T Thomason (Laura Jane Petelko)

New Music: T. Thomason’s ‘Sweet Baby’

It’s been over a year since T Thomason has come out as trans, and he’s recently released his first album since the announcement. The EP, Sweet Baby, is the first in a series of three that T is planning on releasing in the near future to establish his new place in the Toronto music scene.

Sweet Baby‘s opening track, ‘Sally (Sally, Be My Spirit Guide)’, greets you with an ethereal synth haze before suddenly shifting to hard rock and hitting like a freight train. This incredible first impression sets a high precedent for the rest of the album, and T doesn’t fail to meet these expectations for even a moment. The second track, ‘My Kind’, hooks immediately, its dark western opening riff leading into a powerful rock progression, capturing the dirty, exciting feel of urban nightlife within the entrancing chorus that makes it a clear candidate for the album’s single.

Definitely the most complex song on the album, ‘Mama’s Boy’ explores family ties, growing older, and dealing with the changes and challenges of life. It’s T’s favourite from the album. As he told us, “It was non-traditional from the beginning. I wrote a stream of conscious poem which then turned into a song, and it was the first thing I wrote on that subject matter which I was comfortable with and genuinely happy with how it turned out.” While the shortest song on the EP by a considerable amount, ‘Mama’s Boy’ still leaves a memorable impression due to both the deeply personal lyrics and the haunting backing vocals of Kenny Boothby, giving the track an intimate, unique feel. The song highlights the connection T has with his mother as both a positive influence and a beacon of personal strength through lyics such as: “It’s not so easy to be kind these days/ but I try for her” and “All the days that I cannot/ go outside until we’ve talked/ and I am calm and not the worst off/ as I’d thought.”

The album’s sound itself marks a departure from T’s earlier albums, with a thoroughly constructed musical reinvention. T shared with us some of his influences in recording: “I was listening to Neutral Milk Hotel a lot, particularly around the time of writing ‘Mama’s Boy’. Lana Del Rey’s record ‘Ultraviolence’, James Blake’s ‘Overgrown’, and Beach House’s ‘Bloom’ were definitely inspirations in terms of that sweeping, synth-y sound. But a lot of those soundscapes came from Dave Henriques, my producer and collaborator. […] Dave is the mastermind behind the vastness of the landscapes created on these tracks. I knew I wanted it to sound BIG, he ran with that inkling and turned it into something bigger than I’ve ever heard in my music, which is so exciting.”

This shift in sound could be seen as T wanting to distance himself from his old career, but he’s also taken the time to clarify his complex relationship with his past. “For a long time, I wanted to keep my old and new work completely separate,” says Thomason. “More and more these days, I am figuring out how that line blurs in a way that I’m comfortable with. I do think my old stuff was made by a very different artist, but not by a different human. I think maybe that’s the important distinction to be made. My music has always been, and continues to be, autobiographical and a reflection of current musical influences and growth. Sometimes being able to see my life laid out so linearly through my past work makes me uncomfortable, but that’s the reality. I’m not quite sure how I separate or define the past as I move forward, I’m figuring it out as I go. My focus is on the music I’m making currently, the experiences I’m having as the version of myself I am today.”

Old fans, new listeners, it doesn’t matter. Sweet Baby is bound to win over any audience and serve as a fantastic introduction to T’s new sound and identity. Though a shorter EP of just under 19 minutes, the production and writing is so solid that you’ll be blown away for every moment of it, with each track standing out in a powerful way.

T Thomason is currently in the middle of a residency at The Company House in Halifax, performing every Tuesday at 9:30 for the month of August.