Thomas Headon Won't Be Boxed In
The British-born Australian singer songwriter made a stop at Mercury Lounge in New York City for his first ever U.S. Tour.
Sitting cross-legged in a swivel chair in his hotel room, Thomas Headon was a buzz of excitement. Before I could even begin my interview, he asked me about my life. We talked about places we’ve lived, including New York City; our respective journeys to sitting in this interview; and the current cultural moment taking over the music industry.
Born in the UK, Thomas moved to Australia at the age of 5 and lived there until he was about 18. He experienced university-type life in London, but Australia is where all of his core memories are.
“As much as I’m stereotypical British every now and then, I hate the cold so much.” Despite his discontent with the weather, the UK loves him, as Thomas made the UK top 10 (#9) in March with his latest EP, "Victoria."
Although he started playing guitar “to get girls,” he quickly transitioned to loving songwriting for himself. “It became a natural thing,” he said. From a young age, his sister brought Thomas along to see bands like Twenty One Pilots and The 1975 while living in Australia. The more shows he went to, the more he felt like performing was something attainable.
Being in Australia brought Thomas a lot of inspiration for his sound: “I think Australia has such an indie-rock scene to it, they love bands there.” He further explained that a lot of the sound on his latest EP was influenced by that indie-rock scene. “I think that’s massively affected, and is especially prevalent through, this EP.”
The One Direction, Tumblr 2014 era also found its way into his sound, especially in the way he leans into fan culture. He credits the shows his sister brought him “not so much the music front but the way I interact with people online comes from how I saw my sister interact with those kinds of bands.” His following on TikTok is an impressive 416k, and he has amassed millions of likes.
Thomas doesn’t know yet if he can categorize himself as a 2014 indie boy, a modern one, an alt-rocker, a bedroom-pop singer, or even an alt-pop songwriter. “I don’t know. It sounds really rude, but I don’t care.” To Thomas, it’s less about genre and more about who you’re associated with. “It doesn’t make much sense anymore to say you’re just one thing.”
“Luckily, so far it’s working out,” he said, because otherwise “I don’t know what I would be doing, I probably would be studying maths or something.”
Thomas was emotive and every laugh elicited a visceral reaction either completely throwing his head back or nearly jumping out of his chair.
“I’ve made it this far, I’m an international act!” he exclaimed. At this point, he nearly fell out of his swivel chair, unable to stop moving as he talked about the city, and his anticipation to play in the US for the first time.
He’s played smaller shows in Australia and the UK, but for the first time he will go on tour in the two places he calls home. That is, after completing his coast-to-coast US tour first. On the topic of tours, he said “I’m so lucky in that sense” because he grew up in Australia and has that home connection. Not many people tour in Australia, and “Touring Australia to me is kind of like touring the UK. It’s just kind of natural and needs to be done.”
His earliest shows were both a blessing and a curse. “I jumped right into doing like 500, 1000 cap shows,” he explained. He loves playing to big crowds but felt like he missed out on the interaction with fans that artists starting out get to experience in small venues. “We’ll get to meet everyone, you talk to everyone because it’s so intimate.”
His first New York show in Mercury Lounge (a capacity of 250) was only a few hours after our interview. Unfortunately, he told the audience, New York took its toll on him, and he lost his voice. Regardless, he still went on stage to deliver six songs, a mix of covers of Harry Styles, The 1975, and tracks from his new EP.
There were technical difficulties with the band, so it was an acoustic concert. The stripped-down vocals offered a more intimate experience with the musician and his craft and elevated an otherwise unusual performing experience.
It offered a chance to experience the lyrical seriousness of his title track, “Victoria,” which tells a melancholic story despite its fun and catchy chorus. “I think this EP felt a lot more serious in my eyes.” He reflected that “After my second EP, I thought a lot of the music I made was, not childish, but it didn’t represent me and what I was doing as the 21-year-old that I was.”
“Everyone who’s been 21 has gone through a lot of these things that I’m talking about.” Thomas said he didn’t want everything to suddenly be serious — this isn’t a new version of him — but that “It is important to grow in that sense, and be honest with it.”
As for what’s next? Thomas explained that “I really thrive playing live,” which is what he wants to continue doing. He is currently touring the US for the next year, where he hopes to embrace live shows, interact with his fans, and really experience this part of his career. “There is a part of me that is so grateful that I can genuinely wake up and not know where I am sometimes — that’s so sick.”
Make sure to follow Thomas Headon on Instagram to stay up to date with the latest of his music.