On Friday June 23, John Thrasher played a live session for SCENES. With guitar in hand, Thrasher performed his music and led the listener along his search for redemption and peace. His songs turned Thrasher’s room into a confessional booth that opened on a soul. Thrasher’s candid explanation of his lyrics offers a unique look into his creative process.
For all his talent and technique, Thrasher never planned on a career in music. At the University of Georgia, he majored in Spanish and Accounting, looking for job security. He played cover gigs once a week, pulling in much-needed cash. But Thrasher was not serious about a music career. He barely wrote any songs. When he graduated, Thrasher took his CPA exam and began working for an accounting firm in Atlanta. But he still made time to play on the weekends, to growing audiences.
The best song-writing, I’ve found, emerges from suffering or struggle. Thrasher’s breakthrough occurred the same way.
“In late June 2008, life happened,” he shared with me in an interview. “I was pulled over and arrested for a DUI. Spending the night in Fulton County Jail was enough of a warning sign for me personally to leave alcohol behind for the rest of my life. On July 25, 2008, I got sober. Eventually, after a brief stay at Sierra Tucson Rehab Facility in Tucson, Arizona, I wrote the lyrics to ‘Tuscon.’ That’s a song about my love affair with booze. Thus began my songwriting career.”
Thrasher calls his brush with the law the turning point in his art.
“Seeing those blue lights in my rearview mirror at 2:30 in the morning was a pivotal moment. I never would have started writing again. I was more likely to find myself eight beers deep at a dive bar, singing ‘Wagon Wheel’ for the third time that night. I prefer to have a clear head, telling my stories.”
On Friday’s live Session Thrasher played “Tuscon” for us. Here’s a snippet from the lyrics:
The driver asked me what brings me to Tuscon.
“Sir, I got a pain I just can’t hide…
on the edge of life or death,
nothing feels quite right.”
Thrasher’s cathartic deep dives into past struggles resonate with anyone who has wrestled with the same demons.
Thrasher’s next offerings in the live Session, “Can’t Get Close to You” and “Back There Again,” are love songs. Thrasher shyly joked that his friends tease him as “a bit of a Taylor Swift.” That’s for writing about his romantic ups and downs. But for Thrasher they show that he can find growth in loss, and still believe in love.
On Thrasher’s latest album, Back There Again, he delves into the fight for sobriety. But he also finds room for themes of love found, love lost, and grief. “Sure those might be clichés, but there’s a reason they’re clichés, right?” Thrasher observes.
He’s spot on about this. Classic songs that resonate take something clichéd and offer us a new take on it. John Thrasher grabs the themes which we all clutch tightly, rarely daring to expose and explore them. His bracing lyrics and heartfelt singing drag them out into the open.