How did you first get into playing music?
My father was from Trinidad & Tobago and took me to Notting Hill Carnival every year since I could walk. Aged 7, I joined a local Steel Band because I loved the feel and sound of my school’s Steel Band at the time. I quickly realised I had a natural talent for playing and reading music.
Was there a moment when you thought, right I’m going to be a musician?
Music became my passion, and I found myself spending more time in the music department at school and college than anywhere else. I also begun learning piano, guitar, bass and drums and people started asking me to play gigs professionally on various instruments from the age of around 15. I set up my group Sunny Steel Band officially in 2011.
Which musicians have inspired you most?
I admire anyone with that unique combination of raw talent and the willingness to practise until they are the best at what they do. There are a number of incredible Steel Bands originating in Japan that blow my mind and that I’m in the process of collaborating with.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played with Sunny Steel Band?
It may sound a bit cheesy but any gig where people get up, enjoy themselves and start dancing. We love playing weddings in particular, seeing the bride and groom happy with the band and their special day after months of planning – it doesn’t get any better. We have been booked all over the world including Cuba, Japan, America, Italy and the Caribbean to name just a few but seeing people lose themselves in our music is just as satisfying no matter the location.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Either on the day of the gig or a couple of days before I contact the client to make sure there haven’t been any changes and to reassure them everything will go smoothly. I’m a pretty organised person so will go through a checklist to ensure I have everything the band needs, then we’re good to go!
If you could go back in time and find yourself at the beginning of your music career, what advice would you give your past self?
Practice, practice, practice. In this line of work you can sometimes find you’re too busy to spend time on your instrument but taking a little time out every day to practice makes a huge difference in the long run and reminds you why you love doing what you do.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
Lying on a beach, preferably in the beautiful Caribbean sunshine, safe in the knowledge that my players and my clients are happy!
Book Thomas securely on Encore for your next event here.
Or book his Sunny Steel Band here.