DYLAN John Thomas stands in the spotlight on stage at Saint Luke’s in Glasgow’s East End. A thin, wispy 24 year old in a retro tracksuit zip top and jeans, his pale face framed by a shock of dark curly hair as he throws out chords from a guitar.

In front of him, the crowd is a frenetic, pulsating sea of bodies moving in time to the music. You can feel the sense of shared purpose. The stories Dylan weaves into his songs connect with a young Scottish audience.

Dylan bought his first guitar not far from this venue at the age of 13 and served an apprenticeship busking in Glasgow city centre. It gave him a creative outlet while in foster care as he found his own voice.

From the very start, narrative storytelling was what drew him into music. “When I was in the foster house, we’d all play a game on the PlayStation called Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding. What would happen is, there’d just be just one boy hogging the controller, so you could never get a shot, and I remember we just listened to the soundtrack, and Ring of Fire would repeat all day. Everybody would be jumping about the room singing it.

“When I got a guitar, that was the first song that I learned for that reason, and the Johnny Cash thing is what I was into, naturally, that kind of storytelling. Then I learned about The Beatles and Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel. It was a natural progression to get into the writing side of things,” he explains.

He drew one of the biggest crowds of the TRNSMT weekend on the King Tut’s stage, the audience singing along to Jenna and Feel the Fire, two of the tracks from his debut EP.

He says the collection of songs is “about attempting to keep your head above the water when things are difficult and not letting yourself sink into despair”.

His songs are marked by an emotional honesty that is a common thread in Scottish music. “The way I grew up, I had nothing to hide behind. Everything was right there, out in the open, especially in the foster house,” he says. “I never really cared about pretending to be something that I’m not. There’s not much ambiguity to the lyrics.”

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Open mic events and busking on Argyle Street and Buchanan Street allowed Dylan to test himself as a performer before graduating to bigger stages. “You take the shaky legs and turn the nerves into a buzz, get rid of that daunting feeling.

“That’s the thing that I love about it. There’s nothing more addictive than playing tunes,” he says. “You’ve got thousands of people walking past you every day and you interact with all walks of life.”

He’s played support slots opening for acts like Sam Fender, Gerry Cinnamon and Liam Gallagher, which he sees as a challenge to grab people’s attention. “I understood quickly that nobody’s there to listen to me if I’m in a support slot. It’s my job to make people care,” he says.

Performing to new audiences will be a focus for next year, including a headline slot in front of his own crowd at the Barrowland Ballroom in April. He will also continue to work on his song writing. There’s a lot he still has to say.

Read More: Joesef, the Scottish artist creating heartfelt, soulful anthems that strike a chord with audiences

“You can never really understand what you’re about, that’s just a trap every single time you go into that, but with my vocabulary growing and an emotional maturity, I can start to tap into certain things. I suppose if an emotion comes and you’re writing all the time, then you can grab the emotion and carve it into a song. That’s what has been happening and my tools are getting sharper.”

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