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BWW Interview: Marty Thomas of THE AWARD WINNING HOLIDAY ALBUM

From prom to Christmas in just a few months... Marty Thomas is full of celebrations.

BWW Interview: Marty Thomas of THE AWARD WINNING HOLIDAY ALBUMLike one of Santa's Elves, Marty Thomas is busily working all year long - working on his art, working on his home, working on himself. It simply isn't in his nature to relax... even when he is doing something recreational, he does it with a vengeance. Marty Thomas simply knows the value in giving it everything you've got - whatever it is. He certainly did put everything of himself into the two albums he released this year, the first one being an extremely personal look at a painful time in his youth, and the second being that which many consider the most wonderful time of the year.

To congratulate Marty on the success of the two CDS and learn a little about how an Energizer Bunny survives a quarantine, I reached out to Mr. Thomas for a little chat, and what I got was a big look into what makes Marty tick, and what makes Marty happy.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced with minimal editing.

Marty Thomas, welcome to Broadway World, and Merry Everything! How are you these days?

Stephen, right back at you! Thanks for inviting me to your Broadway World digital holiday party! I'm absolutely the best someone can be during a global pandemic. Thanks for asking!

Marty, you just released your second album in a year - are you just exhausted?

Oddly, yes and no. I'm exhausted by what's going on in the world, but I feel energy like never before to create music. I've finished 3 full projects during the pandemic and can't wait to release them next year! Making music and learning new skills has been my sanity blanket this year. I poured my heart, soul and wallet into my last album "Slow Dancing With A Boy". I was booked to tour with the album internationally and to see my calendar completely empty out was devastating. I definitely sulked for a few months and licked my wounds. I'm grateful to have come out of that window. Depression is such an easy space to fall into, music has always been my escape and savior.

I listen to the cds Slow Dancing With a Boy and The Award Winning Holiday Album regularly - both albums are impressively recorded with lots of production values. Why is it important to you that your recordings present such a full-bodied effect?

First of all, thank you so kindly. And, I think I was raised on Broadway. I grew up in the church and listening to overblown pop and gospel records. I've always been drawn to the theatrics of music. I love when an album tells a story and you get a sense of what the artist was going through. It thrills me to overthink a set/track list and nitpick every detail to death. I wanna make music that I would enjoy listening to by myself, and both of these albums - I'm very proud of.

The Christmas album was conceived and created during the show business shutdown. Isn't that a rather large undertaking during a period of time where there is so much emotional and financial stress on one's life?

Of course! It was a sacrifice, but what isn't? Trying to do, just anything, in the NYC show business scene is a near impossibility. During the shutdown, I've been able to connect with musicians all over the world because artists are universally struggling. I feel like so many people are yearning to create something. As big of an undertaking as it was, it gave me something to focus on besides the 9 million year election cycle and the crumbling state of our country. I needed to inject some joy into 2020, or I would have crumbled with it - whatever the cost.

Let's talk about the sordid topic of finances for a moment. In my review of the Christmas album, I tease you and Marissa about the album being too short. The truth is that I know a choice like that is all about money. What music fans don't always realize is that, unless an artist has a big record company behind them, they are financing their own CDs. Put a picture in our readers' heads of what making your own album looks like.

It's very true. When you're a major label artist, there are still so many details to think about - but the independent artist has to act as the entire label. You need to make sure you've paid for and have mechanical licensing in place. You need to time out and pay for international distribution. There is the cover art, photography, liner notes, credits and thank yous. Aside from office work, you're paying for studio time, singer, musicians, a producer, an engineer, a mixer, a masterer, the list goes on and on. I did my best to make a financial plan for this project and we still went beyond our spending goal. Every choice you make is met with more choices and decisions.

How can we, as music lovers and as Marty Thomas fans, help you recoup your costs on both of your albums this year?

