Talking Story with Local Musician Dustin Thomas


On March 31,  musicians Dustin Thomas, Amber Lily, Tubby Love and Imani  performed at the Pahoa Museum. At the show, Dustin Thomas talked about the  inspirations, advocacy, philosophies and ideas that ground his writing, music and life. Dustin is a humble and  very gracious young man. His care for the world and all it contains is evident in his polite mannerisms, thoughtful eyes and his measured words

How has growing up in Hawai’i influenced your musical career?

Profoundly, I think the lifestyle, taking things slow, doing things with ‘ohana (family) in mind and the idea of ho’oponopono (a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness), and just that idea of carrying aloha is one of the biggest influences in my life and also my music.

Who are some of the artists and genres that influence the way you compose and perform your music?

I really appreciate Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan for how they really want to get their story out, their poetry out; which is something that I really relate to. And gospel music as far as wanting to create a story where everyone can come in and sing along has always been very influential to me. So, I try to include that as much as I can in my music.

Can you talk a little bit about the intersection of your music and your advocacy for social and environmental justice?

I sing about what I feel, and I sing about what I care about. So, it makes it really easy to sing about the earth and to sing about the planet and social justice and environmentalism; because the planet, the people are my passions. And music is cool, I feel I get an opportunity to- whether it’s playing for benefit concerts or on community farms or even when I just do tours, to support clubs or venues that are family owned or locally owned and operated. And to also just use my platform to address issues that are affecting the youth of today, or veterans, or homelessness or how we treat our planet around us and different things like that.

What is one of the main ideas, themes or philosophies you try to share in your work? Just one.

I think that like the emotion is probably the main container for what I’m trying to express. And with that emotion a sense of willingness to – in a world that is so busy and so full – to be able to slow down and ask, “What’s really happening? What’s really going on? …I think that there is just a huge well of things that we already know as humans that we take for granted, and maybe we look outside ourselves, we look outside of our communities for these answers that are already within us. I think just providing an emotional context for people to realize that it’s ok for people to be hurt and confused and sad and upset by what’s going on in the world but to carry those emotions. In a sense, like these things don’t divide us, they actually unify us. I embrace any philosophy that brings people closer together and stewardship of the earth out of communities.

You recently said on Twitter that “success is putting in work when everyone else plays” Can you elaborate on that and how do you “play”?

The more time you put into your work the more time you really have to play. I’m a firm believer in that and for me, music and the ocean and getting my hands in the earth or going for a hike or going for a run, reading books, talking to friends, eating good food and being with good people; these are all things that I love to do and also things that have more value and get better and better as my work is done. To me the biggest steps that I’ve taken moving forward in my life have been when everyone else is either partying or wanting to relax; being willing to plant what I eat – being willing to envision where I’m heading – being willing to work towards what I want. Because there is so much in a day that you can have that gratifies you and so just having the bigger picture, goal and the longer play in mind.

Be sure to stop by Dustin Thomas’ website for tour info and music news:

Courtesy photos via Facebook:


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