Indie Spotlight: Pravin Thompson
Indie Spotlight is a content series by Indepreneur dedicated to highlighting the successes and stories of our Indie community members.
Each month, our staff selects students and clients from our community to interview and gain insight into their journey - the challenges, the setbacks, and the major wins!
This month, we'd like to introduce you to Pravin Thompson.
March 25th, 2021 by Graci Phillips
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Hello, Pravin! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today! For those who aren’t familiar with you and your music, give us an introduction to the Pravin Thompson experience.
Welp! I guess I’d describe my music as taking melodies from early 2000’s emo bands, force them to take a class on jazz harmony, then make them listen to movie soundtracks and Ravel string quartets until they cry (even more), then kidnap Tools drummer and bassist. Add a Rom-Com somewhere in that mix and there you have it! The Pravin Thompson experience!
I read in your bio that you started playing music at the age of 10! What was your experience growing up playing music like?
I started taking formal lessons at age 10 after observing my older brother playing guitar for years! I was also super super interested in playing with people, and trying to write music with others. My guitar teacher had a background in Jazz and taught me how to improvise and utilize scales and chord variations at a pretty young age. I did choir, Jazz band, and marching band in school.
Outside of that was writing my sad emo boy songs, until a friend of mine (who is actually my current drummer!) was in college for music, and exposed me to the album, “Miles Smiles” by Miles Davis and “Gently Disturbed” by Avishai Cohen. After those two albums I was super hooked on jazz and spent the latter half of High School trying to find as many opportunities to play and I stumbled upon a local jazz jam session.
When I was 17 I was hired for my first steady gig in Philadelphia at a bar called the Tritone. I was hired by a drummer named Leo Gayten, who unfortunately passed away back in 2013. Leo let me experiment fully with weird sounds that I picked up from all the rock and ambient music I’ve been listening to. The other members of that band, all seasoned Philadelphia based R&B musicians, did not hesitate to let me know when I sounded bad! I got my butt kicked, but it was super important for me. I had also started a band with a few friends from High School that was actively trying to mix Jazz, Sad boy emo Rock, and some Prog influences. Having that ability to be so creative was super important especially before going to college. Music School was great but a much more rigid type of learning, and application of Jazz.
Being a New York jazz musician living in Brooklyn sounds like a romanticized storyline out of an indie film! But we all know that being an independent musician is actually quite a harrowing journey. Despite all the challenges that come with the indie life, when did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career regardless of those challenges?
That’s actually really interesting because I feel like I’ve gone through many different stages of what the pursuit of a musical career looks like. When I was 16 I knew I wanted to make music a bigger part of my life, nothing else really mattered to me. When I was in college I was training to be a working musician and started to teach guitar. Then when I graduated I was primarily teaching guitar, playing church gigs, wedding gigs, musicals, and a lot of different types of things to pay my rent. So at that point I did accomplish the full-time working musician goal, and I was miserable because I wasn’t doing anything creative and original! That lasted about 4 or 5 years, then I quit all my music jobs to work at a farmers market for a year and a half. I was totally ready to hang it up… But even after being battered and bruised by the working musician industry, I still wanted to play. I started taking my band more seriously in 2017, and only took on projects I found inspirational and creative. So I suppose in this latest iteration of what a music career is; 2017 is when I started to pursue music as a career!
Let’s talk about your most recent project, A Thoughtful Collapse (2020)! Here’s a quote from your website, “A Thoughtful Collapse, a reflective view inside his own personal struggles with identity and morality, and living within that tension. Many of these compositions are inspired by the idea of super heroes.” Tell us about how the concept for this project came together and why this was an important story for you to chronicle?
I began writing the music for this album all the way back in late 2015. I wrote about 5 or 6 songs, and then finished up another batch in 2017-2018. This album is essentially about my New York transition, and the experiences I had in that transition. I walked into New York with an expectation about how my life is going to be, and I watched that get completely flipped on its head. I thought I would be happy playing as many gigs as possible (sometimes up to 15-20 a month!), but I was completely miserable and burning out. The album title, “A Thoughtful Collapse,” is referring to this slow 4-5 year process of me giving up my old expectations and ideas of what my career is supposed to be, and what it was like living within that duality. Which is why a lot of the direct compositional inspirations were coming from current comic book characters I was into. The idea of someone having to live a double life, and how someone exists within that tension is very interesting to me. Not trying to compare myself to Spider-Man, but that feeling of a greater calling while you are fighting with what you thought your life was supposed to be. And the sacrifices made during that time.
