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Seth Thomas works emotions by pickin' guitar

W. Kenneth Medley II • Mar 4, 2019 at 8:46 AM

 Five Facts Brief:

Dogs or Cats: Dog

Favorite Song: That’s Impossible!

Current Book: Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Hobbies: Something new everyday

Comfort Food: Chicken and Dumplings

Seth Thomas, winning songwriter of the inaugural Tennessee Songwriters Week Open Mic Night event at the Down Home, one of four stops across the state is set to play at Nashville’s Bluebird Café finale at the end of March.

Thomas is originally from Rogersville, Tennessee, not too far from Johnson City. Many know him as one of the owners of Skillville, a local business helping people explore their industrial creativity. He is a bit quiet and seems surprised at the outcome of his hard work.

“I got lucky and got in there,” Thomas said. “It was exciting to be a part of that. I think that it is awesome that the state of Tennessee, is putting some focus on the songwriters. Those are the unsung heroes of Nashville’s identity. Those guys never get recognition, but they are the life-blood of that industry for sure.”

All 100 open mic slots in Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City, were filled within an hour and a half, according to the Department of Tourist Development website. Thomas and winners won a Tennessee Songwriters Week-branded guitar, tickets to a show at the Bluebird during Tin Pan South, a two-night hotel stay in Nashville and a travel gift card. Thomas said that he is honored to be among the talent that is being honored.

“I’m excited to get together with some other songwriters from across the state,” said Thomas, “who went through the same emotions and competition that I did; and to sit in a room that has had so many great musicians come through and play there.”

The song that Thomas sang to win the Johnson City competition was an emotional one. He recently lost his father to cancer and the song was inspired from conversations between them during his terminal sickness. Thomas warned as he began his song at the Down Home that he may cry during the performance.

He did not. The serenading concluded without the shedding of a tear, at least from Thomas. The audience roared to life with applause after careful listening, some of the observers might have had a tear rolling down their cheeks. An emotional experience is the goal that Thomas’ music according to the songwriter.

“I started singing at an early age,” said Thomas. “I got my first experience in church and then got my first guitar probably, nine or 10 years old and it is something that I have enjoyed doing since that time.”

He enjoys working with his hands. This could be the reason he chose to become a picker. Thomas cut his teeth as a musician in church like many from the region. He said that this has been unique because most of his songs never leave a folder. The writing process is a way that he expresses emotion.

Thomas is a self taught musician and learned to play by ear. This is why he says that music did not come quickly to him. He did not have coach and said that most of his “teaching” came from hearing music on the radio, picking up his guitar and trying to emulate what he heard. His songwriting came around adolescents during his life.

This is not new to music. The therapeutic qualities of listening and singing music have been well documented. Thomas believes that it is the emotional connection to his songs and the ability to communicate that with the audience that gave an edge during the Tennessee Songwriters Week Open Mic event at the Down Home. He said that his songwriting has matured as he has.

Make sure to watch the video of the full interview and to watch the winning performance from the Down Home.

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