It takes a lot of talent and craft for a singer/songwriter to present a piece of work that is both fresh and familiar. But that’s what Jacob Thomas Jr. has managed to do with his new solo acoustic record, Original Sin. Even on the first listen, the collection feels like slipping into a worn-in pair of jeans or rocking on a porch in the rain. There’s a comfort to it, but it’s a weary comfort, a hard-earned respite. Spending a bit more time in these stories, though, allows the frayed edges and lightning flashes to reveal themselves in all their tattered, striking beauty.
In what ways would you say you were shaped by the environment you grew up in down in Southern Louisiana… you know, nature versus nurture and all?
To answer this question appropriately, you’d kind of have to understand Southern Louisiana. Very rich culturally and relationally. Very poor when it comes logic. Religion, tradition, and family expectations are used to keep the world very small. There’s a lot of hand-me-down morality. Some people find that comforting. I found it to be claustrophobic. I spent the majority of my mid 20s trying to unlearn most of my upbringing, while holding onto the few things that I found to be beneficial.
There are statistics about the correlated consumption of things like porn and booze in very religiously minded regions. That is to say, the most God-fearing among us are, quite often, the most “sinful,” as well. What do you think is at the heart of that disconnection?
I think that it’s human nature to desire that which is forbidden. The grass on the other side. How far a person allows themselves to go with that varies. Everyone wants to feel alive and in control of their own life and, in my experience, that feeling is usually achieved quickly by breaking rules. Doing what you’ve been told is wrong. Driving too fast, drinking too much, etc… To prove your power to yourself, if none other. The denial of these urges makes them almost impossible to combat. That’s why the people who refuse to have an open and honest dialogue about these things find themselves caught in the middle of them. It’s only the acceptance of the animalistic desires that live in all of us that allows us to “feed the monster,” so to speak. Also, do you have any idea how exhausting it is to constantly strive to live up to an unachievable standard of morality? I do. That alone will drive a person to drink, smoke, and fuck to excess.
What does “sin” mean to you? And, from your perspective, what are the repercussions of sinning — spiritual, personal, and otherwise?
Honestly, I love and hate the word sin. I hate what it stands for and I love the way that it makes people uncomfortable. To expound, I hate that someone can do or say something that another person can look at and label as “sinful.” Implying some universal moral code. I do believe in right and wrong, but not universally. What may be right for one person may be wrong for another. As far as the repercussions of “sinning” goes, I’ve already wasted too many years contemplating the consequences of that. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me.
This album is intentionally raw in its solo, acoustic presentation. That’s obviously a reflection of what these particular songs demanded, but how does that feel for you, as a person and an artist, to not have anything to hide behind?
In a word… cathartic. As a person, it has been therapeutic to explore some of my darker desires through the characters that live in the songs on this record. As an artist, it is liberating to know that these songs are honest in their delivery. No polish, no primping. It’s liberating to know that some people will hate this record. Some people will find it boring. Some people won’t give it the time that it requires. Some people will find it uncomfortable to listen to. But some people will find themselves in it. I can say, from an artistic perspective, zero time was spent trying to make this record palatable to any audience or target demographic. This record is exactly what it is supposed to be. The records that I’ve always connected with most are that way.
Applying your own contemplation to more than just the record… if less is more, what is almost nothing?
Nothing is honest.