Thom performing live in 2011
|Birth name||Alexandria Thom|
11 August 1981 |
Banff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
|Origin||Macduff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland|
|Genres||Pop, folk, R&B, rock, blues|
|Labels||RCA, Sony (2006-2009), Guardian Angels (2010-present)|
Alexandria "Sandi" Thom (born 11 August 1981, Banff, Aberdeenshire) is a Scottish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. She was one of the first artists along with The Arctic Monkeys a few months before to come to the mainstream thanks to the Internet. She became widely known in 2006 after a series of webcasts and the success of the UK number one single "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)". Thom has released five studio albums: Smile... It Confuses People (2006), The Pink & The Lily (2008), Merchants and Thieves (2010) "Flesh And Blood" (2012) & "Covers Collection" (2013)
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Criticism
- 3 Concert tours
- 4 Discography
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Life and career
1984–2004: Early life
Thom was born in Banff, Aberdeenshire. She attended Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen. At the age of 17, Thom became the youngest student to be accepted at the prestigious Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). In 2003, Thom graduated from LIPA with a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts.
2004–2007: Signing with Sony and Smile, It Confuses People
In 2004, Thom moved to London to pursue her song-writing career, working with three co-writers: Jake Field, Duncan Thompson and Tom Gilbert. Thom signed to Windswept Pacific Music in 2005, an independent music publishing company, and its UK arm, P&P Songs, and received 25,000 pounds. She signed a record contract with the small record label Viking Legacy, who released her début single, "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)" in late 2005. The song failed to garner major airplay or sales and release of her début was delayed.
21 Nights from Tooting was a "tour" consisting of twenty-one performances from the basement of her Tooting flat, from 24 February to 16 March. These were recorded and then webcast by professional hosting company Streaming Tank. Tickets were sold, but the venue had a capacity of "six people" ("10 including the band"). The MySpace post announcing the gigs was posted in the early hours of 22 February. Thom's website states that "the idea [...] popped into her head" after her car broke down travelling from a gig in York (on the 22nd) to one in Wales (on the 23rd) and following the very first live webcast she did at a gig in Edinburgh organized by her PR manager, Paul Boyd. Thom's first ever video webcast was at the Edinburgh Left Bank venue in October 2005. Prompted by a contact from Thom's manager's Ian Brown and John Black, news services noted Thom's promotion efforts. In a story first published 5 March 2006, The Sunday Times ran a piece. This was quickly reported on by other news sources. The audience for the first day was around 60 or 70 and at its peak rose to a claimed 70,000.[dead link] The 7 March Reuters story mentioned that "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" was being re-released the following week, with the album following in April. However, the publicity surrounding the tour led to major label interest, with music label representatives attending the gigs in question, and the release of the records was put back until a deal was signed.
Thom subsequently accepted an offer by Sony. This led to the single re-release being delayed until May, when it was released on Sony's RCA label. The news of this broke on 3 April 2006, the official signing itself being webcast. The single was placed on Music Week Daily's playlist that day. Paul Kelly of the Independent and others have questioned how she was able to sustain production of the webcast, and its viewership figures. Her manager, Ian Brown, in an interview with the Guardian, said the idea came from her, whilst her management and Music PR team, Quite Great Communications, claim to have conducted a large publicity campaign, including a million "virtual flyers" [unsolicited emails]. Thom described Streaming Tank as "friends of my managers", since she could not have afforded commercial rates for the streaming. Craig Logan, the managing director of RCA said that the label was "drawn to" Thom after hearing of the webcasting, as has Thom herself.
