Pop star Debbie Gibson was a teenager when she first rose to fame in the late ’80s with her triple-platinum debut Out of the Blue. Her fame only increased with her next album, Electric Youth, featuring the No. 1 hit “Lost in Your Eyes.” She understands the importance of nurturing young talent in the music industry, which is why she chose 20-year-old Sean Thomas to co-produce and mix her first album in 20 years, The Body Remembers. Thomas is a 2021 graduate of Berklee Online’s Music Production bachelor’s program.
“Because I started as a teen as well, I feel such camaraderie and such pride in introducing a now 20-year-old Sean to the world,” says Gibson. “The joy and expertise and originality he brought to this project is an immeasurable gift!”
In August and September 2021, Gibson and Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block performed two four-night runs at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, where Thomas served as the music director and played keyboard and bass in their band.
“It was my first real experience performing in a show that large with that big of a scale, so it was an incredible thing to be a part of,” says Thomas.
Gibson first met then 13-year-old Thomas on the set of the 2016 Hallmark movie Summer of Dreams, where Gibson played his music teacher. The two revisited their roles in the sequel Wedding of Dreams, and by then, Gibson was well aware of Thomas’ production chops. After filming, Gibson asked Thomas to produce her song “Your Forever Girl.”
“It was really natural because I was her music student in the movie and she was my teacher, so growing from that relationship was really seamless . . . And then after that she contacted me and she wanted me to do the song.”
Thomas flew out to Las Vegas several times to record with Gibson over the past few years. Following “Your Forever Girl,” he had the responsibility of bringing her hit “Lost in Your Eyes” into the twenty-first century as a duet with McIntyre.
“‘Lost in Your Eyes’ was really fun because obviously it’s such an iconic song and there’s certain things that you have to keep true to the original or else it wouldn’t feel like the original,” says Thomas. “With every instrument I added, I wanted to bring it into a new kind of world, but still try to keep it classic and timeless.”
Before long, Gibson had enough tracks to put out her full album. In an interview with NPR, she said, “If you’re going to put something out, you better have something to say. I went through a chapter that was really challenging . . . And, you know, in coming out of all of that, that’s where the really inspirational music to me lived. And it just felt like time.”
While working on this album with Gibson during the day, and finishing his Berklee Online coursework at night, Thomas recalls applying what he learned in Prince Charles Alexander and Mitch Benoff’s Vocal Production course directly to the album.
Since things are quieting down after his run in Vegas, Thomas is getting back to writing his own music. He describes his style as acoustic singer/songwriter and is inspired by artists such as Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth, and John Mayer. He’s also collaborating with Sylvia MacCalla, who sings vocals with Gibson and has a long and varied background in musical theater, songwriting, and music production.
“I’m just super excited to start releasing stuff, and coming out of the experience with Debbie I’m just really excited to put what I learned, especially with Berklee and Debbie, into my music now.”