Sandi Thom: “Our Only Limits Are The Ones We Place On Ourselves”

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If you’re a millennial, you will be familiar with the name Sandi Thom. She is the Scottish singer who burst onto the international music scene with her girl power anthem ‘I wish I was a punk rocker’ in 2006. She is also the first ever artist to webcast live from the basement of her house, back when live streaming was still an untapped resource of even industry peeps.

The relatively then-unknown performer performed for 21 nights straight at her house, and by the end of the three weeks she had media and news vans camped outside her house. It was just a taste of what was to come, for the internet that is, not necessarily Sandi’s career.

Like most Gen-Y-ers, Sandi’s career was off to a great start but was halted abruptly by the great economy crash of 2008 which threw the world into a financial tailspin. The rising music star, who was by then signed to Sony records and was the talk of the music industry, lost everything and was left out in the cold.

She wrote a piece for the Daily Beast website talking about her long road to getting back on her feet and finding out what she was really made of during the struggles.

“It started off amazing. I charted at No.1 in countries all over the world. I broke the record in Australia for being the longest standing No.1 and stayed there for 12 weeks. We toured around the globe, played the biggest festivals alongside the biggest stars. I was nominated for awards, attended posh parties, was driven everywhere in my own car. It was beyond ridiculous, beyond ostentatious, but it was all going to end soon,” she said.

“They say the higher you climb, the further you fall. Well, I can vouch for that statement—give someone everything and then take it all away and watch how they respond.”

I fell hard. I was left with nothing—and I mean, nothing. Even my social networks were deleted, my videos removed, the fan base I had built lost forever. Why? Copyright issues. So for a long time, I was lost, completely lost, without a clue. My label, my team of people, and then my manager all left me, told me it was over. ‘Go away and write songs for other people, you’re no longer an artist—that’s just not for you, Sandi.’ That’s what they said.”

For a while she bought into the negativity and who could blame her? A time when our generation was left out in the cold and forced to take desperate measures just to survive, it was easy to forego dreams and ambitions just to make it by.

Eventually, being based in London, the 32 year old set up her own record label, kept writing and recording her own music and found that being a huge music sensation and signing with one of the biggest labels in the world was just holding her back from creating the music she really wanted to.

“I had been forbidden from writing anything with any level of depth while I was on Sony, because I was on a cookie-cutter pop label and they didn’t deal in those kinds of depths. They preferred to dip their toes in the shallow end. So when I was dropped, it was also when I was freed—and with this new found creative freedom I went right into the depths of my soul and pulled up the pain of the past and blurted it out in song.”

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During this process she cut out all the people from her sphere who weren’t necessary and hit the road with her new material. It gave her a new lease on life and she realized that an economy crash and industry snub should have no bearing on what her destiny is.

“It wasn’t easy. It tested every bone in my body, and there were moments where I failed miserably, made the wrong decisions, let people down unintentionally. I continually questioned myself. But the one thought that kept driving me was, ‘What else can I do?’ I only know this life, I couldn’t live without it.”

People told her to become a song-writer for other bigger artists but she refused to take second best. After a chance meeting with Rich Robinson, the Black Crowes Guitarist, she recorded another album in Nashville and the right doors started opening up. But it took a long time and unwavering persistence.

“We recorded my fourth album in Nashville and he produced it, surrounded by some of the most incredible musicians. The stars aligned for me finally. They say good things happen to good people and to those who wait. I feel like acts of kindness and the continual display of humility, determination and courage will eventually buy you enough credit in the favor bank that the universe will pay you back in some wonderful way.”

Her slow and new rise to success was a slap in the face of the British music press who at one point called her the ‘anti-christ’ of music telling the public they had ‘been had’ by the music she was previously putting out. So it turns out being dropped from Sony and retreating was the best recipe for success after all.

Today she travels all over the world performing music, and gathering praise from music industry people whose opinions we actually care about, including Queen’s Brian May who she performed with alongside Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones at the Royal Albert Hall in London, a musical icon it itself.

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“When I came off stage at the Royal Albert Hall [he said]: ‘Wow! Where have you been hiding?’ ‘Well, Brian,’ I said, ‘I was there all along, just took a little longer that I expected for you to find me.’ ”

“I confess, there are always struggles but I choose to seem not as obstacles but as challenges. There is nothing that anyone could say to me to make me change my mind about choosing this career. It’s not a job, its a way of life—I live for the music, and the fans are just the most generous, kind and wonderful people in the world. they have watched me go through incredible highs and tremendous lows, but in eight years, they never left my side.”

Her message rings true for all of us, no matter what path we choose in life.

“Don’t ever give up on your dreams, not matter how long it takes, or how many times you fall. You have to pick yourself back up by the boot straps and keep going.”

“The only limitations that we face in our lives are the ones we put on ourselves. That was what someone once said to me. In other words, if you believe in yourself and continue to do so with unwavering strength, eventually, you’ll make it regardless of what other people may say.”

Check out the behind the scenes of Sandi’s performance at Royal Albert Hall below:

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