Ageless Eyes: An Interview With Experimental Indie Songwriter Steven Mullan AKA Thunder Lily & A Look At His New Concept Album ‘Volume One’

In terms of spirituality, a full moon signifies heightened emotions, dreams, and feelings. It’s a time to acknowledge the beauty of life and manifest new creative visions. There was a time not long ago when Nashville-based artist Thunder Lily took this to heart, and dedicated himself to releasing new music every full moon. He would manifest his own creativity through the moon phases, and he would schedule his releases around the full moon, whether that be a single, an EP, or even a full-length album. He’s since put this on the backburner for reasons unknown, but you get a feel for his unique perception with this routine.

Steven Mullan, known creatively by the name Thunder Lily, is an unconventional ambiance artist that is dedicated to writing songs and poetry about self-discovery. He released his debut album Volume One on May 7th—a full moon, naturally. It too is a concept album that explores the themes of meditation, spiritual rebirth, and emotional cleansing through a fictional universe. The record is also spliced with poetry throughout the track listing, and the verbal interludes give the sonic ambiance a pause. Each song is characterized with expansive synths and soothing vocals.

In a year of tension and anxiety, Volume One succeeds in its ability to paint a tranquil soundscape not only through its production, but also through its lyrical content centered around mindfulness and self-care.

Thunder Lily recorded a video for “Ageless Eyes”, a track from Volume One, in time for the New Moon on December 14th. It’s one of the more acoustic tracks of the record, and the lyrics focus on accepting imperfections and the best still being yet to come — making the song a perfect example of what the rest of his album contains.

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We talked to Thunder Lily today and asked him about his creative inspiration, his astrological release schedule, and what fans can expect from him throughout 2021’s moon cycle.

First, could you tell us why you chose to go by the name ‘Thunder Lily’?

I was searching for a title that could feel universal. The original writing idea was imagining Earth as a rest stop, and Thunder Lily another stop along a long road. 

Where primarily does your creative inspiration come from when writing and producing songs?  

People and nature, mostly. It’s constantly changing, and I’m fascinated with how input is output and how what we consume appears back in what we do. Silence feels really important right now in this wild time, and I’m finding joy reading a lot of spiritual books and listening to classical music, Prince, Zappa, and Dan Deacon. 

Your style of music is very unconventional and almost beyond genre. How would you best describe it? 

Haha. Thank you! My grandma used to do this thing where she’d wave her one arm wildly in the air and say, “Hey, what’s this?” And I’d respond confusedly, “I don’t know.” And she’d say, “I don’t know either, but here it comes again.” And she’d go on flailing. Maybe it’s like that? 

“…it’s an epicenter for creative nerds, so information sort of just flows around effortlessly in public.”

You mentioned you release new music every full moon which is unique, but recently said you bucked that trend. How much time goes into deciding when the perfect day or time to release music is?

One theme is for certain in my life…there’s no perfect time for anything. Plans are always falling apart, so right now, I’m just trying to pair the music releases with events in nature that I want to learn about…like this year…the new moon schedule!

Could you describe your promotional process when you release something, and how do you feel about social media as a (main) method to do so?

I’m making it up as I go, focusing on making the music mainly, and then letting that drive how I approach everything else. It’s such a slow process, and I’m trying to focus on small goals of what I can do or try, rather than get overwhelmed by what I can’t control. It’s constant trial and error, and I’m trying to just enjoy learning and playing the game. I am thankful for the option of social media, though I don’t like to think of it as the only way to connect with people, especially since this is an indie thing. When things open back up, nothing is stopping us from standing out on the street handing out burned CDs. There are just more ways to connect now, so the choice of where to put energy is what feels overwhelming sometimes.

How does living in Nashville influence your unique, more experimental sound? 

There’s so much to learn from the people here…it’s an epicenter for creative nerds, so information sort of just flows around effortlessly in public. I think the best part of it has been the chance to play a lot of different types of gigs and learn from all those different environments.

Volume One is narrated by you and filled with personal sentiments throughout the track listing. What do you hope listeners will take away from the record? 

I hope they take whatever they wish. 🙂

Did you have any songs you left on the shelf that didn’t make the cut, and if so, what’s the likelihood you revisit them for a future project?

Isn’t it so difficult to decide whether to move on or revisit something? I have a huge folder of unfinished songs and finished ones for release. The attachment of always having everything you make becoming a finished work that goes into a public space can be really stifling and forced, so I’m letting a lot of the old things just be private old things. 

And lastly, what can fans expect from you during the 2021 moon cycle or otherwise? 

New music every new moon, and when things come back, I hope to throw more collaborative live shows in atypical venues…like Eric Adler’s suit shop…maybe a pop up show in an abandoned gas station. 

Thank you so much for making the time to interview me.

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