Thank you so much for asking! There are so many ways to support artists like myself. I know that a lot of people are in the same boat right now, unemployed and uncertain of the future. Artists and art have been a huge part of our global sanity, and I find it so sad that the bulk of the population takes that for granted. The best way to support is to purchase physical copies of music. If that isn't possible, purchase a digital copy of the record, and if even that's not possible (I can relate) stream the music. You can also like and review an artist's music. You can join their mailing lists and share their social media posts. All of these things seem so small, but every little bit helps an artist to gain visibility and find new listeners.

You are involved in all of the aspects of making your albums. Will you eventually branch out into producing?

YES! I actually produced THIS record! I feel like I've always been a producer on my music but just didn't take full credit for my vision. I've been fortunate to collaborate with some incredible musicians and producers and I've learned SO MUCH, and I always want artists to be properly credited and celebrated. I enjoy wearing the producer hat as I've always loved the idea of putting up a show in the old barn. There's something that's so thrilling about having a vision, gathering all of the moving pieces, and then seeing the wheels turn. I've co-produced and solely produced several projects this year and I look so forward to adding to my bag of tricks.

I don't think people fully realize the extent of the genius of Yasuhiko Fukuoka. Tell us about his contribution to The Award-Winning Holiday Album.

Oh boy. Yas and I go pretty far back, and I'm so grateful for him. He is a yes man - He literally has never said no to me. I've come up with some pretty hair-brained ideas and he is always all in. He's an incredible musician and an astounding producer. I think he's much better at both than he would ever dare admit. His musicianship is truly only overshadowed by his kindness and humility. That's my kind of people and the personality mold that I seek to surround myself with. I want a friend and colleague circle that lift each other up and celebrate each other. There are far too many out there eager to tear us down, with Yas in my corner I always feel safe to make bold and risky choices. Yas and I spent MANY late-night hours mixing this record. As I said, we sourced musicians from around the world, and mixing all of it to seem as though it was recorded in one room was not an easy job. I'm intensely picky and a complete workaholic so he is even more of a saint for continually agreeing to work with me.

On the topic of collaborators: how did your relationship with Marissa Rosen begin?

Marissa and I met 10 years ago late at night in a bar. We had both just seen our now dear friend, Rachelle Rak, slay with her one-woman show at Therapy bar and both went across the street to the new Industry Bar. I spotted a diva doing the same dance move as me across the pool table and was drawn into her web. We exchanged information and went our separate ways. The next night I walked into the lobby of the off-Broadway show I was working on and saw Marissa standing there...turns out she was going into the show the next night! We lived a few blocks away from each other, went to the same gym - the universe was insistent that we were to be besties. We started spending all of our time together and had such a special bond surrounding pop culture and music. I started looking for opportunities to sing with her and opportunities to push her out of her comfort zone to force her to sing out front. I love to think of her as my musical Frankenstein monster. I've always seen how special and gifted she is, and it's so cool to see the rest of the world recognize it as well. I feel very honored to have been part of her growth as an artist.

Among the things for which you are well known is the closeness of your personal friendships in the business. What is it about the Marty and Marissa relationship that made it the one that would become part of your brand?

That's a good question. I've had some very deep-rooted relationships with friends/artists in my life. Marissa and I just had similar forward-moving visions. Groups and bands fall apart all the time because it's so difficult to keep everyone on the same page and in the same headspace. That's never been a problem for us. We have fun together and we enjoy helping others have more fun. We aren't an act for everyone, but for the people who enjoy what we do, it's special. We take pride in being authentic and honest, so it's a huge compliment when someone appreciates that.

Marty, what scenes stand out in your memory when you think about the Christmases of your youth?

Christmas was always a HUGE deal in my house. I was raised on hyper religion and Christmas represented not only family but faith. It was a season loaded with production value in my family! There was music, and church, and presents and all of that...but my favorite Christmas memories are of my sweet Grandma Alice. She was the kindest woman I've ever known and my memories of her are golden. She had what I considered to be the fanciest glass punch bowl that only came out for Christmas Eve. She would make this magical punch that I spent all year looking forward to. Everyone got a fancy crystal cup to drink from, even the kids! Many years later, I found out that it was essentially Orange soda and vanilla ice cream, but it still rings "fancy" in my heart.

