'One Eye Firmly On The Future!'
You may not think you know Beth Thornley but you just might. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s tracks have been featured in a variety of television and film projects including the 2005 Hillary Duff movie, The Perfect Man, Scrubs, Dawson’s Creek, Roswell and most recently ABC Family’s Beautiful People and Opus Films picture Between.
Her new album My Glass Eye doesn’t take long to unlock the pleasures within — it is chock full of rewarding hooks, original stories, and an attention to detail. After hearing the first exhilarating chord changes of “Stand,” the opening track, you’ll soon discover that Beth Thornley is not your ordinary songwriter.
On My Glass Eye, Beth’s second collection, you’ll hear echoes of highly regarded stylists like Beth Orton, Matthew Sweet, and Aimee Mann. There are hints of Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, even Tom Waits. Beth shares traits with all of these songwriters, and she takes great pride in assembling the kind of work that measures up to such an esteemed group.
But she’s also intensely original, with the ability to look and sound like no one but herself. “My goal is simple,” says Beth. “I’d like my work to give someone the feeling that they’ve found something that speaks to them and that they’ve been understood.”
Chatting recently with Beth, and noting that her press paid heavy mention to such similar artists as Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, and Aimee Mann, I first wondered with people relating her to all these other musicians if the real Beth Thornley would ever appear? "No, because people expect and find it helpful for an unknown artist to label their sound relative to a known artist so they can decide if they want to check them out. And the beauty of it is, no one is ever completely like anyone else – we’re more like another related dimension. However, none of us are completely original. Within any genre are definitions and boundaries. If you push those definitions and boundaries too far, you change genres. You can’t avoid labeling. You might be the first person to play a solo using Tupperware and a lamp shade – but you’re still avant garde and John Cage has probably already done it."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying 'My Glass Eye,' how would you yourself describe your sound? "My “sound” changes pretty radically from song to song on this album, so I guess you could say that it’s pop music for people with short attention spans. It owes a debt to early 70s British pop, but it’s dressed up in modern clothes. It’s sort of Beatles meets Ben Folds meets Death Cab For Cutie, with Tupperware and lamp shades."
Your album title 'My Glass Eye' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? I mean, DO you have a glass eye, perhaps?! "No, I don’t have a glass eye! “My Glass Eye” is a metaphor for flaws. It’s about wanting to be loved and to be good enough in spite of them. But even more than that, I would like it if you could love, or find endearing, or at least have a perceptiveness of, my flaws. The lyric in the song about this is “I’m well aware of my shortcomings; after all they’re so reliable. But what I’d like, is if you’d find that my glass eye is desirable”."
Indeed, if there was one track on 'My Glass Eye' that truly encapsulated Beth Thornley at her musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "I have a hard time being objective about that. It would be between “Home By Now”, “You’re Right Where” and “Double-Wide”. However, “Mr. Lovely” is a kick-ass rock track and even though it’s not the most intelligent/finest example of musical and lyrical songwriting, it encapsulates the part of me that loves to rock."
Being that you are Alabama-born and a Southern girl at heart, what's one of the most Southern things that you still do today? "People tell me I’m too polite. I think that’s their polite way of telling me they’d rather shoot the shit and wish I would lighten up."
With many of your tracks having been featured in a variety of TV and film projects ('Scrubs,' 'Dawson’s Creek,' 'Roswell,' etc.) I'm wondering if that makes you then call all your friends to tune into these shows and listen out for you at those times you know your songs will air?! " No. I might call my mom and post it on my website but my friends have had heard enough of me."
You've been quoted as saying: "Fame and money are nice, but there are other important measuring sticks." What would these be for you personally? "What I meant by that statement was that fame and money aren’t the only way to measure success. If you’re only measuring success using the fame and money measuring sticks, then life is a crap shoot. I have no control over whether or not I become famous. And money is also very tricky. There are other things that I have actual control over that are just as important, maybe more, that I use to measure success. For instance, I measure myself through the quality of my work and by whether or not I’ve made it the best I can. Have I reached anyone on a personal level? In my private life, I measure by whether or not I have strong, loving and honest relationships. And in life in general, I measure how I treat other people."
Just for fun, and taking the titles of a few of your album tracks, please let us know:
'Mr. Lovely' - OK, who is your dreamy 'Mr. Lovely' from either music or an actor from the movies?! "Well, in the song “Mr. Lovely” isn’t really very nice or dreamy. But if I were to pick a “dreamy” Mr. Lovely it would be either Sean Penn or John Mayer."
'Beautiful Lie' - What's one of the most beautifully worked lies that you've ever told before?! "Well, I lied up above about not having a glass eye. I really DO have a glass eye. No, I don’t. Yeah, actually I do. No, I’m kidding. I’m not kidding!"
'Eleanor Rigby' - If you could sit down with any of The Beatles (dead or alive) who would it be and what would be the first question you would ask him?! "John Lennon; but I wouldn’t ask him anything because it’d probably just annoy him."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "'Tempted' by Squeeze. It’s a great song and I love it."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "You, me and Lyle Lovett! Lyle is awesome!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Beth's new CD, just answer this easy question: Beth has earned lots of attention with her songs, with one of them named as a rock category finalist in the 2003 USA Songwriting Competition ... but which one?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before August 1st with your answer and the subject title 'BETH THORNLEY SIGNED CDs' to: email@example.com
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