By: Megan Holley
The Country Source had the honor of interviewing Keifer Thompson of Thompson Square last week. We spoke to him about new music, touring, how having a child has changed the couple’s lives and the importance of authenticity in songwriting. The award-winning duo is currently on the road in October with a full band, in November they will begin their much anticipated acoustic tour entitled, “This Is Us”. This tour is different to previous ones but is also a nod to the early days of their career in Nashville.
“It’s something that we’ve never done before, at this level. We grew up kind of together in Nashville doing acoustic music. We’d play downtown for tips for 4-8 to 12 hours a day sometimes. We usually do an acoustic part of our show now, including 1 or 2 acoustic songs. But to do a whole tour, we’re so excited about it!”
The tour will be in small intimate venues. It will include both new music and songs that have influenced the duo and have meant a lot to them throughout their lives.
“It’s gonna be kind of a storytelling thing. There’s gonna be a lot of laughing. It’s gonna be a really cool, intimate, very laid back, and chill kind of tour. We’re very excited about the whole potential of this.”
Opening is the talented and Minnesota native, singer-songwriter Jake Rose. “Man he is so good, says Thompson. Our producer (Nathan Chapman) is working with him as well. It’s really gonna elevate the whole tour to a different level…we’re really excited to be able to bring him on board.”
Not only is Thompson Square releasing their highly anticipated 3rd album later this year, they are also in the process of recording an acoustic album as well. It’s something they want to do now that they have the freedom to. “(The music business) gets in the way sometimes of creation, it gets in the way of the relationship that artists have to their fans. Being allowed to put an album out, being allowed to do things when you essentially work with somebody else, you know it’s tough sometimes”, he says. It’s that freedom that makes this new uncharted territory brimming with possibilities. “(Once we get) everything back from mixing and mastering and it’s just a matter of getting it out at that point even if it’s just on our own, in between deals, if we go after a new deal, or if we stay independent, it doesn’t matter anymore. We just want to make music that we want to make. You don’t want to look back and say ‘we never did that, we never did this’”, he says.
Thompson Square has gone through many changes since the release of their last album “Just Feels Good” from the birth of their son Cooper, parting ways with their longtime label BBR Music Group’s Stoney Creek Records, and taking on new producer Nathan Chapman.
Recently Keifer and Shawna enjoyed some family time between touring and took their son Cooper to Disney. “He’s a little bit older now and can get into the whole character thing…we took him when he was really young, he has his favorite characters and stuff. It’s awesome, I’ve never really been partial to theme parks but once you have a kid it changes the whole thing.” Cooper even goes on tour with the couple. (He’s with us) “every single day, that’s one thing when we had a kid, I don’t want to have a kid and be on the road if we can’t bring our kid, so we’ve got a great nanny that travels with us, she watches him when we’re on stage, but he’s with us all the time. He’s such a great kid and so much fun to be around.” It’s evident how much of an impact their son Cooper has had on their lives. “When you have a kid life changes so much and it changes your perception of everything and you really learn what’s important in life.”
On parting ways with Stoney Creek Records: “We’re very grateful for the relationship and the business part of what we had with our record label. But it was just time for us to move on, and we did, and we’ve made I think hands down the best record we’ve ever put out.”
Thompson has nothing but good things to say about producer Nathan Chapman. “We’ve always been a fan of his work. We actually got together and wrote one day, hit it off, and became friends. In that process, we decided we wanted to work together in a bigger capacity. We started this recording process and he really saw our vision of what we wanted to do, unlike anyone else we’ve ever worked with. It’s really been about us. What we want, there’s no imposition on his part, obviously, his opinion is highly valued...it’s been a great experience. The friendship we’ve gained out of it is more important than anything, but just being able to go into the studio and create with that guy is a ton of fun.” Nathan Chapman has also worked with major acts such as Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum.
We also discussed the creative process when it comes to songwriting and how it has changed for them over the years. “I’m happier with the stuff I write now because I think I know how to do it a little bit better than I used to. I’ve learned to pull from within more so than I did before…I think the better you get at feeling those feelings you have internally the better the song is and the more your fans are able to connect with that song because of the truth behind it. That it is actually the truth…there’s a different soul, there’s a different spirit to that song. I’ve been trying to learn about that more and more I keep trying to get with writers who are better than me to learn from them and continue our learning process.”
One particular song that was debuted on Facebook Live last week was the song “Masterpiece”. An emotional heartfelt tribute to wife Shawna and son Cooper, it has already struck a chord with fans and we predict it will be a great hit if included on either record.
When asked about the song Thompson said, “I don’t write as much as I used to but I want to write stuff that means something to me I don’t want to just make stuff up. I want it to mean something I want it to come from a place of a genuine nature. I really truly feel that when I look back on my life that the two most important things that I’ve ever accomplished, my masterpiece, would be my marriage and my son. And I truly believe that with every inch of my being…I played it for her, looked over and she had tears running down her face. So I thought, ‘Ok, we’ve got something here.’ She said ‘That’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever heard you write.’ I can almost guarantee that it will be on the record.”
When it comes to songs being pitched to the couple they’re strategic in their decision-making process, a song has to really stand out and make an impact and appeal to themselves and their fans. “A lot of the time the weirder the demo the more we like it. And that’s kind of the trend in Nashville…but there are ways that a song can fool you sometimes. You fall in love with the production, but the songs not that great. It’s just what you like, it’s not that we know more than anyone else, hopefully, the songs that we like, a section of America and the world will like as well. I think if you’re continually trying to write and create for somebody else, that you think they might like it and you don’t have any attachment to it, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for us anyway.” It’s that authenticity and heart that is evident in Thompson Square’s music and helps fans relate to it on a personal level.
When asked what they look for in particular when a song is pitched to them Thompson said “We look for everything guitar sounds…different grooves and beats. I’m a huge The Black Keys fan because their stuff doesn’t sound like everybody else. You fall in love with these artists, you can’t be like them…but you can draw inspiration from them”.
Like every couple, they may not always agree. “We argue about songs all the time, before if both of us didn’t like the song we weren’t cutting it. Then we realized that maybe I don’t know everything and maybe she doesn’t know everything. I think that’s one kind of maturity we’ve been able to gather through the years is that if one of us likes it and the other doesn’t then maybe they are right and let's go with it. Make it the best it can be and see what happens. That way if it fails she gets to say I told you so, and vice versa.” Thompson jokes. “Primarily we both have to like it. It’s a rarity we’ll cut a song that either one of us doesn’t like or hates.”
Fans can also look forward to a new single being released soon. “We have 2 things mastered right now when everything else gets back to us mid-month we will decide what the single is going to be.” We can’t wait to find out! Their last single released in 2016, “You Make It Look So Good” gives us a taste of what’s to come.
Something that sets Thompson Square apart from other artists is their relationship to their fans. They have always valued and appreciated their fans from fan meet and greets to involvement on social media, their loyalty and support means so much to the couple. “We’re so excited at the promise of tomorrow and the future, our family, this music, and our fans just mean everything to us. We’re in a really great spot right now… Getting this music out, it’s very very important. It’s been way too long. And I know our fans are tired of waiting and we’re tired of waiting…(we want to) let them hear what we’ve been up to.” At the Country Source, we can safely say everyone is excited to hear new music.
Thompson Square will be performing Saturday, Oct. 21 at Medina Entertainment Center. Their This Is Us acoustic tour will begin in Salisbury, MA November 2nd. They also plan on going to Japan and Hawaii to play for the military later in the year.