DYW Moray would like to showcase a former pupil of Moray who has decided to return - a brilliant success story, Abbie Thomas...
"Growing up, I was always interested in music and thanks to my parents there was no shortage of it around the house. My dad was, and still is, a huge fan of classical music and so Mozart and Beethoven made a regular appearance at the dinner table. My mum, on the other hand, introduced me to classics like The Beatles, Janice Joplin and The Carpenters (and so many more) and being a talented pianist and singer herself she encouraged me to play an instrument from an early age. The flute became my first instrument, and although I wouldn’t exactly say I fell in love with it I showed an obvious interest in playing music and found much of it quite natural. That’s not to say I didn’t have to work hard at it, unfortunately I have never been a natural virtuoso at anything and so practise wasn’t something I could skip. I always enjoyed singing around the house with my mum and she encouraged me to play the piano, a parent teaching you is not the easiest thing in the world but she did well and persevered to teach me the basics.
(Abbie - second on the right with her band, Apples …I’m Home)
As I grew up, it became clear that music was something I was naturally good at and practise never felt like a chore. However, it wasn’t until I was about 15 that I realised how much music meant to me and how much it could change my life. Due to my regular music teacher being unwell, my standard grade music class was taken over by Tish Tindall. On our first lesson with Tish she asked each pupil to sing solo in front of the class. I was terrified and had no idea what she might think of my voice! When she told me that she thought I was fantastic I just scoffed at her, she then very quickly told me that I’d “better learn to take a complement”. Until that moment I had no idea that I had the potential to be a singer or a musician. It may sound quite silly, but that simple encounter made me step back and realise that this may actually be something that I could do with my life.
Over the next couple of years, I worked closely with Tish, both in a class environment and in 1 to 1 lessons, building my confidence and technique as a singer. At the time, I didn’t feel that there were enough opportunities for me in the area and so wanted to go to University in a city where I could start out as a singer and musician. I had decided that I didn’t want to be in Musical Theatre, but instead wanted to work full time in the music industry. In 2005 courses like this were very difficult to come by and weren’t necessarily viewed very highly, but after some convincing Tish came on board with the idea of a BA Hons in Commercial Music at the University of the West of Scotland. This wasn’t exactly the done thing and I’m sure many people were sceptical that it would lead to a career in the music industry.
However, despite the worries of a few family members (and Tish) I started my degree there in the September of 2005. Don’t get me wrong, they were all hugely supportive but it wasn’t a popular choice then and so they were unsure of what to expect. From the very beginning, I have to say that I knew I had made the right decision. The degree was focused on making a living in the current music industry, covering performance, song writing, sound production, business management, entrepreneurship and so much more. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people of a similar age who were like minded, hoping to play, write, perform and manage in the industry as a full time career. One of those like-minded students was Andy Thomas, little did I know he would later become my husband (marrying in August 2016)!
In the second year of our course, Andy and I were paired up (along with two others) for a performance project. We were tasked with starting a band in a genre not to our taste, writing a set and working towards a performance at the end of the semester. In our small group, we came up with the band name of ‘Marmalade’ and began writing our trance EP. In no time at all, it became clear that Andy and I worked well together. We found writing and performing together came naturally and so decided to start a band with some close friends, focusing on a genre a little more to our liking – and so ‘Apples …I’m Home’ was born. During our time at University, we wrote and recorded our debut album ‘Scattered Jigsaw’ and gigged regular in and around the Glasgow area.
In 2009 we both left University with a BA Hons, keen to stick with the plan of a career in the music industry and where better to try and make this happen than London! Shortly after graduating we made the move to the big city, with the goal of music remaining the centre of our lives. Andy began work on the famous ‘Tin Pan Alley’, working with musicians who all shared similar goals and regularly juggled their day jobs with gigging. There, he became very close friends with two talented musicians who soon came on board and joined ‘Apples… I’m Home’. The four of us soon realised that we jelled well together. Everything felt so natural and each member had their own strengths, whether it be writing the melody, or working out vocal harmonies, we all came together to make something that we were very proud of.
Having spent sometime myself in the retail industry, juggling work and the band, I continued to look for fulltime work in the industry. In 2014 I was lucky enough to be offered an interview with Rockschool (www.rslawards.com) and knew that whatever happened this was my chance and I couldn’t let it pass me by. Before I knew it, I was working for Rockschool in the exams department, although enjoyable the role quickly became easy and I was ready for a new challenge. So, with the support of Rockschool I moved into their publishing department and soon took on the role of Publishing Executive. The role didn’t let me down, it challenged me every day and I learned so much about the industry. Most importantly, I learned about the importance of adapting to your environment, taking on anything that is thrown your way and that you really can achieve anything that you want to if you put your mind to it!
After a few years in ‘Tin Pan Alley’ Andy decided to leave his retail role and become a full time self-employed drum teacher. Andy worked hard to build a clientele in a hugely saturated market and soon stood out as an excellent tutor, for students of all ages and abilities.
During all of this, our band ‘Apples… I’m Home’ continued to gig on a regular basis in London, as well as yearly visits to the Fringe Festival. Writing and recording together, we found that our music received a great reaction and so decided to take things further. Since then, we have self-managed two UK tours, recorded and released two EPs and one full length album. As well as this, we have performed live at 5 consecutive Fringe Festivals - gigging throughout the city and busking as much as possible to spread the word.
London gave us some incredible opportunities and we made some amazing friends, who will now go on to become a fantastic network of talented musicians and music entrepreneurs. Among many, were ‘Flat 50 Promotions’ who gave us the amazing opportunity of playing lead support for the hugely successful Seth Lakeman.
However, after almost 8 years in the city we felt that we had so much we could give back. Having both grown up in fairly remote areas, we wanted the opportunity to show young people what they can achieve in the music industry and so decided to bring it back to Moray. When the opportunity to work with Tish came up it just felt right. When I was only 15 years old she made me realise that music was something I could do with my life and so now I think that together, with Lossie EA, we might just be able to do the same for other young people.
We are over the moon to be working with Lossie EA and hope we can give some young people the guidance and confidence that they need to pursue their goals in music. Working in the music industry is an achievable and rewarding career, but can often be forgotten about when making choices. We hope that by spreading the word and working with schools we can encourage those interested to follow their dreams.
As well as this, of course we will be continuing to play live all over the country – returning to the Fringe Festival for a 6th time and playing a headline slot in Brighton in June 2018. Apples… I’m Home remain strong and we hope to lead by example by remaining active musicians.
Here’s to an exciting year – ‘The year of the young person’."
Abbie and her husband Andy has offered each of the Music Departments within the Secondary Schools a workshop on Gigging and Touring in the Music Industry which DYW Moray believe will be a great opportunity for our young people to hear more about Abbie's success in this Industry! DYW Moray will keep you posted - watch this space!