Singer-songwriter Jefferson Thomas introduces the music video for “Greyhound Bus,” a song about childhood friends who found it difficult to cope with life. The track is from his most recent album, Sixteen Sundays.
Explaining his music, Jefferson says, “I listen mostly to new people making new music, and there’s a lot of great stuff out there. I also love to listen to old music; retro R&B and soul, vintage country, classic rock, whatever, but I don’t just want to parrot that stuff. I’m not a fan of the whole tribute-band thing; I think it’s well-intentioned, but lazy. I love old things, but I want to use them to make new music.”
On the one hand, Jefferson’s “blue-eyed soul” music is straight-ahead rootsy-Americana-rock, reminiscent of John Mellencamp. On the other hand, it’s a sound not easily categorized, blending indie-rock, alt-pop, country rock, and R&B into deliciously contagious sonic creations. In the end, though, no matter how you label it, Jefferson Thomas’ music links up with the heart of America.
Like his father, Jefferson picked up a guitar and never looked back. By the time he was a teenager, he played professionally, touring the U.S. Later, he attended college, where he encountered soul and R&B while fronting a nine-piece horn band. As his sound developed, he found himself puzzled.
“After a while I was confused about what I wanted to do musically,” he shares. “How do you put a Sam Cooke or a Bobby Bland vocal over Merle Travis or Ry Cooder guitar, then write pop songs and have it all make any sense? And I think the audiences were confused, too. I figured, we’re either gonna work this out or we’re gonna end up in a rubber room somewhere.”
Interning at his college’s recording studio, he recorded his first release. “I was nineteen when I put out my first CD”, says Thomas. “It’s probably still out there somewhere, which makes me feel queasy. I don’t think I even still own a copy.”
He broke through when NPR broadcast his live video of “Jacksonville.” The song went viral and led to his first tour of Europe, followed by many others.
“Greyhound Bus” opens on bright, vibrant a cappella vocals flowing into an upbeat rhythm topped by a low-slung sparkling guitar. As the harmonics mousse up on the chorus, the song expands, exuding delicious colors and heady galvanizing textures.
Jefferson’s zest-laced voice infuses the lyrics with electrifying tones, as he narrates tales of people’s lives riding a Greyhound bus — sometimes leaving on new adventures, other times returning after discovering the here-and-now of life.
The video mirrors the stories of convicts, young people hoping to make a splash in the city, and prostitutes doing what necessity demands. Each one, good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, traveled on the Greyhound bus.
“Greyhound Bus” has it all: an infectious rhythm, rousing layers of harmonics, and true-to-life stories sung with passion and gusto.