Joshua Thomas (born Joshua Thomas Schurr ; January 22, 1988) is an American singer-songwriter based in Portland, OR. He has independently released 2 EPs and a full-length album, Sleep Like The World (2010), Halfway (2012), and The Harboring (2014). The first EP and the full-length (Halfway) were released under his given name, Josh Schurr, before he decided to produce all future projects under Joshua Thomas. His first work under that name is a 6-song EP, The Harboring. Thomas is currently at work on a full-length album. Recording began in May 2017.
Thomas grew up in Marlton, New Jersey. At age eleven, he began piano lessons at the urging of his parents, Tom and Jane Schurr. After playing piano for five years and developing a growing appreciation for songwriting, Thomas realized at the age of sixteen that he could sing. This sparked a change in his musical path. Upon discovering the music of Joni Mitchell, Thomas took up guitar and taught himself to play through the many alternate tunings Mitchell herself created. He began writing his own songs in the cavernous stairwell of his apartment building in midtown Manhattan. Thomas met Joni Mitchell in the fall of 2007 at the release party for her album Shine. Her positive reinforcement proved to be a turning point in his life and he subsequently began his performing career.
Sleep Like The World (2009-2010)
Thomas lived in New York for two years, but ultimately settled in Philadelphia. In the summer of 2010, he recorded his first EP, Sleep Like The World, a collection of five songs written over the course of a year. According to Victoria Phetmisy of the online independent music review, The Blue Indian, SLTW is "pretty and well composed," and features vocals that are "deep, resounding, and always soothing." Although the EP was fairly well-received, the songs were Thomas's first attempts at songwriting, and he has since distanced himself from the work and removed the EP from all online sales outlets.
Thomas appeared on NBC Philadelphia’s 10! Show twice in 2009 and 2010, and started performing frequently in both Philly and New York. Throughout 2010 and 2011, he began compiling new original material for a future record.
Halfway and national tour (2011-2012)
Thomas entered the studio in the winter of 2012, after completing a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for production and duplication of a new album. He released his first full-length record, Halfway, on June 12, 2012 (under Josh Schurr), and promoted it through a national summer tour. This album was far more personal than his previous EP, and explored various themes including religion, love, sexuality, and art. Thomas has been candid about the title track being written around a time when he was only open with a small number of people in regards to his sexuality, and the difficulty in feeling not quite whole. He recorded most of the piano and vocal tracks together, to achieve a more natural performance. Thomas wanted this release to be sparse and organic, and only brought in a few other musicians in the process. Peter Adams is featured on violin, Eric Daelhousen on bass and tenor saxophone, and Dave Hirshblond on drums and percussion. Thomas's sister, Lauren Schurr, also joins him on background vocals. Bill Chenevert of Philadelphia Weekly reviewed the record saying "his voice is a beautiful instrument and his piano skills are awe-inspiring." WXPN's music blog The Key called the album "a mix of expansive piano compositions very reminiscent of Tori Amos and back-to-basics acoustic ballads in the vein of David Gray."
The Harboring (2014)
In March of 2014, Thomas announced plans for his next EP entitled The Harboring, the first project made under the name Joshua Thomas. The EP is another independent release, made possible through a successful crowd-funding campaign with PledgeMusic. Thomas spoke with G Philly about the new record: "I like to say that The Harboring is a collection of songs about a collection of men. Although in reality, the bulk of the record is about one man in particular." Of the title he says that he was "contemplating how often we harbor sadness or real emotion when working through something difficult. I think we all become pretty great actors in the process. The beautiful thing about working that stuff out through songwriting is that everything goes down on paper, so all the feelings I was harboring have been released and I can move on."
The Harboring was released on Tuesday, September 29th, 2014. It contains six original songs, and features Thomas on vocals, piano, electric and acoustic guitars, Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards, and Hammond organ. Guest musicians include Erica Miller on violin and viola, and Pat Brier on drums and percussion. Philadelphia composer Joshua Stamper wrote the string arrangement for a track called Weeds. The entire album was recorded and mixed at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia over the course of eight days.
Relocation and new recordings (2015-present)
Thomas relocated from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon, in September of 2015. After a successful crowdfunding campaign in spring 2017, Thomas entered the studio to begin recording a new full-length album. The album is completed and will likely see a 2018 release. Thomas is planning a late-winter 2018 tour.