The Scotsman Sessions #296: Dylan John Thomas

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Glasgow’s Dylan John Thomas performs a stripped-back acoustic version of his song Jenna

The splendidly-named Dylan John Thomas is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter and former busker from Glasgow. His music is charming, direct and pleasingly rough around the edges; you can take the boy out of the busker etc. He’s a nimble tunesmith too. The songs on his eponymously-titled debut EP, which was released earlier this year, stick almost instantly. And he’s not your standard acoustic strummer either: the studio version of Jenna, the EP’s opening track, occasionally breaks out into a skanking rocksteady beat. The version he’s performed for The Scotsman Sessions strips the song down to its finger-picking folkish roots. A versatile tune.

Thomas developed an interest in music towards the end of his time at primary school. As he recalls: “I had a teacher called Mr Rodgers who would play The Beatles all day on his guitar. He would stop us in the middle of a class and make us sing along. I think I asked for a guitar the following Christmas.”

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Suitably inspired, he’s been writing songs in earnest since his teens, although he dismisses his early efforts as “beyond dreadful”. But that’s always the way. The first thing Thomas learned to play was Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash. You can detect that formative influence in his work to this day, although Thomas sings in his natural accent. No Arkansas wannabe he.

Dylan John Thomas

“I never could sing like a normal singer,” he laughs. “I started off just shouting, then it eventually became like talking. That’s probably why I have my own accent.” Thomas grew up in foster care, and while that wasn’t always easy, he’s not one to dwell on the downsides.

“Most of my mates never had any food in the house and their mothers were always out,” he says. “I was lucky enough to have three meals a day and fresh clothes for school. I don’t really feel hard done by. There are some songs where I reference certain things that happened when growing up or whatever, but there is no sympathy ask attached.”

He’s similarly pragmatic when it comes to his ADHD diagnosis. “I get obsessed with things I enjoy,” he says, “but it depends on whether you see that as a pro or con. On the flip side, I physically can’t focus on something that doesn’t interest me. It sounds immature, but ADHD is like this constant need to be doing your thing. Not in a lazy way but in a way where you end up staying up all night writing tunes or recording.”

Thomas’ dedication to his craft has paid off. He’s toured as a support act for Liam Gallagher and Gerry Cinnamon – the latter is a close friend and mentor – and next year he’ll play his first headlining show at the Barrowlands. This corkscrew-haired kid has talent, that much is obvious. It’s only a matter of time until he clicks with the mainstream.

Dylan John Thomas plays Barrowland, Glasgow on 29 April 2022, see www.dylanjohnthomas.com

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