Rising Belfast songwriter Thom Southern is no stranger to musical success. Having previously released music as SOUTHERN alongside sister Lucy Gaffney, his work has been used for projects by everyone from Netflix and Channel 4 to Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry.
2021 though, finds Thom building a buzz entirely for himself as he works on new solo works between Belfast and Liverpool, including the freshly released third single 'Soul Singer' featuring none other than Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom.
We fired Thom some questions about the track, his favourite musical achievements so far and his plans for the rest of 2021.
Hey! How are we? For those who haven’t heard your name before, tell us a bit about yourself & your musical journey so far?
Hey good thanks. I’m Thom Southern a songwriter/producer from Belfast but base myself between Liverpool and Belfast at the moment. I’ve been playing music my whole life really. Started off busking in Belfast a lot and then moved to London in my late teens and got a record deal with my sister Lucy with our old band Southern. I had a lot of fun doing that. We’ve been doing our own solo stuff the last year which has been great as well. Just continuing to release new music until touring comes back!
You’re from Belfast, but based in Liverpool now - right? What was it that made you make the move?
I’m based between the two cities really as I have a studio back in Belfast as well. I like having both cities to work in and Belfast will always be my home. It’s great that the two cities are so close to one another on a flight too so I’ve got best of both worlds. I used to live in Liverpool a few years ago so have a lot of friends here already. My band and I have a rehearsal space too so we’ve been getting our set ready to get back on the road so seemed like the right thing to do moving back to Liverpool again.
Do you think being in Liverpool has had much of an influence on your sound?
Yeah definitely. When I used to live here (pre-covid) I was completely immersed in music everywhere I went. You can’t really escape a Beatles tune in all the shops of course ha. There are so many great small clubs/venues here so it was so easy to go see music most nights. Being around people from Liverpool is pretty inspiring too. There’s such a sense of pride for music here. Everyone loves to talk about music the way Italians love to talk about food. I could talk to some of my scouse friends for hours about music. The history of the city is amazing with bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The La’s and The Beatles of course. Unfortunately I’ve moved back while we’re still in lockdown so hopefully things go back to normal soon
You previously released music with your sister as Southern, how does this new music compare to your work with Lucy?
The basis of the songwriting isn’t too far off what Lucy and I have done in the past together. Also the influences aren’t much different but sonically I think I’ve tried new things on the guitar and experimented with electronic drum sounds etc. I really like collaborating with different producers and musicians. The latest single I’ve put out is quite different to the stuff I did with Adrian Bushby. I quite like surprising people with each release. It also keeps things interesting for me. I think I’m still finding my way with the sounds. The lockdowns have been a great time to try stuff out and develop it with each release while not having to tour. I feel a lot of musicians have taken advantage of this time to reflect.
You’re certainly not short of remarkable musical achievements, what would you say has been your favourite project to work on so far?
I’ve actually been developing a project with Tom Rothrock. It started off in his studio in Ibiza end of 2019 and we worked on it off and on during 2020. We’re going to be releasing a few tracks this year. It was initially music we wanted to write/record for film and tv but we’ve decided to get it out there for people to listen to online as well. I’m really proud of this collaboration and it’s a pleasure working with Tom who’s produced so much iconic music in his career.
Tell us a bit about the new single ‘Soul Singer’, how did you find it working with Sonic Boom?
Soul Singer’s a song I wrote a couple of years ago. I spent quite a bit of time in Spain in 2019 and everywhere you go you hear a similar pumping drum beat in the music with a dominant kick drum and an energetic hi-hat groove. I really wanted to do a song like that but incorporate it into something dreamy and psychedelic. I love how feel good ‘Movin On Up’ by Primal Scream is too. I thought Soul Singer was the perfect song to blend those influences together but never got round to doing it. Spacemen 3 have always been a big influence on me as well with tracks like ‘I Love You’ and ‘Big City’ so it was really cool working with Pete (Sonic Boom). I really like how raw we kept it with the mix. I don’t like things to sound too perfect especially when you’re producing quite a poppy track.
What have you been doing to fill the live music shaped gap in your life? Picked up any new hobbies?
Honestly just writing and recording more than I ever did. I also have been reading books a lot more too which has been cool. I’m becoming quite good at getting outside and running, it properly clears your head during these crazy times. “I think” I’m a better cook now too haha. I really can’t wait to get back gigging, nothing compares to it.
Which venue can we expect to find you at when live music returns?
I’m going to be doing a headline show in Liverpool in September I think but still deciding on the venue, will let you know online soon!
And what’s the plan for the rest of 2021? Anything exciting in store?
I’m releasing more music and it seems like gigging is happening after the summer so hopefully out on the road again!