Following her online webcast concerts from her basement in Tooting, "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" was re-released on 22 May 2006, on RCA Records UK. The song had been gaining in airplay exposure, and on download sales it achieved #15 in the general charts (and #7 in the official downloads chart). The physical release had three formats: two CD versions (one featuring the radio mix and "A Light As Bright As Ours", another featuring the radio mix, the album version, a further remix, "May You Never" and the video), and also as a 7" vinyl record backed with "No More Heroes". In the week of 22 May, the song reached #2 in both charts. She performed on Top of the Pops on 28 May, making her major terrestrial television début, and on 4 June, the song replaced the deleted "Gnarls Barkley" single "Crazy" at #1 in the singles chart. Her début album, Smile... It Confuses People was released in the United Kingdom on Monday 5 June 2006, and débuted at number one in the chart dated 11 June, selling over 1 million copies worldwide. The song was later nominated at the Brit Awards for Best British Single. In the Republic of Ireland, "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker" entered the singles chart at #10 (week ending 25 May 2006), and rising to #2 in the following week (ending 1 June), and then to #1 the week after, but was then knocked off the top spot by Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie". The single also enjoyed success overseas, where it reached number 1 on the Australia "ARIA Charts" for ten consecutive weeks making it Australia's highest selling single of 2006.
"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" was the 47th biggest selling UK single from a female artist since 2000 according to the Official Charts Company as of January 2009. The follow-up single "What If I'm Right" reached the lower reaches of the charts, but "Lonely Girl", the third single from the album, failed to enter any charts.
2007–2009: The Pink & the Lily
On 26 May 2008, Thom released her second album entitled The Pink & The Lily, preceded by the first single, "The Devil's Beat", available on CD from 19 May 2008. Prior to the release, journalists were doubtful about its appeal. The album and single received extensive airplay on BBC Radio 2. In the UK, the single reached a high of 58 and dropped out of the Top 75 after two weeks; the album entered the chart at 25, dropping to 65 the next week, and then dropped out of the Top 75. The following single "Saturday Night" failed to chart on its release.
Thom has said:
"I feel like my second album was too rushed. I felt under quite a lot of pressure when I was making it. I was out on the road and my label was really hassling me to get it finished. "I admit I was disappointed with it and now, when I look back, it was released too soon. "There were some things that were overlooked. It wasn't thought out properly. So, with my next album, I'm going to put my foot down and spend as long as it takes to make it."
Although in an interview in the same newspaper dated 2 February and prior to the album's release Thom is quoted as saying "I'm surprised how long it has taken to make this new album. It has been like therapy. I have progressed as an artist", also in the same interview she confirmed her position as a Nationalist supporter, which she was to deny in the months to come. 
In February 2009, Thom announced that she would be making her third album as an independent artist, and expressed reservations over future music being released by record label RCA, who she claimed pressured her during the making of her second album (The Pink and the Lily) by demanding changes to lyrics on songs like "Saturday Night"; she said that the song was actually about taking drugs. She was also unhappy with their choice of singles. Along with other positioning decisions and demands centred on their desire for her to deliver bubblegum pop that Thom claimed the record company had made, she was unwilling to carry on working with RCA.
2009–2010: The Best of Sandi Thom
A "Best of" album was released in July 2009 on the budget label Camden (a part of the Sony/BMG group). The 18 track collection was compiled from Thom's two previous albums and various B-sides. The album did not enter any chart on release.
2010–present: Merchants and Thieves, Flesh and Blood and Covers Collection
Thom's third studio album Merchants and Thieves was released on 17 May 2010 with "This Ol' World" as the lead single. The album was published by Thom on her own "Guardian Angels" label, which she formed after being dropped by RCA. Musically it moves from pop folk towards blues and roots. The album entered the UK official chart at 118 on its first week of release before dropping out of the top 200. The single was made available as a download-only release in April 2010, but failed to enter the official UK Chart.
A second single "Gold Dust" (smoking gun remix) was released as a download-only in July 2010 but failed to enter the official UK Chart. A deluxe edition with extra tracks and video of the single "Gold Dust" was released as a download in February 2011.This was followed by a physical release made available on Thoms website
Thom's cover version of the classic track "House of the rising sun" was released as a download-only single and extra track on the deluxe edition of the album. It was also given away as a free download to readers of the Scottish Mail newspaper. The single failed to enter the UK official chart. The album was nominated for Best Album in the British Blues Awards 2011.
