Five Questions With… Cayley Thomas

Earlier in her life, Edmonton alt-pop artist Cayley Thomas had her sights set on Broadway. Part of getting there involved being a contestant on the short-lived mid-oughts CBC talent show Triple Sensation, and while she ultimately didn’t win the competition, she came away from it with a determination to be proactive in her artistic pursuits, whether they happened to be music, acting or dance.

Fast forward to this year and it seems Thomas (now based in Toronto) has channelled all of her talents into her latest EP, How Else Can I Tell You?, which immediately got the attention of indie tastemakers across North America, including Paste Magazine, which included her in a list of best new Canadian artists.

Displaying her natural ability to construct catchy melodies exuding the fuzzy warmth of vintage rock and soul, the EP’s five songs are rooted in self-examination and the rebirth that comes from facing up to anxiety and doubt. Working with producers Nik Kozub (Shout Out Out Out Out, Humans, The Wet Secrets) and Steve Chahley (U.S. Girls, FRIGS, Badge Époque, Darlene Shrugg), Thomas managed to find the sweet spot between hi-fi production values and lo-fi living room charm.

Thomas has now given her fans an added treat with a new non-EP single, Do It All With You, accompanied by a video that allowed her to indulge in some choreography that perfectly reflects the song’s quirky nature. We spoke with Thomas to find out more, and you can get further information at cayleythomas.com.

Your new video for Do It All With You looks like it was a lot of fun to make. How did you come up with the concept?

I grew up performing in musicals like The Music Man and Mary Poppins so it’s been a dream of mine to incorporate some vaudeville / soft shoe style movement into a video for quite some time now. It occurred to me that this particular song would lend itself nicely to some dancing so I based the whole concept around that. I put out a call on Facebook for a choreographer and my friend Chelsea Preston reached out. She had been playing Roxie Hart in the Stratford Festival’s production of Chicago when the pandemic hit and the entire season was forced to cancel. We decided to partner up to create some choreography over Zoom and commiserate over our lack of employment! We both talked about it being a total lifeline project when most of our other creative engagements had been postponed.

Was Do It All With You part of the sessions for your EP How Else Can I Tell You?, and is it indicative of other new music you're working on?

I created the bulk of this song in one short sitting after my partner first came to visit me in Toronto. It essentially outlines what we did that week and I texted it to him as a little voice memo after he flew back home to Alberta. I had no real intention to release it to the public—it was more of a fun creative exploration. I’m learning that some of my best work usually happens when I place zero expectations upon it. It’s more of a standalone piece for now but who knows what the future will hold.

How Else Can I Tell You? has received a lot of critical praise. What made those songs work together as a piece for you?

I’m so glad people are enjoying the new tunes! I recorded the five songs for How Else Can I Tell You? in a rather unconventional way over the course of many months in multiple different locations. But I always followed a sort of stylistic blueprint in my mind. The songs hinge around a common theme of self-reflection and are tied together by my undying love for mid-century music.

How have you adapted to engaging with your audience over the past few months?

You know, I’m not sure it’s changed all that much other than me trying to brainstorm different ways to connect with people to supply a little extra creative encouragement these days. You never fully know who might be affected or inspired by the art you make. It could be just the thing that passes the light off to someone else.

What's your mind set looking ahead to next year and the prospect of hopefully playing live?

My motto for 2020 is “Embrace The Suck,” knowing full well that it won’t always feel this way.  I think live performance is still possible, it just may look a little different next year.

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