Oklahoma based Kyle Bradley, transformed on stage as his alter-ego, Thunder Jackson, has been working hard since the 2020 coronavirus pandemic hit, releasing his debut album and spearheading new music despite a worldwide slowdown. With the release of his new single “Take On Me,” a cover of A-Ha’s popular 80s tune, Thunder Jackson shows a strong grasp of song production as he reworks the original upbeat tempo into something more melodic and melodramatic.
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Focusing on the heartfelt and longing lyrics, Thunder Jackson slows down the song and uses his lustrous vocals to pull out every bittersweet sentiment within the song, ornately draping the slow moving melody with his signature high notes. Driven by electronic drum beats, dramatic keys and soft, flowing synth, he strips down the original song to make is less of a whimsical whirlwind and more of a methodical confession as all the elements slowly aerate and open up to encapsulate a rich, heavy sound. Paired with a dramatically shot black and white music video of Thunder Jackson on the piano, it is a slow simmering serenade.
Earlier this year, Thunder Jackson released a remix of his single, “Colors,” in collaboration with The Knocks. Already upbeat, the remixed single is taken to new heights with illustrious disco beats, a high energy vibe and insanely catchy musical hooks.
Thunder Jackson has been on his musical journey for 12 years, starting out in smokey Oklahoma bar rooms at 14 and then moving to Los Angeles at the age of 18. It was in L.A. where he met his musical partner, writer/producer and artist Pete Lawrie Winfield of Until the Ribbon Breaks. Somewhere along the way of refining his sound and working with Lawrie, he came up with the Thunder Jackson monkier, a very personal stage name.
“There is a bit of significance the name and its origin. I wanted to created this sort of bigger than life anti hero in my head,” he notes. “A character that I could base my actions off of and separate myself from thunder. In the end I feel as though I have just blended the two into this concoction of beauty and destruction.”
Since the drop of his self-titled debut LP last year, released via VERO Music and produced by Lawrie, the 26-year-old multi-instrumentalist and singer has further solidified his style and unique vocals to push the boundaries of his music. Danceable, thought provoking and infused with wonderful 80s pop and disco, the young musician hits a sweet spot of musical intersection, with plenty of pop ballad interludes to slow things down in between upbeat club bangers. Underneath it all, is an artist who cares about his work and isn’t afraid to leave himself open to emotions and experiences regardless of where it takes him and his music.
“As artists I believe it’s hard to not be conscious of reality at all times,” he notes. “You are writing to inspire to influence so you have to be constantly wrapped up in the world so much that it can destroy you at times. The vulnerability, the romanticing of every situation can drive you mad. That all being said, it’s the single most important thing in the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
An Interview with Thunder Jackson:
What artists / bands inspire you?
“This is tough question because obviously there are past and present artists that inspire me at different times in my life, but currently I have been listening to Paul Simon’s “Graceland’ a bit too much. Lyrically I think he is the best to do it. The way he can carry a story in a short amount of time with that much depth is beautiful. I have also been listening to an artist by the name Leif Vollebeck, I can’t get enough of his style and music. His voice cuts like a knife and makes me feel again. Last but not least the wonderful Nina Simone fills my studio with her artistry on a daily basis. She is the definition of a true artist to me.“
Your voice is gorgeous, and it really shines on your stripped down rendition of “Take On Me” — Did you have any formal vocal training or were you just blessed with it?
“A little but of both, I have been blessed some may say with a talent but that doesn’t mean you don’t take lessons… I worked with the wonderful Mark Baxter and he really showed me the psychology and confidence of singing. There is always room for improvement and I highly recommend getting lessons and working on your craft.”
What’s your story?
“Well darling, we will have to have another interview to know my whole story but… I was a quite young when I decided I wanted to be an artist. My father got me a license to play in smokey Oklahoma bars at the age of 14 and from there he drove me to all the bars every chance he could. I remember him telling me “Son you’re not good yet, but keep doing this and you will be great one day” I always believed him. The perseverance of art always inspired me, trying to convince crowds of people who have no clue who you are that what you’re doing is bigger than yourself. I was always inspired by stories of the greats. I suppose that’s why I always chased and chased my dream, learning whilst also writing my story at the same time. This is only the beginning and that is the most exciting thing of all.”
You’re from Oklahoma; you used to live in LA and just played at The Moroccan Lounge. What do you love about LA?
“I love how LA lets you stay a child whilst also giving your opportunity to keep your dream alive. There is no place in the world where you can be a street performer and the right person could walk past you and change your life. I think Oklahoma is on its way to being its own magical world of creativity.”
Words: Patti Sanchez