proud to continue being that person for twenty likes. I’m proud to keep being that person for a hundred, two hundred plays. As long as I’m meaning something to the people who are listening, and if they’re genuinely affected and impressed by what I’m doing that’s kind of all the validation I need. I don’t need validation outside of that. Obviously, the more I make, the more I hope to gain an audience. That’s why I do shows. We have a show tonight, the Hip-Hop Showcase, we’ve done this annually. We all just come out and show what we have basically. “Do you sing? Do you rap? What do you do?”
I’m just content to be showing off these talents God had blessed me with. They’ve allowed me to get this far, they’ve allowed me to make this project, allowed me to tell my story. I’m content to keep being that person as long as I possibly can. I would expect some big things in the future, like, this is by no means the end, this is only the beginning. I’m just glad to be along for the ride.
Voices: I’m looking forward to whatever you release in the coming years, or even months, if something comes out this Fall.
TS: Fingers crossed.
Voices: Thank you so much for talking with me. This is Txmorrow! He just released his album “LATR.”