The album was nominated for Best Jazz/Blues Recording of the Year in the Scottish Music Awards. Thom was also nominated for Artist of the Year and her label "Guardian Angel Recordings" was nominated for Record Label of the Year.
Thom's fourth studio album entitled "Flesh and Blood" was released 16 September 2012.
Her fifth studio album, Covers Collection, was released in November 2013.
Her sudden rise to stardom was scrutinized by the British press and by her fellow artists. James Frost and Robin Hawkins from The Automatic stated that "If she was a punk rocker with flowers in her hair she'd get the s*** kicked out of her by other punk rockers, for having flowers in her hair. [...] I haven't found anyone who's told me they like that song and bought it." This notion that her success has been carefully orchestrated by the use of public relations was echoed by media commentator Charlie Brooker: "I've not heard that Sandi Thom single all the way through yet, but I've seen the TV ad about six billion times, and the short, poxy burst on that is more than enough to convince me that if her sudden rise to stardom WASN'T the end result of a shrewd marketing campaign, the implications are terrifying. Because to believe the official story - that thousands of people voluntarily subjected themselves to this shit online, then recommended it to their friends - is to lose your faith in mankind completely."
Prior to the 21 Nights from Tooting, Thom had been actively touring in the UK in 2005. Thom made an appearance at the Northsound Radio to 40,000 Free at the Dee festival in Aberdeen on 4 September 2005; a charity gig in Edinburgh later in September 2005, and was described as "hotly-tipped" by the Daily Record. However, in addition, Thom "has been labelled a fraud" according to the Daily Record. Thom supported The Proclaimers on their UK tour in December 2005 and toured with Nizlopi. She and her band continued to tour, playing the Pocklington Arts Centre near York on 22 February 2006, supported by Edwina Hayes, and the Queen's Hall in Narberth in Wales on 23 February 2006.
Thom has played live in several unconventional venues. She had previously performed at the opening of the World Skiing Championships in Sweden, where the stage was set up at the top of a mountain range; she performed at the top of the BT tower in London on behalf of the DMA's (Digital Music Awards), performed for a Children in Need auction winner who paid the charity £17,000 for Thom to play her living room. She played the Main Stage at T in the Park 2006, having been booked for the lowest billed stage. She headlined the acoustic tent at the 2006 V festival with Kasabian. In early 2007, Thom spent 6 weeks in France performing in every city across the country alongside a French artist at a free concert called the Ricard Live Tour. The concert attracted an average of 25,000 a night. She performed at English festivals such as Glastonbury, Guilfest and Redbourne; and in Scotland, the Wizard festival and the Belladrum Heart festival. Other festivals further afield included the Oxegen music festival and the World Fleadh in Ireland, and the Fuji Rock Festival. Thom supported George Michael for two nights of his stadium tour in Denmark. Concert dates scheduled for Ireland following the album's release were cancelled at the last minute No reason was given at the time for the cancellations. An announcement by Thom on her official website said that the cancelled performances were to be re-scheduled for September. However, this did not happen. In June, Thom performed a free 50-minute acoustic gig in front of 200 people at the broadcast centre of WDR radio station in Cologne, Germany; the gig was broadcast twice during the course of the month.
