There’s an unspoken rule on the city streets. As you near a stranger, you simply pass. Perhaps you smile their direction, or if you’re feeling friendly, you meekly exchange hellos. But you certainly do not ask the stranger for their name, much less their life story. But on March 6, the rule seemed irrelevant.
On that quiet Sunday night, as we walked down First Avenue, Downtown Devil’s multimedia director Sierra LaDuke and I were struck by the sound of soulful singing across the street. While I am typically the type to passively admire street performers, I was hypnotized by the fact that this young man — a fantastic vocalist — was purely singing out of enjoyment, fully confident in his ability to freestyle. This drew us across the street, ready to discover the depth of this mysterious musician.
The singer’s name is Angelo Thal. He was immediately welcoming and reacted with a bright smile and passion when we asked to record him, remaining in his element despite the camera shutter sounding in the distance. The guitar-toting teenager sang with such a free-spirited attitude that I was surprised to hear his story — a story far from that of an average 18-year-old.
Thal is currently homeless. He moved to America with his parents when he was 3 years old, a refugee from South Sudan. Living in Phoenix, he soon discovered a love for music and singing but didn’t have a mentor or the connections to create a career out of his talent.
In the past year, the singer experienced a change in luck. While living in a homeless shelter, Thal met his current manager, Conorie Richmond, who soon signed him to Richmond Entertainment, a company that helps underprivileged people become professional musicians. On March 23, Thal will release his first single, “The Difference.”
“My dream is to become an artist and make a difference in the world and to prove to people that anybody could change your life, no matter what situation it is,” Thal said. “If you get born into a bad situation, you can change. It’s not about the situation. It’s about the heart.”
This philosophy is why Thal does not view his living situation negatively, as he is sure that he is where he needs to be to jumpstart a music career.
“I brag all the time because I’m so happy where I’m at,” Thal said. “I don’t care that I’m homeless. I care that I’m pursuing my dream and I’ve got the people that I have around me. I’m building my foundation.”
While Richmond is helping Thal spread his music, the singer truly has himself to thank for getting signed. His determination, passion and dedication to grand pursuits shine through with every word he speaks.
“My whole life, I’ve been asking people, ‘What’s your dream?’” Thal said. “And their dreams are more like goals. I don’t want to grow up like these people who have goals and are not thinking big.”
This lifelong question displays Thal’s desire to help dreamers like him who do not have the same opportunities.
“My number one goal is to bring somebody from where I’m from and give them the opportunity to become the greatest artist in the making, because that’s what my parents did for me,” Thal said. “They brought me to America. I probably wouldn’t be the person that I am today if I wasn’t here.”
Thal reflects on the past months of his career with immense hope and satisfaction. He has gained a greater ability to influence others with his music. He has worked with hip-hop artist Sincerely Collins and is set to release an EP later this year. Most importantly, he has gained an internal feeling of accomplishment.
“You never really know something is growing until you look behind you,” Thal said. “People wouldn’t think being homeless and doing music is a success, but really, being happy and going to pursue your dream, I think that is a success. I feel successful.”
Check em out.