The Story of Thistle's Music
Thistle Jemison's hauntingly beautiful songs for harp and voice are the product of her formal education in South Indian, Western classical and Jazz music, combined with her love of literature that grapples with the archetypal. Her self titled project, THISTLE, is based in New York City, and usually involves other folk and orchestral instruments. Her music is meant to be played in old churches and cathedrals, groves of trees, dark velvety clubs, castles, and anywhere there is natural or man-made beauty. THISTLE has been described as mystical and angelic, as well as evocative of death, ghosts, deep female energy and pagan magic. In addition to her own project, Thistle plays in the world renowned cello folk/rock band Rasputina as harpist and back up vocalist.
Thistle took piano lessons from the age of seven and especially enjoyed playing the music of Bach. She also had a penchant for singing and experimenting with noise. Thistle began performing as a vocalist while attending a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania called The George School. One of her classmates was the daughter of renowned First Nations artist Pura Fe, lead singer and founder of Ulali. Together they performed a cappella the music of Ulali, in the Tuscaroran and English languages, using nothing but rattles for accompaniment.
Throughout high school, Thistle sang in rock bands. At Hampshire College she began an intensive study of singing, theory and composition in the Jazz, Western classical and South Indian genres. Eventually Thistle moved to Brooklyn, NY with her baby grand piano and sought out Karnatak vocalist Saavithri Ramanand in Queens. Under this five year tutelage, Thistle learned classical Indian songs about Hindu gods and goddesses in the Hindu, Tamil and Sanskrit languages.
She finished her formal musical studies at the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in Manhattan, attaining a BFA in Jazz Voice with honors. Shortly before graduating, Thistle took up the electric guitar and eventually the drums, creating a three piece rock band which she named Queen of Sibyls. This music was heavily inspired by the alt rock female groups of the 1990's (link to album "Dark Horse" in Music tab).
Thistle didn't take up the harp until adulthood. After a year of studying under Tomoko Sugarawa, a classical harpist and reviver of the ancient Kugo harp, Thistle purchased her own harp and did some work with a few bands as a session harpist/ background vocalist. However, two years into her discovery of the harp, Thistle "quit" music. During a four year hiatus, she created an interior design firm, built an inn in the Catskills and took drum lessons with Sara Landau of The Julie Ruin. All the while, Thistle knew she must return to music, her life's purpose, but felt both fearful and uninspired. In 2015, when asked to join a band in Brooklyn, she jumped back into music, returning to the stage and to the passion she once had for playing the harp and writing her own music.
Writing and performing music is very much a service to others in the eyes of Thistle, a service that borders on spiritual awakening and recovery. Please take a moment to sign up on the mailing list and enjoy her gift of music, an exotic fruit born of an obsession with beauty, created just for you.