Releasing this album in 2020 had to be an interesting experience! What was the rollout of this album like? How did 2020 change your release plans for this project?
I started working with a super cool small Indie Label called “Small Settlement.” It is a 1 man operation by Don Scherr. He is super great to work with because he helped me set up a release plan. We did 2 or 3 singles and then dropped the entire album on March 27th. I didn’t go through any big PR company.. I just was on submithub and cold calling a lot of podcasters and blogs to see if they’d give my music a shot! I did a lot of fun podcast interviews. I had a BUNCH of plans! My cd release party was going to feature a plethora of special guests, and I was in the middle of hiring dancers to also be special guests on the last song. I had a weekend tour planned and several other gigs.
The otherside of the coin with the pandemic was that I was under so much financial strain, in order for me to pull everything off it would have been SUPER INTENSE. I was on my way to another burn out (But this time I wasn’t miserable! Just exhausted!). The pandemic did help give me some space and re-exam how I structure my music career from a financial perspective.
You became an Indepreneur member in May of 2020. How did you find Indepreneur and how has it changed your approach to your music business?
I feel way more liberated, and I feel like I don’t have to follow any specific formula that all the other musicians I know feel trapped in. I feel like I can cut out the gatekeepers and just focus on the people who matter: THE FANS! The Indepreneur model has truly changed the game for me, and I am excited to be tapping into this community for years to come!
A little birdy told me you have a new project in the works, titled Celestial! Tell us a little about this new project and what’s ahead for you this year.
Yay! So Celestial is a 3 track EP that I’ve worked on throughout the quarantine. A big change for me during lockdown was learning how to do home recording and learning about the world of production! I am a SUPER NOOB to that! Most of my career has been just doing live recording with the full band, but it was really exciting to record this music and try to keep it feeling alive even though we all recorded separately!
Since we were remote I was able to open up collaboration with a friend of mine named Lorena Del Mar! We used to play together all the time until she relocated to Belgium several years ago. Another amazing Singer on the album is Sivan Arbel, who I have been playing with for several years and this is the first time she has recorded on a project.
I am excited to release this and see how it’s accepted and open up a whole new channel of my creativity. For a very long time I always felt like I needed the entire band polished and ready for everything. But now I can sit in my bedroom and work on recording music and producing, which is blowing my mind!
With the lessons learned from your Thoughtful Collapse release, how will that impact your marketing plans for Celestial?
One thing I have learned is patience! I created deadlines prematurely which forced me to rush certain things. One reason we haven’t set a release date yet is because we are still working on creating every single piece of content that will be associated with this release. Everyone is working slower because of the pandemic so I have been incredibly patient with this release. I’m hoping to have it out by the Spring! But no real promises yet. =)
What advice would you give other independent musicians learning how to navigate their careers during this time?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, take things one step at a time, and make sure you take care of the people who care about you. In the case of our careers I’ve found it to always be rewarding to take care of the fans: respond to them on social media, throw them extra content, and nurture those relationships. You learn more about yourself and how your art is interpreted. That is priceless to me.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today! For those who want to keep up with Celestial and everything else you have on the horizon, where is the best place for people to connect with you?
You can always follow me on my facebook page: facebook.com/pravinthompson
Instagram: @ pravinthompson
Or join my mailing list: http://pravinthompson.com/jointhetribe
About the author:
Graci Phillips is Indepreneur's Community Manager & Indie Success Specialist. Graci is part of our Nashville team and specializes in providing resources and solutions to our members, community building, and highlighting success stories within this incredible community.
If you are a member of our Indie Community and have a story to tell about your journey as an independent musician, reach out to Graci at firstname.lastname@example.org! We're always looking for new stories to share. If you aren't yet part of our Indie Community, you can get access to our entire library of music business trainings, our entire suite of exclusive discounts on partner products and services for musicians, our 4000+ private community of Indies, and weekly live stream Q&A's and coaching calls by signing up for INDIEPRO!
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