Growing up on the Shakopee Indian reservation in Minnesota, Andrew Thomas has become a hometown hero in his own right. At age eight, he started playing the piano, but has since shifted to that of a producer and singer-songwriter.
Andrew has been the driving force behind many up-and-coming regional artists, having founded the record company Pandasonic Records and now transforming into a solo pop act that is touring the nation. He adds a touch of honesty and humanity to his music with his catchy melodies and hook-heavy production, as well as his easily accessible songs and music videos. Not only does Andrew create and produce his own songs, but he has collaborated with other music greats including Brian McKnight and Snoop Dogg.
This year alone, Andrew has captivated fans alike through songs like “I love you (but I don’t like you)” and “Ugly” among several others. We had the chance to talk with the musician about his Minnesota upbringing, working on his next album, and more.
Walk me through your Minnesota upbringing, how did you eventually gravitate towards music?
When my dad left, he left a keyboard at the house. I just started using it one day and I just had a yearning for it. I believe music is just like athletics; it’s a genetic thing. Some people have it, and some people don’t. I know people who are in music and they’ve been working really hard for a long time, and they’re just not very good. They just don’t have it. You know, some people have it. Some people don’t.
I don’t think people talk about the Minnesota music culture more so than they should. But there’s a lot of like competition. There’s a lot of rivalries and stuff like that, but there’s a lot of culture here. I mean, it’s home to Prince, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and now Young Gravy. There are a bunch of other people who came from Minnesota. It’s very musical.
In terms of music, what emotions and experiences do you find the easiest to translate into songs?
Pain most of the time. Those are the strongest emotions and they leave scars. The hardest kind of songs to make are happy songs. That’s because when you’re happy, you’re just happy. It doesn’t stay. Most of the time, like another thing that’s kind of creeping up on me as I age, is bittersweet. One big thing for me is watching my kids grow up. I would label that bittersweet. It’s because I love to watch you grow, but you have to say goodbye to them as children. It’s like a piece of you dies with that. You know, so I was I put that as bittersweet. That’s a big influence for me as well, it’s bittersweet feelings.
Recently, you dropped the single and lyric video for “I love you (but I don’t like you),” tell me about that record.
I’m sure you’ve had relationships in your life or you’ve had people that you love and you care about. You don’t really want them around. Maybe you’re in a long-term relationship with a person and you love them. It’s like I love you, I care about you, but you always getting on my nerves. You know, I love you, but I love you over there. I love you over the phone. I love you at Christmas once a year. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs in relationships in particular.
It’s a bit of a departure from the themes and sounds you explored in “Ugly,” which amassed nearly 2 million views since its release back in May. Where does this song fit into the fold when compared to your previous cuts?
Every song I make is different. I don’t think about trying to maintain an image. I have a song called “Sugar Baby,” it’s 1000 times different than “Long Way Home” versus “Liquor Talking” versus “Rodeo” versus any of the other songs I put out. They’re all their own thing. So it’s tough to answer that question because I don’t think about it that way. I don’t look at it as like a brand ambassador. I just look at it as creating pieces of art.
I’m curious, who are some of the artists that inspire you? I feel like this new generation has birthed quite a handful of burgeoning pop stars.
I’m a huge stand for like Billie Eilish. I absolutely love her. Charlie Puth. I love Taylor Swift’s new project. It’s tough because I find influence in new and old. Like, I love that song. I draw influence from everything. I love Green Day. I love some of Adele’s songs. But the problem is I don’t like listening to artists I like because I typically just like one of their songs. I’m a song-by-song guy. I don’t pick artists. I like to pick songs.
Overall, what type of feelings do you want to go through people’s minds when listening to your song?
Typically, whatever that song is about… So “I love you (but I don’t like you)” in particular, I want people to look at the relationships they have in their lives and relate to that. I’ve had people in my family die from drug overdoses. I’ve had friends die from drug overdoses. My ex-wife now, her parents, you know, was a drug addict and her mom died. She was a drug addict. You know, it was very hard. I don’t know if I want people to experience an emotion, I just want them to relate.
I’m not trying to evoke an emotion per se. I feel like that’s kind of like a shill move to do. I think it’s more like I just want to give you something real that touches your soul rather than trying to force it. A lot of times, especially in trauma and pain, we feel alone but we all go through it and it’s good to create a situation where maybe they don’t feel so alone. I think that’s why I love sad music. I love records that touch on what I’ve been through because it’s how I relate to them and it touches me. I’m not alone in this world.
With the year coming to a close pretty soon, what are you looking forward to next?
Right now, I’m just looking forward to like dropping this album. There are a lot of things I fear as my kids grow and I’m terrified of it. I’m absolutely terrified. So I’m having this weird emotional apex of a moment, but I really looking forward to making an impact with music. You know, and hopefully rediscovering myself after that because, like I said, with my children finally growing up and becoming older, my life is getting kind of turned upside down once again. So it’s almost like I’m starting fresh once again.