Music has taken Hamish Thomson many different places.
As a drummer/multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, and composer, music has brought him from the
back of a tour van to stages across the world, and from the recording studio to major
awards ceremonies. Most recently, though, music has taken Hamish back to himself.
After founding the Vancouver-based power trio Big Tall Garden, Hamish spent a
particularly fruitful part of his early career using the name “The Hermit”. That project was
undeniably a success; it found Hamish signing a deal with Nettwerk Records, winning an
Indie Award for “Favourite Electronica Artist” at Canadian Music Week 2006, and hitting
the top spot on Bravo TV’s Video Countdown with the song “Sir Real”.
As a producer and session player Hamish has been involved in over 40 albums and has
worked with a stellar roster of producers and mixers. These include Mike Fraser (Franz
Ferdinand, AC/DC, Metallica), Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother, Tegan and Sara, the
New Pornographers), Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine), Krish Sharma (the
Rolling Stones), and Mike Rogerson (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls).
As happy as he is to bunker down in his studio and work on his music, Hamish is no
recluse. His new EP, Gone Gone Gone, is his first release under his own name. It’s a
statement of who he truly is as an artist. As it happens, he no longer sees himself as a
hermit at all.
“I used aliases for years, because I felt too shy and not good enough,” Hamish admits. “I
tried to emulate other people, and tried to sing like someone else. With these songs,
something changed, where I was able to just sing from the heart and find the words to
reflect on my journey.”
That journey hasn’t always been an easy one. The past decade has seen Hamish lose
both of his parents, and, most devastating of all, his own son. Because they were born
out of the artist’s passages through grief, the six songs on Gone Gone Gone can be
read as meditations on mortality.
Indeed, Hamish says his journey with loss has led him places he otherwise never would
have gone as a songwriter. “It’s opened something up within me,” he says. “I feel like I
can express stuff like I never have before, in a really intimate, personal way.”
Make no mistake, though: Gone Gone Gone is not about death. It’s about life. There is
darkness and sadness and mourning in life, but there is also light and love and joy. It’s
not an either/or proposition. The two sides are partners in a dance that neither could do
as a solo.
“These songs, for the first time, just came out,” Hamish says. “Something happened, and
it felt like I was just part of the process. It wasn’t me doing it. It came through me—quite
Hamish has grown accustomed to working quickly. The past four years have seen him
branching out into creating scores for film and television productions, starting with writer-
director David Ray’s multiple-award-winning feature Grand Unified Theory. Since then,
Hamish has composed music for some 45 films, including the Netflix movie Operation
Christmas Drop—a project that allowed him to work with an orchestra for the first time.
What has kept him the busiest, though, is composing music for the ongoing Hallmark
Channel series Chesapeake Shores. The time pressure of creating music for a weekly
TV show leaves little room to slave over the details but plenty of opportunity to be
spontaneous: “It taught me to just tap into my intuition, trust my first idea, and go with it.”
Hamish says these lessons informed how he approached the material on Gone Gone
Gone: “That’s how I finished these songs. I said, ‘Okay, I’m just going to dive in and not
It’s all part of the process for an artist who has finally found his voice—not to mention his
“It felt really powerful that I didn’t need to use a different name—that I could say ‘You
know what? This is just me,’ and be okay with that, and proud of it.”
By John Lucas