Norfolk-based folk artist Ian Randall Thornton is southern Virginia’s best-kept secret. His music conveys a stunning depth of emotion, and in conversation the young songwriter displays maturity beyond his years.
A year after releasing his first single, Ian put out the song series “End Where You Begin” in 2014. The album flows beautifully and rewards uninterrupted listening from beginning to end. Ian’s profound lyrics shine in his simple acoustic style, and his meticulously crafted instrumentation makes “End Where You Begin” a delightful experience.
We had the privilege of chatting with Ian, who offered a glimpse into his background and his craft. We’ve split this interview into a three-part series.
Emily Cardé: Ian, how did you get into songwriting?
Ian Randall Thornton: I’ve been a musician my whole life. I’ve been playing piano since I was 6, and I started playing upright bass in orchestras when I was 9. I’ve been playing guitar since around that time too. I was more a supporting musician, though. I would play in a lot of bands. I also grew up singing in choirs. So I was always a musician first—and I love that. Truthfully, the songs I would write as a teenager weren’t very good.
Ethan Weitz: I can relate to that 100 percent.
Ian: I mean, my heart for creating the songs was extremely shallow. I was trying to write songs to sound cool, because that’s your main goal as a high schooler. I always feel that the heart and the root of whatever you’re doing will show in the fruit and what you’re tasting of. You could totally taste that I didn’t have a very good driving force. After high school I moved to California, and I was going to school and taking a break from music. I didn’t take any instruments out with me.
Ethan: That seems like a big step for a musician to go out there without any instruments at all.
Ian: Yeah, part of that has to do with the fact that my main instrument at that time was an upright bass, so I wasn’t exactly going to be able to fit that thing on an airplane.
Read the rest of the discussion over at the music blog The Cellary.
Listen to “I Have Seen” by Ian Randall Thornton.