Rai Thistlethwayte

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Rai Thistlethwayte
Rai Thistlethwayte 2.jpg
Born (1980-04-21) April 21, 1980 (age 40)
Other namesSun Rai
Years active2000—present
Known forLead singer and primary songwriter in Thirsty Merc

Rai Thistlethwayte (born 21 April 1980) is an Australian rock, pop and jazz musician and songwriter. Thistlethwayte is an accomplished pianist, guitarist, and vocalist. He is the lead singer and primary songwriter in the Australian pop rock band Thirsty Merc. Since 2004, Thirsty Merc have released a string of hits in the Australian Music Charts including "In The Summertime", "Someday, Someday", "20 Good Reasons", "Those Eyes", "Emancipate Myself", "Wasting Time," "My Completeness", "When The Weather Is Fine", "The Hard Way", "Homesick", "Mousetrap Heart", "Tommy And Krista" and "All My Life". He is currently based in Los Angeles. As a solo artist, Thistlethwayte performs under the name 'Sun Rai.'

Early life[edit]

Thistlethwayte was born and raised in Sydney, New South Wales, and attended Beaumont Road Public School then Knox Grammar School. Born into a musical family, he started learning from his mother, a classical piano teacher, before his fifth birthday. His father, Ian, is a language teacher and a bass player and guitarist who played bass in a Sydney-based band called 'The Plebs', which formed under the name 'The Centaurs' in Sydney in 1963.

Early music career and influences[edit]

In his early teens, Thistlethwayte listened to classic rock and early metal, then blues and jazz. He started writing songs around the age of 15. After finishing high school in 1997 he was awarded a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he commenced a Bachelor of Music in jazz piano in 1998.

Some of his early musical influences are listed as The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Deep Purple, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Maiden, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson and Claude Debussy.

After a year at the Sydney Conservatorium, Thistlethwayte came to the attention of, and signed with Columbia/Sony in the United States. He released one single, Give a Smile to the Planet, which was released in Australia in mid 2000 and peaked just under the top 40 and completed an album, which was released as a promo but was eventually shelved. This particular label relationship appeared not to have flourished, but ended amicably.

Thirsty Merc: 2003–present[edit]

In 2002, Thistlethwayte formed rock band Thirsty Merc and was subsequently signed by Warner Music Australia after their self funded release of their EP First Work. Thirsty Merc subsequently released three successful albums, their self-titled debut Thirsty Merc, which sold 2 x platinum in Australia and received 4 ARIA Award nominations, and Sideshows that has reached Platinum status. Thirsty Merc released their third studio album in June 2010 Mousetrap Heart with the title track as the first single, and the hit 'Tommy And Krista' and 'All My Life' being released as singles. Thistlethwayte and the band's live performances are known for their high energy and strong musicianship. The "Mousetrap Heart" era led the band to numerous tours, the largest being an extensive, multi city and regional tour of Australia and New Zealand. This tour was called the "Rock Your Socks Off Tour" and ended in mid November 2011.

Sun Rai[edit]

Thistlethwayte performs solo under the artist name 'Sun Rai.' From April to May 2009, Thistlethwayte toured the Australian east coast as a solo artist for the first time, where he simultaneously played bass with his left hand on a synthesiser, keyboards with his right hand and sang simultaneously, along with Matt Smith (guitar) and Al Hicks (drums). He played a second run of shows at the end of 2011, this time purely solo. In July 2012, Thistlethwayte commenced a national Australian headline tour. He moved to Los Angeles in mid 2012. In late 2012 he started performing under the name 'Sun Rai' (pronounced "Sun Ray"), mainly around Los Angeles.[1] In 2013 he formed a new Facebook page for Sun Rai[2] and started releasing music through his own social networks, usually using a 'pay what you want' business model.[3] In June 2013 he opened for Norwegian one man band, loop pedal artist and soul singer "Bernhoft" around the United States and Canada.[4] He opened for ZZ Ward in Atlantic City.[5] He played a late night set after "Puss in Boots" (an all-female group featuring Norah Jones) at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City in June 2013.[6] His debut release as Sun Rai, a 4 track EP entitled 'Pocket Music,' was self-released on 4 June 2013.[7] Track 1 from Pocket Music, 'San Francisco Street,' has been played extensively on KCRW[8] and featured on blogs such as 'Filter Magazine.'[3] His music was also recently featured during the second season of House of Lies. He toured the United States and Canada in October and November 2013 opening for Danish indie-pop songstress "Oh Land". In January 2014, Sun Rai collaborated with jazz drummer Ben Vanderwal at Sound Baker Studios in Perth, Western Australia. They primarily tracked live in the studio, and recorded an EP entitled 'Escargot.' It was released independently in April 2014, and subsequently the two artists embarked on a successful Australian tour, playing two nights at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club[9] in Melbourne, Venue 505 in Sydney, Smith's Alternative Bookshop in Canberra, and also a sold out show at the Perth International Jazz Festival in June 2014.


