For her “Oceans” music video, Jennifer Thomas, her husband Will and son Preston set up a grand piano and light display at Bullman Beach in Sekiu. (Jennifer Thomas)

For her “Oceans” music video, Jennifer Thomas, her husband Will and son Preston set up a grand piano and light display at Bullman Beach in Sekiu. (Jennifer Thomas)

‘Oceans’ provides escape for Sequim composer

New album produced with orchestra at Abbey Road Studios

SEQUIM — A “double whammy” of the pandemic and an existential crisis led to a musical shift for composer Jennifer Thomas, who said the turmoil led her to create a whole new sound for her album “Oceans” and “level up” as a musician.

The 15-track, 70-plus minute epic piano/orchestra-backed journey released Friday on major digital platforms, with physical purchase options available at jenniferthomasmusic.com.

It took four years to craft the atmospheric album, Thomas’ first full-length album since 2018’s “The Fire Within.”

She recently previewed some of “Oceans” at a Field Arts & Events Hall Gala Fundraiser in Port Angeles, with accompanying video, lights and fog machines.

Thomas said she intended to make an extended play (EP), but she was led down a new path after facing personal struggles.

“’A dark night of the soul’ is a phrase I’ve heard for so many years, and everything you know gets turned on its head,” she said. “It was daily fight or flight.”

Thomas delves into her life in behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube, saying inspiration for the album’s second track, “The Lighthouse,” came from her seeking comfort through regular coping mechanisms but continuing to struggle.

One day while sitting at Dungeness Landing, Thomas said she saw the New Dungeness Lighthouse shining through fog and it became a “beacon of hope.”

“I felt like it was telling me something metaphorically,” she said in the video.

Her music took a shift, and she started writing about what she was experiencing.

“For me being in such a dark place, the music was a place I could escape to,” she said. “I could create these fantastical worlds and I could go somewhere else.”

Recording

Thomas co-produced the album with Swedish composer Glen Gabriel, and they recorded with an orchestra in the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.

She also had “Oceans” mixed in Dolby Atmos 7.1.4, which, with the right speaker setup or headphones, will give a “theatrical listening experience,” she said.

There are thunder claps, vocals, percussion and many instrumental layers surrounding you depending on the song.

“Stylistically, the music was very challenging … and the writing was so exploratory,” she said.

The album’s many musical layers fit the ocean theme, too.

“In the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, you still have creatures living and thriving, and in those darkest depths, we can all have life,” Thomas said.

For the first time, she sings as lead vocalist in her original song “You Carried Me Home.”

Thomas also partners with award-winning composer Ryan Stewart for the track “Transcendence,” with Stewart’s daughter Ardy on vocals.

Along with many movie soundtrack-worthy originals, “Oceans” features versions of Hans Zimmer’s “Mermaids” from “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” and “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay.

Local photographer Marina Shipova also provided the album artwork showcasing Thomas in dramatic fashion.

Visual

For “Oceans,” listening and looking are entwined as Thomas and her husband Will anticipate releasing several musical films with two out so far: “Oceans” and “The Lighthouse” and “Underwater Carnival Ride,” set to release online just prior to the album’s debut.

She and Will made their first video for Thomas’ song “Illumination” 10 years ago, and they started their own production company in 2017.

“Music is No. 1 and filmmaking is 1.2,” Thomas said of her career.

The couple plans to release several films for the album along with a few studio videos from London.

Many local sites can be found in their films so far, including Sekiu, Port Townsend and Sequim.

“I’m very proud of Sequim,” she said, with “The Lighthouse” filmed partly in and around the area.

Later this summer she plans to release “Pirates Cove,” which was filmed at Salt Creek Recreation Area and is inspired by the movie “The Goonies.”

Her children and nieces and nephews appear in her production, she said.

Find her musical films and videos at youtube.com/@jenniferthomas.

Then and now

From four years ago to now, Thomas finds “Oceans” to have been a healing experience.

“Listening to the music I was writing at the beginning and at the end, I can hear my journey and the growth,” she said.

Thomas compares it to the stages of grief, from denial to acceptance, and that “eventually you get to the other side of it.”

In her film for “The Lighthouse,” Thomas said she left its ending purposefully vague but, through whatever people are experiencing, she hopes they feel “there is light on the other side of the storm and there is hope.”

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at matthew.nash@sequimgazette.com.

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