While being called Norway's leading alt-country act probably sounds like a dubious distinction at best, St. Thomas has not only won a sizable following in his native land (where his scruffy but impassioned tales of love and heartbreak have landed in the Top Ten of the pop charts), but turned the heads of critics in Europe, the United Kingdom, and America, where he's been hailed as a new and distinctive voice exploring the possibilities of roots music.
St. Thomas was born Thomas Hansen in Oslo, Norway, in 1976. Thomas was in his early 20s when he developed an interest in music and began immersing himself in the work of Elliott Smith and Will Oldham. Eager to make music of his own, he bought a guitar and a four-track cassette deck and started writing songs. In 1998, Thomas moved to Bergen, Norway, to attend school, and while a student formed his first band, Emily Lang. Emily Lang recorded a demo tape which earned them some good press, and the handful of live shows they played won the group a small but loyal following. But Thomas decided he wanted a more flexible outlet for this music than a steady five-piece group, and disbanded Emily Lang in 2000. Shortly before the group's breakup, Thomas had relocated to Kristianland, Norway, and there he began writing and recording demos at home for new material. Taking the name St. Thomas from a friend's facetious salutation in a letter, Thomas released a 7" vinyl single and an album-length CD-R of his new music, which received spotty distribution. Thomas' fortunes improved when an employee of a new Norwegian label, Racing Junior, heard him performing on a radio broadcast and persuaded the label to release Thomas' next album. Recorded mostly in Thomas' bedroom, with the singer handling nearly everything himself, Mysterious Walks became the first proper St. Thomas album, and it proved to be a surprisingly strong seller in Norway.
Thomas soon began taking his act on the road, but rather than assemble another formal band, he worked instead with a rotating circle of musicians who shifted from gig to gig, with any number from two to ten players likely to appear on-stage. Thomas billed his informal group of accompanists St. Thomas & the Magic Club, and several Magic Club alumni joined him in the studio in April 2000 to record an EP called The Cornerman. Thomas was still holding down his day job as a letter carrier when The Cornerman was released, but when it debuted at number eight on the Norwegian charts, Thomas quit to pursue music full-time; and set out for his first tour of Europe, where he was met with rave reviews in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. After returning from Europe, Thomas and members of the Magic Club circle began work on his second full-length album, I'm Coming Home. In Norway, I'm Coming Home more than doubled the sales of The Cornerman, and it not only sold well, but became his first recording to be released in the United States. Following more touring in Scandinavia and Europe, Thomas made plans to tour the United States for the first time in the fall of 2002, followed by recording sessions for his third album, which are scheduled to be held in Nashville, TN, with Mark Nevers from Lambchop (who toured Europe with Thomas) producing. ~ Mark Deming