Carrying on a legacy while forging his own path
By: Bradley Baker, Entertainment staff writer
Thomas Gabriel is one of the most humble and inspiring human beings that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. His story is one of the very unique and storied beginnings, personal struggles, and a Pheonix-Esque rise from the ashes.
As the first-born grandson of the timeless and highly influential Johnny Cash, Thomas was seemingly destined to live out a life tinged with some of the same dark hues as his famous grandfather. Born to Kathy Cash when she was only 16 years old, Thomas spent a lot of time on the road with Johnny Cash, who had a big hand in raising him.
As you can imagine, this unconventional upbringing instilled a deep and passionate love of music into the young man. Some of Thomas’s earliest performances included singing “When The Saints Go Marching In” with Johnny at his concerts.
Thomas Gabriel relates that he can remember writing music and singing as early as the second grade. He has dabbled in playing the guitar throughout his life but claims to lack the patience to truly develop his skills in that area beyond the rudimentary ability necessary to facilitate in writing his vocal melodies. His primary focus has always been on his lyrics and his voice, and he has certainly excelled in those crafts.
Besides the obvious influences of Johnny Cash and his contemporaries, by whom Thomas was surrounded for his entire young life, he names Rodney Crowell, Shaun Moore, Steve Earl, and Pete Loeffler (Lead vocalist and guitarist for Chevelle) as artists to whom he looks for inspiration. The last name on that list may come as a surprise to those who would unthinkingly pigeon-hole Thomas as someone who only listens to country music. During our conversation, he revealed that he is a huge fan of metal music, having written some of his own in his earlier years.
As a matter of fact, if you visit his personal facebook page, you will find that he has posted links to some Gojira songs that are personal favorites.
Thomas’s journey through life has not been all sunshine, rainbows, and music. When he was in his 20’s, he found himself struggling with anger issues, alcohol addiction, and a sense of entitlement: a dangerous cocktail, to say the least. He did his first EP in the early ’90s and showed it to his grandfather. Johnny Cash offered him encouragement, but the larger message was one of caution. He advised Thomas to finish school and have a backup plan, while simultaneously honing his musical abilities. Thomas ended up going to a police academy in Tennessee and becoming an officer for about 8 years. He ended up working a lot of overnight shifts and trying to run a business during the day, which proved to contribute to his undoing.
Having struggled with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism and addiction from the age of 13, Thomas was introduced to “uppers” as a means of helping him cope with his sleep-deprived schedule. As is often the case, the stimulants led to other drugs, including “downers” to help him relax and go to sleep. The ensuing drug addiction and worsening alcoholism compounded with his bad temper led to several arrests, eventually landing him in prison for nearly 10 years.
Although his life was irrevocably changed by his time behind bars, Thomas believes that it was absolutely necessary. He emerged from confinement as a changed man. Sober, God-centered, and focused wholly on his pursuit of music, he is now on a mission to spread a message of redemption.
His first album, titled “Long Way Home”, is a work of catharsis, in which Thomas Gabriel works through the darkness with which he had struggled for his entire life. He is currently working on his second album, in which he is hoping to convey a much happier message, one that focuses on where his life is heading, rather than where he has been. He feels that he finally has the band that he has always been looking for, and they are a defining factor in his current success.
The current lineup for The Thomas Gabriel Band consists of Derek Toa on lead guitar, Stephen Hopkins on bass guitar, and Stephen Little on drums. In the short 14 months that they have been adamantly pursuing their music career, they feel that they have covered a decade’s worth of ground, touring the U.S. and Ireland. A notable achievement during this time was their performance at Folsom Prison, an obvious tribute to Johnny Cash, during which they performed some of the songs made famous by “The Man In Black”.
Moving forward, Thomas and his bandmates are looking forward to a very busy year. With their upcoming full-length album release by the end of 2019/ beginning of 2020, they are also planning a return to Ireland. In addition to the album release in the U.S., there will be a European release, coupled with a European Tour. While this portends a very rigorous and sleepless schedule, Thomas is also making an effort to spend more time at home with his children, which speaks to his character as a changed man.
Thomas wants people to know that he is still living in awe of how much God has changed him and how much love people have shown him, despite his checkered past. He implores anyone who is going through a dark time to never give up on the healing light that the future holds for anyone who seeks it.
If you are as inspired by the life and music of Thomas Gabriel as I am, you have a chance to be in an exclusive and limited audience for a very special performance tonight at Friday’s Creek Winery (Located at 3485 Chaneyville Road, Owings, MD 20736) presented by Donna Sue and The Hollar Entertainment Company. T
his event will be hosted in the listening room, a converted barn adjacent to the main building of the winery, and will begin at 6 p.m. Donna Sue is making some waves in the Southern Maryland music scene with The Hollar Entertainment Company by bringing in original, national acts and the “Nashville Sound”. She is hoping that her endeavors will be embraced by locals so that she can partner local SOMD musicians with these national acts in an effort to achieve shared success.
For more information about Thomas Gabriel and The Thomas Gabriel Band, as well as a listing of their current concert dates/locations, visit their website at www.thomasgabrielband.com
To find out more about The Hollar Entertainment Company and their endeavors, go to https://www.facebook.com/thehollarentertainment/
The Thomas Gabriel Band performing their song “18.104.22.168.”
Thomas Gabriel performing “Folsom Prison Blues” (originally by Johnny Cash)