Conn Thornton is a classical and jazz pianist, composer and independent singer/songwriter based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Writing songs with personal and romanticised lyrics, their debut EP ‘Abraham’s Daughter‘ was released in 2020 followed by the full album ‘Destroyer‘ in 2021.
What are your favourite qualities in a song?
I think songs need lyrics and melodies that interact with each other nicely, as well as a sound that fits the mood of what one is singing about.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I listen to musicians I look up to a lot and see how they approached the problems I face, both in life and in making music. For example, some big inspirations for both of these things include David Bowie, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent and Phoebe Bridgers.
I am happiest when I am either performing or writing at my piano. It’s a place where I have felt safe and comfortable for years and I do feel truly unstoppable when I am in front of a keyboard.
As a performer, what makes a show special or memorable?
As a performer, the most memorable part of a show in my opinion is the energy of the audience. I started making music during the COVID pandemic so I haven’t had any real live shows yet, but the enthusiasm of my listeners has been enough to make this a memorable experience and I can’t wait to start performing live and seeing how the audiences react to it.
As an audience member, what makes a show special or memorable?
I think what makes a show special is something that is a truly immersive experience, both sonically and visually. Take the shows of David Bowie or Beach House for example – they committed to cultivating a certain atmosphere to match the sound they were producing.
What is your idea of success?
To be honest I don’t think I would like to make a whole lot of money from my music – I don’t see this as a cash-grab opportunity. All I want is to leave a legacy and for my music to be recognised as unique and good.
What is something you would like to learn more about?
I would definitely like to learn more about how to make music in more experimental genres – lately I have started dabbling in dark ambient music after listening to the early work of Weyes Blood
and I found it deeply inspiring, so I want to start diving into more experimental territory while I still have the chance.
What was your biggest musical failure?
I am still very early in my career, but one of my big failures was the failure to promote my debut EP when it came out – it garnered some good feedback, but its audience at the time was absolutely miniscule.
What was your biggest musical success?
My biggest musical success was making my debut album ‘Destroyer’ in my bedroom on my own. This was an almost entirely self-made project and I am deeply proud of having taught myself to mix and master the audio for this album and being able to cultivate my own unique sound while standing on my own two feet as a truly independent artist.
I look up to other musicians who are absolutely fearless in the music they make, such as David Bowie, Fiona Apple, Weyes Blood, St. Vincent, Mitski and Elliott Smith. Fiona Apple is a particularly big influence as her latest work has been trailblazing and no music has ever really sounded quite like it. That’s what I look up to and that’s the sort of art I aim to create.
What was the first song you have ever written like?
The first song I wrote was titled ‘Blaze’. I wrote it when I was 18 and it was deeply rushed and immature. It came off the back of me listening to a lot of ‘Blackstar’ by David Bowie, which had come out just over a year before, and it was a really poor attempt at imitating the final track from that album, ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’. Usually I would revisit the songs I wasn’t as proud of and try to polish them up, but I feel like ‘Blaze’ is beyond saving and I wrote it when I was too young to understand how hard songwriting was.
Who deserves a shoutout and why?
One of my favourite local artists is a musician called Sam Wickens
– his music really pushes the envelope for the music that comes out of Northern Ireland and it’s really refreshing to hear.