Thomas Irwin: “Avicii was everything to me growing up”

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Thomas Irwin, a rising London-based dance music artist originally from Doncaster, UK, released his latest single ‘Lonely Lonely Road.’ The track was designed for the dance floor, combining elements of both commercial dance-pop and house music. ‘Lonely Lonely Road’ follows Irwin’s other successful releases including his ‘Carnival De Paris’ remake with Dario G and ‘Take Me Back To Church’ with The High and ROZZZQWEEN. Notably, Irwin was also the youngest speaker at IMS Ibiza. In our interview, Irwin opens up about the creative process behind his latest track, how he got to where he is, and the challenges he has faced along the way.

Coming from Doncaster to becoming a successful DJ/Producer in London, do you see one pivotal
moment that helped boost your career?

I see it as a progressive thing, just trying to improve all the time. London helped a lot with meeting new musicians to work with and learn from, but I still don’t ever think there is one pivotal moment, it’s more just staying consistent every day.

Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up, and how have they impacted your
sound and approach to music production?

In terms of the electronic music bubble, Avicii was everything to me growing up. I was and still am an absolute superfan, he was so authentic and made what he wanted, which I feel helped the world resonate with his music. He taught me to stay true to yourself. To be honest, I don’t listen to electronic music that much, I love to listen to bands. My parents played Coldplay to me when I was really young, and they’re still my favorite band now. Also, being from South Yorkshire, I’ve always loved listening to Arctic Monkeys. I feel it’s quite a healthy approach to not over consume myself with dance music. I think this is also probably responsible for how many real instruments I use in my music.

What do you consider your breakthrough moment in the industry, and how did it feel?
Similar to what I said before, I’ve never looked at anything as a breakthrough moment, it’s more progressive. Sometimes songs are extremely well received, which might not be expected. I’ve been to events and places and had people recognise me and say they have been listening to my music for a while, which is surreal. It’s funny because as soon as you hit a number or target you instantly want more. I wanted a song to hit a million streams when I first started, now I want one to hit ten million streams, then one hundred million. When I’m an old man, I’m sure I’ll be able to think and pinpoint pivotal decisions that impacted my career, but right now it’s just moving forward every day at a time.

Can you walk us through your typical creative process?
I always want to start by trying to write a really good song on piano or guitar. I always say something you can play on the piano or guitar and it still sounds great will means it translates great with the production. It’s all about finding the melody, if the melody isn’t right then it’s not going to work, and if you get the melody right, the feeling is absolute euphoria. Once I’ve got a demo where I’m really happy with the melodies and ideas, I’ll start to produce it. Usually, I get the song 60-70% done before getting vocals in because I think a lot of ideas can come from the vocal session, and I don’t want to feel like I’m limiting the potential of the song due to an instrumental being 100% complete! That being said, every time is slightly different, this is just a process I’ve seen occur a few times in the past couple of years.

What do you feel like is the biggest challenge you face in your creative process and how do you
work to overcome it?

Getting songs finished can be tricky. You’re against the clock as the more you listen back, the more numb you are to the song and where to take it. At the same time, you don’t want to rush it! Getting other people’s input is so important to ground you again, and give you a clearer vision of how to finish the song and move forward. Having a good circle of musicians who will give you honest feedback can be good to have.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to young, aspiring producers who are trying
to break into the electronic music scene today?

Firstly, hard work is an understatement. The increase in producers and musicians since I started has been exponential. I’ve been in online producer groups with 100,000 members 8 or so years ago and now the same group has 700,000 members. This is a testament to how accessible it is to start producing. Which by the way is a great thing, but it means cutting through is incredibly tough. You’ve got to work hard and learn your trade. Be confident in your sound. Also, have comfort in the fact you will have different strengths and weaknesses which leads me to my next point – Work with others and learn from everyone you can. Your strength is someone else’s weakness, and working with people who you can learn from is priceless. Finally, your network is everything. It doesn’t matter how good the tune is on your laptop if you’re not sending it to people and making waves. You’ve got to go to events, and meet people. It might be scary but everyone is just a sweaty bedroom producer at heart, don’t forget that! Imagine you didn’t go to that event and found out an A&R from your favorite label was also there.

Read this next: Fulltone: “I’ve made peace with the idea that I can’t be creative every day”

What have been some of your most memorable collaborations and why?
I’ve had a lot of big sessions recently which I hope to show the fruits of in the future so looking forward to that! I’ve collaborated with a lot of great artists, both big and small. Some memorable for the wrong reasons also. To be honest, it’s really hard to name as I genuinely have a great time with whoever is in the room, sometimes it’s more laid back where we feel like we’re messing around for a full day and we somehow have a tune at the end of it. Sometimes it’s more serious and you’ve got to focus for a full day and you end up with a headache by the end. I once had a session with someone and they brought their mum into the memorable studio.

How do you stay true to your unique sound and identity in an industry that is constantly evolving and often driven by trends?

I think this is a relevant question with time right now. Genres lines are getting blurry and trends are coming and going quicker than ever. I always search for the feeling I had when I started making music, the feeling of excitement and not knowing how I just made something. I think it’s really important to be aware of trends and the shape of the industry, but stay true to yourself. Your audience will appreciate authenticity.

As the youngest industry speaker at IMS Ibiza, what key insights did you share about music production and navigating the music industry?
I wanted to share my experience of using real instruments in electronic music, and resources producers can use to achieve this, even if they’ve never really touched instruments before. I wanted to show before and after working with collaborators and showing the importance of this. Although I am the youngest speaker at IMS, I feel like I still have experience weirdly. I’ve been making music for so long and I genuinely feel like I’ve picked up a few things along the way that might help and contribute to others.

With the release of ‘Lonely Lonely Road,’ what are your plans and aspirations in the music industry?
I want to keep growing and continue on this trajectory. I’d love to build a really strong catalog of music that my audience appreciates, and I’d love to be touring regularly with sets made up of the majority of my tunes. I have a list on my phone of artists I’d love to collaborate with and I’m determined to tick them all off one day.

Purchase Thomas Irwin – Lonely Lonely Road via this link.

Follow Thomas Irwin on Social Media:
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