“Only You,” the most recent single from Tor Thanai, showcases his sonic experimentation and represents his new identity
From previous songs such as “Hotel” and “Heart of Stone,” Tor Thanai’s music has been described as a mixture of Minimal, Lo-Fi, and Soul. It is music that is characterized by both its simplicity and its charisma and attention to detail.
However, coming back with his third single, Tor Thanai’s “Only You” delivers a sound that feels like something else entirely. From this song, we see a deviation from Minimal-Lo-Fi-Soul to undefined sounds and genre.
In this new song, Tor Thanai chooses to add vintage synths, giving an 80s nostalgia to the song. And if we were to place this song in a movie, it might perfectly fit as the secret track of the cult classic sci-fi film “Blade Runner” by director Ridley Scott.
In early September, Tor Thanai posted a photo of the cover art for “Only You” on his Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter account, @TorThanai. It was designed by Thai graphic designer Thanapol Praditkanok, or Mac (IG - @mac_a_bre). It features a bold orange background that highlights the black crystal font of the song title and the artist's name.
He then uploaded an Official Audio of the song to his YouTube channel on September 16th. Upon hearing it, we immediately noticed that the song was full of well-crafted lyrics, starting with the verse where he wonders if there's something wrong in his life: “Watching
B movies on Friday night... Thinkin' something isn't right... Why am I so deeply flawed?... Stayed awake and now I'm torn.”
Next comes an excerpt from the second verse, where he talks about how two hearts are interwoven: “My heart is hard-wired to your device...” Rather than saying it directly, he compares his lover's heart to a device. The verses and pre-chorus gradually serve to build up to the powerful chorus, “Only you can destroy me... And only you, only you can repair me,” where he adds layers and layers of electric guitars and complex synthesizers.
Even though Tor Thanai is emerging as a Lo-Fi/Soul singer-songwriter who writes and sings in English, not many people know that he is the same artist who once sang the Thai song “Tur Mai Koey Roo” (“She never knows”) in 2006, and “Poo Ying Won Sai, Poo Chai Won Kwa” (Women turn left, Men turn right) with Mam Patcharida Wattana in 2007, released under RS Music.
The last fifteen years have been a trying road for this singer-songwriter. After he graduated from Political Science faculty, Tor Thanai applied for a job at Government Spokesman Bureau, working as a Foreign Relations Officer. He worked there until 2011, when he resigned from his position to study abroad in the USA for the few years.
He eventually returned to Thailand to concentrate on being a full-time stock investor.
But why is he releasing music again after so many years of being on hiatus?
The reason might be that the dream of making music still lingers in his mind, and it now motivates him to return to the music industry to pursue his passion once again.
These days, the daily life of Tor Thanai involves trying to find a balance between being the best stock investor that he can be and staying true to his nature of being a singer-songwriter.
Every day, he spends his early morning reading business news and the company analysis reports sent to him by brokerage firms. Most of these activities start at 8 a.m. He reads the news and reports until 10 a.m., when the Stock Exchange of Thailand opens for trading. Then, the next two hours are spent checking each stock's technical indicators.
After 2 p.m., he usually visits his favorite cafés in his neighborhood. This is a time for him to forget that he's an investor and set aside his stern personality for a while to return to his delicate, emotional, and vulnerable songwriter personality.
The ideas and vocabulary he uses in his songs often come from listening to the songs of other artists. But many times, they emerge from the articles he reads in business newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal,
Fast Company, and the Monocle.
Out of the many artists who have influenced him, Sufjan Stevens stands out as one of the most important. He is a Lithuanian/Greek-American artist that many Thai people may not be familiar with, but he introduced Tor Thanai to the world of Indie/Lo-Fi in terms of both musical style and the production process.
The way that Sufjan Stevens works on his music is quite wrong, but it feels right. From mixing on headphones and using the Shure SM57s microphone to record almost everything to setting up a sampling rate for recording at 32kHz, which is considered below an industry standard, his music is strange and unique in an ineffable way.
The work of Sufjan Stevens and the way it challenges rules has impressed Tor Thanai, encouraging him to emulate Stevens’s production style with his songs.
As for the way Tor Thanai works, he has his own method that he calls the “10% system.” For every original draft of ten demos and ideas that he conceives, only one to two of them will be developed into a complete song with melodies and lyrics. And for every ten complete songs, only one or two of them will be taken to the recording studio. While this process takes months and is quite exhaustive, the finished products are songs he feels proud of.
It's been quite a long journey for this artist, who grew up in a family of musicians and was exposed to music from an early age.
Tor Thanai picked up the guitar at the age of 11 and took classical guitar lessons for almost two years with Kiattipong Tangsakul at Yamaha Ubonratchatani. During his middle school and high school years, he was a member of the school's marching band, playing clarinet.
He started singing when he was an AFS-exchange student in Itaperuna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During his stay with a Brazilian host family for one year, his host brothers often played CDs from Brazilian Bossa Nova artists, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Brazilian Pop/Samba artist, Djavan, until he started to be interested in these music genres. He started singing these songs to help him learn Portuguese words and accents and performed these songs in a host family gatherings many times.
When he came back to Thailand a year later, he met a Thai artist Smith Bundit, one of the members of a music duo, Smith & Shane, who temporarily settled in Ubon Ratchathani to give music classes and write songs for his new album. Every time he arrived at Yamaha Ubon Ratchathani school, he saw Smith writing and playing his new demos. Smith's performance inspired Tor Thanai to write his own materials.
During his time in a Political Science faculty, he formed a band with his friends and performed in various occasions whether acoustic shows or full band shows. He often had a role of the main singer and guitarist of the band. The group performed at various shows including Freshy Night, Christmas Party, and during the lunch break of every Thursday.
Near the end of his bachelor degree study, he released his debut single “Tur Mai Koey Roo”, a Thai phrase which means “She never knows” in 2006, followed by his 2nd single “Poo Ying Won Sai, Poo Chai Won Kwa” (Women turn left, Men turn right) with Mam Patcharida Wattana in 2007.
After he graduated from Political Science faculty, Tor Thanai applied for a job at Government Spokesman Bureau, working as a Foreign Relations Officer. While still worked at Government Spokesman Bureau, Tor Thanai and his friends formed a band called “Sareera” to release an EP called “Light” in 2010. The band's single “I+Love+You” was played on a radio “Seed 97.5 FM” and gained some success in the Thai music industry. In 2011, he resigned from his position to focus on his music and stock investing full-time.
In 2012, he went to study abroad in Los Angeles. During his time there, he released an album named “Summer Sky” with songs such as Summer Sky, Forgive Me, and Black Bird, etc. He toured extensively in various local coffee shops and clubs in Los Angeles such as Republic of Pie, Kibitz Room, Kulak's Woodshed, and Bank of Venice.
After taking a hiatus from the music industry for many years to study in a master degree at New York University and to focus on his stock investing business, he is back with an English single “Hotel” and started to work more seriously on his music projects again.
“Only You” was mixed and mastered by the prolific Thai mixing and mastering engineer Pete Tanskul of 8Bit Mixlab, whose credits include Stamp, Lipta, and Nap A Lean. This is the third time he has collaborated with this mixing and mastering engineer.
Right now, fans can take a look at the song's cover artwork on his instagram: @torthanai (https://www.instagram.com/p/CiHYwvtP4lp/) or listen to an Official Audio on his YouTube channel: Tor Thanai (https://youtu.be/YgXy3TAcCAc).
Tor Thanai’s “Only You” will be released on most streaming platforms in October.