The tour's mainland UK dates ran from 16 June to 1 July, followed by Germany 10–19 July. Only the Munich Festival performance on the 19th went ahead, the remaining German dates where Thom was the only artist performing were cancelled. An announcement on Thom's German website stated this was due to 'studio commitments'. although this explanation was not given on Thoms UK site for the cancellations and Diary entries by Thom do not give any mention of Studio commitments or activity at this time. A full concert performance planned for Edinburgh as part of the Fringe Festival in August was also cancelled and replaced by a mixed bill in which Thom featured. A number of one-off performances and promotional appearances including Blackpool illuminations were also played. Thom also confirmed she would be taking part in Busk Cancer week  with interviews and articles given to the press and on her official website in conjunction with the promotional campaign for her latest album and single although all references to it were removed after the release of the single "Saturday Night" and no explanation was given as to why she had not taken part. A performance at Butlins Minehead Holiday Camp was also added. Thom appeared second on the bill at the Aberdeen Hogmanay celebrations followed by an appearance on the BBC Hogmanay show from Edinburgh where she sang one song Thom performed "By Afton Water" at the official Burns Supper in celebration of Robert Burns's 250th birthday. The event was held in Alloway, Ayrshire, where Burns was born.
Thom dedicated her tour of 2009 to the Homecoming Scotland campaign. The support acts for each show were local artists with special guests ranging from Phil Cunningham in Inverness, Leon Jackson in Glasgow and her original guitarist Marcus Bonfanti appearing at the final show of the English leg of the tour in Milton Keynes.
The first official date of the tour in Edinburgh was cancelled after the venue suffered significant fire damage, and tickets already purchased for the show were made valid for the second date of the tour in Dunfermline.
A duet with the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, took place at one of the shows in Banff where he is the Member of Parliament, but during this period Thom gave interviews to the press trying to distance herself from politicians and politics by stating she was not the SNP's mascot and had not endorsed the SNP although her image and name had been used by the party and its leader Mr Salmond on numerous occasions, and Thom had endorsed publicly the SNP and its policies at the last election.
Thom apologised to the artist/producer Nitin Sawhney after being quoted in an interview as saying "I'm not coming back as Nitin Sawhney" which led to the artist contacting Thom to explain why she had made the comment. Thom's apology said the quote had "Come out all wrong" and she admired Sawhney as an artist.
The Glasgow leg of Homecoming 2009, which was to hold the largest concert of the tour, was moved from the Clyde Auditorium to the smaller Lomond suite after tickets failed to sell. On the day of the show it was announced that X Factor winner Leon Jackson was to be the special guest. Ten Concerts were performed in Scotland of which two were advertised as sold out Three concerts were played in England of which one was advertised as sold out.
During the tour Thom released two EP's. A "Live EP" featuring recordings from the Aberdeen Castlegait Hogmanay celebrations and the "Caledonia EP" featuring a series of covers including "Patience Of Angels" (originally by Eddi Reader) and the official Homecoming Scotland 2009 song "Caledonia" written by Dougie MacLean. These recordings were only available to purchase at concerts performed on the Homecoming Tour.
In April, a sold out performance took place at the 200 capacity Crown Hotel Ballroom as part of the Nantwich Jazz Festival.
The Scotsman ran an article about expenses for gigs she performed for the SNP between 2007 and 2008. Thom dismissed this as petty. A series of dates as support act for The New Beautiful South was announced for November 2009. She also played a 30-minute set at the Avo Session Basel, supporting Snow Patrol. This was followed by a support slot for Joe Bonamassa on his UK and Irish tour dates.
Thom appeared at the Stirling Castle Hogmanay celebrations 2009. She performed alongside The MacDonald Brothers, The Shermans and Gary Mullen. Thom toured the UK in April and May 2010 to showcase new material from her album Merchants & Thieves and made a number of appearances at Festivals in the UK including The Tiree festival in Scotland and The Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival in Colne Lancashire in England. A second Merchants and Thieves tour took place in September and early October. Thom announced a tour of "Intimate" venues in the UK for early 2011 as well as details of a record to be recorded in Nashville in 2011. Four dates in Germany were also announced but were later cancelled. Festival appearances, including Rhythm Festival, were also added for 2011.
- Smile... It Confuses People (2006)
- The Pink & The Lily (2008)
- Merchants and Thieves (2010)
- Flesh and Blood (2012)
- Covers Collection (2013)
- The Best of Sandi Thom (2009)
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