As well as his work in rock and pop, Thistlethwayte has performed in a number of jazz combos with many Australian jazz musicians, including ARIA award-winning guitarist James Muller, American jazz bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter James Morrison, tenor saxophonist Dale Barlow and Phil Stack, who also plays bass in Thirsty Merc. In 2008, Thistlethwayte performed a concert with respected Australian jazz pianist and composer Mark Isaacs at the Brisbane Jazz festival. Isaacs is on record as saying, "It's a well-kept secret that Rai is an outstanding jazz pianist… I consider Rai the most exciting young jazz pianist to emerge in this country in recent years."[10] He has performed solo at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival and twice at the Stonnington Jazz Festival in Melbourne, once in 2011 and 2012. He is also the regular guest keyboardist in the Sydney rock and jazz fusion group "The Subterraneans". Thistlethwayte also writes spoken word prose and poetry, sometimes performing and recording under the name "Michael Albatross". In June 2014, alongside Australian jazz trumpeter James Morrison, Thistlethwayte adjudicated the vocal competition at "Generations In Jazz" in Mount Gambier, South Australia. He also performed there with improvising vocal group The Idea Of North and also James Morrison himself. Thistlethwayte was a participant at the Creative Music Workshop at the Banff Centre, Canada, in 2014, and studied improvised music and Carnatic singing under Aruna Sairam, Steve Coleman and Vijay Iyer. He has also featured as a guest musician with the electronic group Knower, and can be seen performing in the live video clips of their tracks Overtime as well as Time Traveler.[11][12]

Co-writing, masterclasses and work as session musician[edit]

Thistlethwayte co-wrote the song "12 Hours" with The Whitlams' Tim Freedman, album title track "Happy Home" with The Voice runner up Darren Percival (Universal Music Australia), the first single "Goodnight America" (Universal Music Australia) for upcoming female artist 'Sinead Burgess.'

He played piano on two songs for ex-Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies' solo album, was the piano player on the singles "You Won't Let Me", by Karise Eden, "Happy Home", and "In The Blowing Wind" performed by Darren Percival and Sarah De Bono's cover of Duffy's Warwick Avenue for the TV series The Voice. He played multiple instruments on 5 songs for Brian McFadden's record to be released in late 2012: bass, guitar, drum programming and piano.

Thistlethwayte played piano and keyboards on 13 tracks for The Voice Xmas album, for release at the end of 2012.

He composed a short song "Out of the Blue" for 2012 film Eugene, a short as part of A Series of Films with Roman Coppola and the Directors Bureau, put together by vice magazine, W Hotels and ultrabook computers. The song was used as a musical theatre piece in the film, sung and acted by Ben Lee and Sunny Mabrey.

Thistlethwayte has taught masterclasses at The Australian Institute of Music, Lismore University, Claremont College and Blacktown Tafe and has been a mentor in Song Summit from 2010–2012, a week-long annual songwriting conference hosted by APRA, of which he is an Ambassador. He attended the 'Bali Songwriting Retreat' in Ubud, Bali, in 2011, along with Bonnie McKee, Delta Goodrem, Nick Jonas and Arnthor Birigisson. Thistlethwayte taught songwriting masterclasses at numerous schools for part of "SongMakers" for APRA, a government funded initiative designed to introduce songwriting into high schools.

Personal life[edit]

Thistlethwayte dated Aimee Osbourne, daughter of rocker Ozzy Osbourne and celebrity personality Sharon Osbourne. Thistlethwayte and Osbourne began their relationship after meeting at the 2004 MTV Awards in Sydney.[13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

ARIA Awards (2005) nominations:

  • Single of the Year (Someday, Someday)
  • Best Group
  • Best Pop Release
  • Best Video ("In the Summertime", directed by Adrian van de Velde)

APRA Awards

  • Song of the Year ("20 Good Reasons" – nomination, 2008)
  • Most Performed Work ("Someday Someday" – nomination, 2005)


  1. ^ Will Kennedy | Producer. Mixer. Engineer. " Sun Rai & Victor Indrizzo Live at Studio Delux!
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b FILTER Magazine – Media – MP3: Sun Rai Bares His Soul: “Till The Lights Come On (Live)” (FILTER Premiere)
  4. ^ Bernhoft + Miracles of Modern Science | Concerts | Time Out New York Archived 16 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ ZZ Ward — Atlantic City — Revel – The Social — 14 June 2013 | Songkick
  6. ^ Sun Rai – Chase The Clouds [Live @ Rockwood Music Hall NYC] – YouTube
  7. ^ Independent Music News – RRRRREEVVVIIIEEEWWW // Sun Rai // Pocket Music Archived 1 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Sun Rai: Local Band We Love | KCRW Music Blog
  9. ^ Official website.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnEmD17kYsE
  12. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhtcG79kPNw
  13. ^ http://www.smh.com.au/news/People/Aimees-Rai-of-Oz-sunshine/2005/06/05/1117910178488.html

External links[edit]