The Story of Thistle's Music
Thistle Jemison's hauntingly beautiful songs for harp and voice are the product of her education in South Indian, Western classical and Jazz music, combined with her love of literature that grapples with the archetypal. Years of formal music education, combined with her love of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales have allowed her to create songs which evoke all the mystery, depth and magic as do the stories that have inspired them. Her self titled project, THISTLE, is based in New York City, and usually involves other folk and orchestral instruments. The 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.
Thistle took piano lessons from the age of seven and quite enjoyed playing classical music on the piano, especially Bach. She also had a penchant for singing and enjoyed experimenting with noise as a child. 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.
Throughout high school, Thistle sang in rock bands and took voice lessons until she attended Hampshire College (F2000). Here she began an intensive study of singing, theory and composition in the Jazz, Western classical and South Indian genres. After completing three years of college, she left Hampshire and moved to Brooklyn, NY with her baby grand piano. She then sought out Karnatak vocalist Saavithri Ramanand in Queens who taught her to sing classical songs about Hindu gods and goddesses in the Hindu, Tamil and Sanskrit languages, a tutelage that lasted for five years.
Thistle finished her 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. She wrote and performed music that was heavily inspired by the alt rock female groups of the 1990's (link to album "Dark Horse" in Music tab).
Somewhere during her writing for the rock album, Thistle was listening to a Smashing Pumpkins song that prominently featured a harp. In a flash of intuition, she felt called to play the harp, and it became her mission. She began taking harp lessons in Tribeca with Tomoko Sugarawa, a classical harpist and reviver of the ancient Kugo harp. After a year of studying, Thistle purchased her first harp and began moonlighting as a session harpist/ background vocalist.
Two years after discovering the harp, Thistle "quit" music. During a four year hiatus, Thistle created an interior design firm, built an inn in the Catskills and took up drum lessons with Sara Landau just for fun. 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 rock band as a back up vocalist, she suddenly jumped back into music. After a few shows with the band, she once again dedicated herself to playing the harp, continuing to write the orchestral album she had begun four years prior.
Writing and performing music is very much a service to others in the eyes of Thistle, a service that borders on spiritual aide and recovery. She feels she must do this, for you. Please do take a moment to sign up on the mailing list and enjoy her gift of music--an exotic fruit born of long term internal struggle, an intensive study of music, and an obsession with beauty--made just for you.