Many professional musicians have traveled the same musical path to get to their current place.
It’s a well-worn trail that for some began with a forced lesson, in most cases piano. Interest in an older sibling’s record collection revealed a liking of the Beatles or Bob Dylan among others, piano maybe gave way to the guitar, and those kids who hung on with the lessons or suffered through school band are better for it, living without the regret that they gave up their childhood music schooling.
Ditch the piano and replace it with an accordion, and that’s the path local musician Thom Rader walked. The instrument ended up in his hands after a door-to-door salesman came knocking, and that was Rader’s musical beginning – three free accordion lessons from a Southern California music shop. The accordion was eventually pushed aside for the organ, and Rader started playing in various bands and learning every instrument he could, going on to study voice in college and eventually graduating with a degree in opera.
Landing in Durango in the mid-’90s, Rader quickly got to work, playing in rock band The Shades, as well as jazz duo Interface, and currently holds down the bass in the Northern New Mexico country band Flatwater. He owned Band Wagon Music in Durango for seven years, and within the business was the Magic Bus Recording Studio, a facility that recorded local acts and hosted a Saturday afternoon, anything goes jam session. Rader also just dropped a solo effort titled “Buffalo Children & The Ghost Dancer.” Recorded at Magic Bus, Eagle Sound, a performance last year at The Balcony and his home studio in Cortez, it’s a varied palette of psychedelic folk, world music and jam-influenced rock ’n’ roll.
He’s a musician with a wealth of influences, and that diversity is all over the record, as cuts like “Nu Ryders of the Purple Carrot” are guitar-driven, upbeat instrumental grooves that rub elbows with Crazy Horse-inspired psychedelic guitar, with the record taking a hard turn to reveal a slow dose of dreamy and ambient folk music. It’s all part of the presentation, a layered collection of music with a beginning, middle and end with Rader handling the bulk of the instrumentation.
“I’m a stickler for playlists and sequencing, and really want to kind of tell a story and set a stage and have a nice mixture and balance to it, and a lot of depth,” he said. “Depth to me is where you really can listen to each instrument individually to make it have that color. It’s not like pasting this section to that section and a linear type of thing, but there’s a lot of stuff happening all at once. And that’s the way I look at recording because I don’t like a lot of stuff I hear when it’s the other way around; to me, it’s flat.”
A self-admitted monomaniac when it comes to music, Rader always has music on the mind. He’ll also admit he’s a songwriter first, someone who will continue to crank out music of all genres for the sake of writing.
“I’m not a great player. I’m accomplished, but I think of myself more as a songwriter, and I’ve always thought of myself that way,” Rader said. “I’ve got some pretty good success, I’ve probably done 10 albums from start to finish of original music since I’ve been in Durango. I’m not very good at marketing, and I’m not very good at the commercial aspects, and a lot of my albums aren’t very commercial to begin with. It’s not that kind of music. I really enjoy just the profundity of thinking that music is my life and I can tap into the source that just allows me to write.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.