Early in 2020, Abbie Thomas felt like her life was exactly on track. She had a beautiful home, a high-paying corporate job, a budding music career and she was expecting her first child. Then Covid came. She lost her job, and with it, her health insurance and maternity leave.
“I looked at Jake, my husband, and said, ‘What am I going to do?’ ” she remembers. “I had to sell my house. It was like we were starting from scratch.”
But the loss turned out to be an opportunity. She decided to pursue music full time, which gives her the flexibility to be home more with her daughter Penny. They live much more simply, she says, yet they’re also happier.
Music was a surprising career move for another reason, too: Up until a few years ago, Thomas wouldn’t perform in front of others because of stage-fright, and no one even knew she wrote songs.
“I grew up in a pretty musical family, but we were all pretty shy about it,” she said. Her dad was a minister and the whole family would help with and participate in worship, but always in a group setting. “I always wrote songs for myself, but I never played them for anybody, not even my family.”
In 2015, she let her secret slip when she played and sang with a group of friends. One of them recorded her and sent it to his brother, a booking agent for fairs and festivals. They encouraged her to play some open mics to overcome her stage fright. It would take another three years before she did that. There, she met other musicians who encouraged her to keep playing, even inviting her to come play their breaks. Over time, she grew to love it.
While she’s getting more comfortable with performing, she’s a songwriter at heart.
“At the core I’m always going to write,” she said. “I think it’s been my therapy and how I get through things.” Her first album, Who I Am, includes 13 songs “that were never intended to be heard by other people,” she said. They were inspired by real heartbreaks, difficult relationships and even her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
That’s part of why they connect with people, she said.
“My favorite part about music is that really good songs, if you play them in a room full of people, can always make you feel like you’re less alone,” she said. “Music often got me out of my dark place, and my biggest hope is that it can help other people, too. Even if it just helps them to know that they’re not alone, if that’s all they get out of it, I feel like I did my job.”