Storytellers: Bonfire Orchestra tells tales on its debut CD

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Michael Thomas of Tupelo is feeling a bit like a parent these days.
His band, Bonfire Orchestra, just released its first full-length album, “The Well and The Water.” He’s letting go of these songs and stories he’s written, and allowing them to find new life in listeners’ ears and hearts.
“I made (the album), but it’s not mine,” Thomas said. “I’m the storyteller.”
‘The Well and The Water’
Bonfire Orchestra’s music has always been pretty heavy, in one way or another.
Musically, the band has a raw folk and soul sound, and lyrics have ranged from the political to the heartbreaking and romantic.
“The Well and The Water” deals heavily with emotions, the good and the bad.
“It’s about pain and whether or not it’s worth it. It’s a cohesive story with small tangents throughout,” Thomas said.
For example, the album kicks off with the bitter and heartbroken “Lay Me Low,” followed by the sweet and romantic “Only Way to Learn.” Then there’s the story of a young mom in the bittersweet “Ever After.”
Did he draw on his own real-life experiences of dreamy love and painful heartbreak for these stories? That doesn’t matter, he said: He wants the listener to glean their own meanings from the 13 songs.
“If the whole disc is about me, then I failed. If I succeeded at some point, then you’ll forget somebody else wrote it,” he said.
“The Well and The Water” was recorded at Hi-Ridge Studios in Tupelo. To complement the band’s folky music, Thomas decided to record in analog.
“It’s very different than what you’d hear on the radio. It’s warmer,” Thomas said.
Past and future
Thomas has headed up Bonfire Orchestra for the past few years. Two of the biggest changes since his start in music, he said, are an improvement in songwriting and finding the perfect cohorts for his band.
Powerhouse player Dayton Cooper takes on percussion, piano and backing vocals – often all three at the same time – and Courtney Grace Kinzer provides cello and backing vocals.
With these two dynamic players by his side, Thomas is excited to take on the next phase of Bonfire Orchestra. The trio will promote “The Well and The Water” for a while, but then focus on new music, which Thomas is already writing.

Fast Facts

• Copies of Bonfire Orchestra’s CD, “The Well and The Water,” are available at the band’s shows, at and at iTunes and

• Friday: The Stables

• Saturday: Woody’s

• Jan. 13: Romie’s BBQ

• Jan. 19: Link Centre (Album

• Jan. 27: Atlanta Bar

• The official CD release party is at Cafe 212 on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

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