The People, Places, and Things that Make Up Cleveland Thrasher

The Multifaceted Detroit Artist Who Quit His Job to Make an Album


Cleveland Thrasher’s “real” name is Cleveland Thrasher.  

Cleveland is a gift from his maternal grandfather and “Thrasher” from his paternal line. His middle name “Lenear” comes from his father.  

He is the only boy of six siblings and the second youngest.  

As a child, his parents relocated from Detroit to the suburbs for a house of their own and the opportunity to provide their children a good education.  

Cleveland recalls a childhood of moving private schools with the importance of a good education engrained within his psyche. The majority of those around him were “affluent white Americans. So that identity became relatable.” 

There were also periods of home schooling that reinforced his independent nature. When back in the classroom, he was outspoken, often disciplined for acting out as the class clown.

But, at home, a quieter side came out. He made art and music alone in his bedroom—a habit he took with him to college, where he studied digital media and technology. After graduation, he returned home once again, after a turn in the economy. 

His mother posted his resume online which landed a job in advertising. He had no experience in the field.  

By the age of 23 he was married with a full time career. During our phone interview he mentions several times the need to have it together for the sake of his marriage, recalling a childhood where he wasn’t that close with his father—night shifts and overtime at a factory job left him time for little beyond work.

Family means a lot to Cleveland.

Last year he came to his wife in a moment of inspiration: it was time to quit his advertising job. It wasn’t an easy decision. But with her support he put in his notice and embarked on something he had largely set aside since school, making music. 

In seven weeks he recorded seven tracks that become his second full length album, the cleverly titled 9teen8t7. 

So, we talk origin and inspiration.

CV Henriette: Who is Cleveland Thrasher? What’s his story?  

Cleveland Thrasher: In school, he was independent, a self-learner and glutton for attention—often resulting in being disciplined for acting out. He learned to adapt and survive being somewhat of a loner as “tomorrow wasn’t promised.” Friends would come and go often changing schools. He learned to use humor to cope with some of the heavier and darker things in life. 

My past is complicated, much like America’s history. I have blood of the oppressed as well as that of the oppressors.  

CVh: And now? 

CT: I am an artist. I am a creator. I am a husband. I am a black man. I am an American. I am a human. I am something. I am nothing. I am a liar. I am a cheat. I am forgiven. I am a lot. 

I am blessed to still be here, to have a story to tell and hopefully have an impact on the future. 

CVh: You do a lot—music, visual art, maintain what I assume is a demanding day job—how do you balance it all? Strict sleep schedule? Aggressive planner? 

CT: Music for the longest time had been put on the back burner. And when I say music I mean in the sense of actively pursuing it with the intention of releasing a polished body of work.  

This past summer it created a tipping point as I pondered over my life sitting at the edge of the Detroit river outside of work in a career where I heavily invested almost a decade of my life and energy. In a sudden moment of clarity, I knew I had to leave and work on my passion. So I called my wife and with her support I met with my boss and put my two weeks’ notice in. Thankfully it ended up with me working part time for the rest of the year. Not only was I able to finish a body of work but I also had a source of income.  

I gave myself seven weeks to write and record a seven-track album, 9teen8t7, to release on my birthday the 7th of the 11th month of the year. I hadn’t released a project of that nature in seven years.  

CVh: Do you have any habits or rituals that keep you grounded. 

CT: Faith. Long walks in nature. Reading. Traveling, particularly internationally.  

Traveling is very important—a perspective builder. It helps one to see the bigger picture and the many things we may take for granted.  

Laughter. Dancing. Deep thought. Prayer. Gratitude. Thankfulness. Grace. Forgiveness. Kindness. Hope. 

CVh: When we met you had a yo yo. Has that always been your thing? 

CT: Great memory! Yo yos have not always been my thing, but I do see it as a testament to my nature of extremes. Whenever I discover, or rediscover for that matter, something that intrigues me, I take a deep dive, become completely consumed.  

CVh: Did you play any sports a kid? 

CT: I played soccer in elementary school. Softball and baseball in middle school and a brief stint of basketball the ninth grade. Does that count as a kid? 

CVh: Do you play any sports as an adult? 

CT: Do video games count? 

CVh: What are you working on? 

CT: I am working on my heart. From there flow the springs of life. The music will come. The art will come.  

CVh: Where do you make music? 

CT: Mostly in my head. I love that I am conscious in an era where what once filled rooms now fits into the palm of my hand. I constantly have a something stirring within and tend to let it out in song or dance or tapping and scatting. It is so amazing to have a device to record audio and video or type out an idea. 

When I want to finalize things that are a bit more involved, I have a modest home studio, and I frequently travel to Boston to record at Asteroid 52. 

CVh: Digital or analog? 

CT: Analog in that I find nature most captivating. But digital has been more accessible to me when it comes to music. 

CVh: Favorite instrument? 

CT: Human voice. 

CVh: Least favorite instrument? 

CT: One that cannot be played. 

CVh: Last show you played? 

CT: I was in Boston recording at Asteroid 52 with a very talented guitarist. He had a show with his cover band at a small bar called The Rhumb Line in Gloucester—yes, home of the fish sticks. In the moment they asked me to come up. I freestyled a verse and sang the hook on top of Sublime’s “Loving is What I Got.” The surprise and energy in the room was rewarding. 

CVh: Favorite show you played? 

CT: Opening for D12 in East Lansing back in college. My bandmate at the time, ANMLTALK, brought a guitar and I brought a drum set to the show and the venue asked what we were doing. We said we were playing music. I drummed and rapped and he sang and played guitar. It was great. They started to cut the sound to get ready for D12, but I kept rapping. I was in the moment!  

CVh: Sun sign? 

CT: Scorpio. 

CVh: Sunrise or sunset? 

CT: Sunrise. A fresh start. 

CVh: First artist that comes to mind? 

CT: Leonardo da Vinci 

CVh: Last thing you made? 

CT: A song in Boston. 

CVh: Favorite collaborators? 

CT: Collaboration is few and far between as sometimes you may enjoy a person, but your processes do not align. As of late, Szeho and Carpoolparty.  

Szeho produced the mixtape I wrote and recorded in a week or so this past summer. Very Trap! 

Carpoolparty is a very interesting married couple who do dance music. Very Japanese and vapor wave inspired. Fun! 

CVh: First song that comes to mind? 

CT: Roy Ayers – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” 

CVh: Album you wish you made? 

CT: Gorillaz – Demon Days. 

CVh: Tell me something I don’t know. 

CT: If I lived anywhere besides Detroit it would be Japan. こんにちは! 

CVh: What’s next? 

CT: More music. Shows in Detroit and going international. More traveling (see every continent). More growth. 

CVh: What’d I forget to ask?  

CT: You never asked my favorite color. If you had I would have replied blue. A very springtime sky blue.

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