Have those holiday traditions continued into your life as an adult?

Some yes, most no. I do feel that with my Grandma Alice's passing, so did the urgency of gathering with extended family. She was sort of the glue that held it all together somehow. It's tough to rationalize a gigantic crystal punch bowl in an NYC studio apartment, but every year the first things I decorate with are her handmade ornaments. Music has and will always be what makes the holiday season for me.

Your concert The Second Chance Prom was nominated by your fans for a Broadway World Award for Best Special event. What was the vision in your head when you began creating that show?

What an honor.. that event was therapy for me. My album "Slow Dancing With a Boy'' depicted the adult understanding of my coming of age heartache. It was only a few years ago that I realized how traumatized I was by my youth and the "right of passage" experiences that I was robbed of. Somewhere along the way, I let myself believe that as a gay teen, I didn't deserve the same privileges that the other kids deserved. I resigned myself to taking the scraps, and the creation of this album was taking those memories back with strength and placing them back in the light where they belong. I can't go back and change things, but I can certainly make better choices moving forward. My vision was recreating the "prom experience" and getting to replace those rough memories with new ones that I got to create. It felt divine to truly be the author of my own storyline and was magical to see other people get on board with reexamining their prom experience.

As a gay man who didn't get to go to prom with another boy, what thoughts and feelings come up inside of you when you look at today's world and the opportunities that are available to the lgbtqia+ community who are younger than you and me?

There are parts of what kids today get to experience that is so enviable. Representation truly matters and they definitely don't understand the power they hold with visibility. They also face a whole new minefield of troubles with social media. I feel like gay kids are met with a completely new sense of possibility than you and I experienced. If you had told me that an out gay man could be a famous actor or a politician 20 years ago, I would have laughed at your joke. I love where the world is headed, I just hope we don't continue to be detoured by hate and fear.

Let's play a Christmas game, Marty --

Lets!

Eggnog or mulled wine?

Well, I don't like wine and I'm lactose intolerant...so choose your poison? I'm gonna say eggnog. Fingers crossed!

Classic Christmas movie or something more modern?

Modern for sure. I loved Godmothered that just came out!

Ugly sweater or tartan?

Tartan! Classy! (But, I also own an embarrassingly large stage of ugly Christmas sweaters.)

Best Christmas food?

Candy, duh.

Elegant holiday decor or Santaland?

Santaland, I prefer a drag queen Christmas all day long.

Best diva Christmas album?

Probably controversial, but this year it's Jessie J.

Mistletoe in the house or not?

Absolutely! Get the kisses where and when you can! Life is short.

Wrapping paper or gift bag?

Wrapping paper, I'm still 4 years old at heart, and unwrapping gifts gets my heartrate up.

Favorite television Christmas special?

Andy Williams. He really knew how to do it.

Christmas tree topper: angel or star?

Star, or Barbie doll dressed as my favorite diva of the year.

Marty, will there be an Award Winning Holiday TV special?

Actually.....SORT OF! We are hosting an old-school style Holiday spectacular on YouTube Live Dec. 21! I've called friends from around the globe to guest star and Marissa and I are cooking up all sorts of surprises!

You are a very social person, which must have made this year really difficult. What do you see for your holiday celebrations?

I've been a very very good boy this year, and haven't left the house more than absolutely possible. I'm so fortunate to have my awesome partner Jeffrey and our three rescue pups Sugar, Charlie and Sassy. Christmas is going to look like the rest of 2020 - an intimate gathering of my nearest and dearest.

What's the best way to get a copy of your albums?

You can buy physical copies at www.martythomas.com/shop, and they are also available on itunes, Spotify and anywhere digital music can be purchased or streamed!

Marty, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I can't wait to see what you give us next. Happiest of holidays to you and the Thomas clan.

That is so kind, we go back quite a few years, you and me. Happy Holidays kind sir!!

Watch Marty and Marissa's Holiday Special HERE

BWW Interview: Marty Thomas of THE AWARD WINNING HOLIDAY ALBUM


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From This Author Stephen Mosher