We had the good fortune of connecting with Tori Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tori, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
This is a great question, as I recently completely changed how I used to think about what “work life” means. For a long time, I understood work as a totally external thing. If there wasn’t some palpable success at the end of putting in “work hours”, then I didn’t have a successful day. I really committed to the 8 hour mindset every day (sometimes even more), but it wasn’t until this pandemic that things started to change. I lost my day job, and not to undervalue the tumultuous circumstances they were under, I personally felt it was such an opportunity to put in full time hours with music. I continued my 8 hour mindset saying “okay from 9-5 I am writing, recording, posting, making tik toks, reaching out to labels etc.” This is the dream right?
Well as things continued on, I found each day even more exhausting than before. And I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. I kept thinking I’m putting in the hours, I am working harder at this than ever before why am I unhappy. I really for a second questioned if music was something I even wanted to pursue anymore.
I had never felt doubt like that before. And that’s when I knew I had to take a step back. For a big chunk of time, I really unraveled and made space to feel my way through things and what was going on. And not in the way that is constantly questioning your feelings, just being. I realized I needed rest. True, unfiltered, rest.
I had never truly allowed myself to do that before for an extended period of time, not since I was maybe 16. The buzzing anxiety is ever looming, and this was the first time I was ever able to quiet it. We all have those moments, “I should be doing this, I should be doing more”. We are in an era of “should-ing” on ourselves. I now feel way more understanding of myself and when I need to reset, and most importantly I don’t feel guilty about it. I used to think people who rested weren’t working hard enough, but now within the balance of my own life it is absolutely CRUCIAL to have moments of rest because that is when my most creative expression comes through after. It goes against the “American dream” mentality, but I feel way more present in my life when I allow myself to use my “recharge” buttons. They have become a priority and just as important to schedule in as a meeting, or writing session. I implore anyone reading this to find the things that allow you to re energize. Here are what a few of mine look like:
-A long drive with a good cup of coffee (my favorite)
-walking (barefoot if safe)
-finding an awesome recipe to cook
-a day of binging reality tv
-hugs (when it’s safe)
-bike rides with a good podcast
Here are some things that I used to mistake as recharging or “blowing off some steam”
-alcohol/going out to bars
-scrolling through instagram and til Tok
-online shopping for things I don’t need
-eating when I wasn’t hungry
-pushing a workout when I didn’t want to
Not to say I wrote these things off completely, but these were the culprits that I thought helped me find balance or relax when in reality, they were still pretty draining. But like I said, it’s finding what works for you. I feel unbelievably grateful every day I was able to put in the work and discover these things about myself. I’m still working on it (and truthfully will always be working at it), but the see-saw doesn’t feel as much like at any moment it could catapult me into the sky. I’m enjoying the ride.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’d love to tell you about a realization I have recently come to about myself and how I operate in the world. I view my creative expression as a way of breathing. Not to get all deep and cheesy, I never want to come from a place that I am better. That seems to happen with musicians it can be easily tied to ego and attention. But music has become my exhale in the simplest way possible. When I get tied up in the ego voice or critic brain, I remind myself this is breathing and although I can control it in a sense, I also can’t. I inhale life and all of its experiences and then I exhale whatever creative expression comes out. When the air enters my lungs, it changes in me. It’s still the air we all breathe, but the molecular combination may look different for each of us. Sometimes, the air I inhale is beautiful and rich, and other times there are toxins. I have to exhale the air the best I can, but that doesn’t mean I am ever ungrateful for the breath. It’s what keeps me alive. The first moment I ever took a deep breath, something changed and I was forever changed. Once you figure out how to breath deeply, you can’t come back to shallow breaths. It will never revitalize you. I have to continue to breathe deeply not only as an artist, but as a person existing in a larger ecosystem where we are all inhaling and exhaling. An exchange, photosynthesis whatever you want to call it. My greatest hope and aspiration is when I exhale, it inspires someone else to take a deep breath too.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man I don’t know if I can narrow it all down but I’ll do my best. Most of my people are from the east coast, so I’d have to show them the terrain here in California because it is incredibly different. We’d start with some kind of sunrise activity, a hike or sitting with coffee on the beach. No sleeping in when you’re with me. The coffee is very VERY important, no keurig cup crap. We’re getting some fine beans and pour over ok. Or hitting up some of my favorite coffee shops, specifically Black Heart Coffee or a Gemini Bakehouse pop-up. They have INCREDIBLE scones. If it’s a Sunday, I’ll definitely show them the Melrose flea market because come on, that’s an LA staple. A camping trip for a few days at Yosemite, Sequoia or Joshua Tree would also be in the cards. At night, we are finding some live music at one of my favorite venues, either Hotel Cafe, Troubadour or the El Rey. And really the rest would be pretty spontaneous because part of the beauty of living in LA is finding those weird events that your friend’s friend’s cousin is putting up downtown or something. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I feel so grateful and humbled to have a solid circle of people around me who are all in on having tough conversations, Like hey we are all on this earth, let’s make sure every one is growing and we aren’t coasting through. I’d love to thank my parents, sister’s Rachel and Olivia, my brother Jimmy, Anna, my roommates Moe, Ryanna, Lexi and Suzie for the late-night campfire talks, long walks and keeping each other in check. I’d also love to thank my hometown and the people who have supported me through this journey, a big salute to 42 Mechanic st. Thank you to Rob Seals at the Songwriting School for fostering an environment for artists to discover their voices, my producing team James, Rob, and Bob as well as the fellow musicians who I have had the pleasure to collaborate with over the past year. Also, a big shoutout to Neil Degrasse Tyson who finds a way to make the ether of space a little bit more comprehensible for me
Nick Vigue, Lexi Clark