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INTERVIEW: KEIFER THOMPSON of Thompson Square – March 2015

| 30 March 2015 | Reply

Great music is great music, regardless of the genre.  Country duo Thompson Square – Keifer and Shawna Thompson – record and release great music.  From the the moment they released their debut disc, they have been on an upward spiral, releasing platinum and gold singles and two killer discs that feature songs that have become threads in the fabric of love and life over the last few years.  shortly before hitting a local venue to promote all things Thompson Square, the couple had their latest track, “Trans Am,” debut on Rolling Stone magazine’s website [check it out the cool lyric video HERE] With a little more than a week until their debut performance at The Colosseum in Windsor, Ontario, we jumped on the phone with Keifer to discuss the new track, their new collaboration with Blues Traveler, and his new girlfriend???  Buckle in and get ready for a cool ride with Keifer as he opens up about these things and more…

thompson-square-press-650-430Toddstar: I can’t think of a better way to start a Thursday morning than talking to Keifer Thompson.

Keifer: Good morning.

Toddstar: How’s it going today?

Keifer: I’m good, how are you?

Toddstar: Good, thank you. Well, you got so much going on, but I want to start with, we’re not too far out so, happy belated birthday, Keifer.

Keifer: Why thank you very much, I appreciate that. I had a good time and a quiet one this year, probably the quietest one I’ve ever had.

Toddstar: It was cool because you got to celebrate just before Rolling Stone magazine debuted the new single, “Trans Am.”

Keifer: Yeah, we’re so excited about the song and actually this whole project, man. We decided to do what most people don’t, but what my favorite artists do. We stopped singling stuff for about 10, 11 months, and just wrote. When you’re on the road and you’re doing so many shows, you just don’t have a whole lot of time to write. We just carved out about 10 months just to write. We just felt like we wanted to bring the level of song up, and pay particular attention to the evolution of where we’re at as artists, and just as people, and kind of show the world a different side of Thompson Square. It’s a very aggressive project, and every song that we wrote for this thing, we didn’t even think about if we’re a married couple or not. We just let everything kind of happen organically. It’s clearly the best selection of songs we’ve ever put together.

Toddstar: That’s a cool insight, because you guys did, on your first two albums, being  a married couple, and the love and all that, was very up-front and very cool and that, but like you said, you kind of took a different turn. This album, the single at least, has a little bit more of a sexy sound to it. Is that intentional, or is that just kind of how it flowed in the organic process you were talking about?

Keifer: Well, it just happened. The record ended up being a much cleaner, much cooler representation of the demo that we did, and on this project we employed Dann Huff. He produced the single as well as the other sides. It just kind of took the whole thing to a different level. The guy is just a good person, he’s a great guy. He’s super talented. He has produced hits for decades, you know? He elevated our sound to a different level, I believe, and allowed us… to try things in the studio with our ideas and with everything else. He welcomed them and implemented them and everything else. What he does, is he lets the artist be the artist and then he tries to make you the best version of yourself that you can be. This song in particular, “Trans Am,” it just happened. We walked in. We wrote the song with Blair Daly and a great producer, Nathan Chapman, who is responsible for a lot of hits. He’s just kind of writing right now. They had the title “Trans Am” when we walked in. We just loved the phonics of that. I think, myself included, every young boy wants a Trans Am as soon as they see Smokey and the Bandit. Or any good movies, you know. It happened really organically and those words just came out. What better way to pay homage to a great car but to compare it to a beautiful woman? It was really cool how it all happened.

Toddstar: Awesome. That being said, with this new vein that you kind of hit, can we still expect that classic Thompson Square feel woven into the album, especially a couple of love songs?

Keifer: Yeah, we still have one of the best ballads that we have ever had on an album. We actually have some that we didn’t write, but one of our girls at our label passed it along to us and just completely floored us. You will be hearing that as well. I don’t want any more than 3 ballads on there, so we are being really selective on those. But I believe we have three right now, and it’s really going to paint the picture of Thompson Square, you know. It’s a new side of Thompson Square anyway, it’s an evolution but it’s not a departure. It’s just a different side of it. I think we have showed growth on both albums so far. And this is just another phase of that. We are definitely not forgetting anything of what brought us to the dance or who we are. It’s still our identity but it’s just amped up a lot. That’s the kind of show that we want. We go out on-stage very energetic and very loud and guitar is reeling you know, and we want this album to reflect our live show, you know? We put a lot of effort into that.

thompsonsquare5b_h_jToddstar: You talk about a live show and I’m very excited. On April 4 2015 we get to see you perform at the Colosseum at Caesar’s in Windsor, Ontario [get your tickets HERE].

Keifer: Yeah.

Toddstar: I believe it’s your first time to the venue.

Keifer: I believe so, yeah.

Toddstar: What’s it like when you hit the stage in a new venue. You are not really out to prove yourself, but you are out to leave a mark knowing who else has been on those stages?

Keifer: I think you pay homage to it internally and you give thanks for being able on the same stage as some great artists but then you just forget about that and you go out and do your thing. You don’t worry about anybody else except for you and the crowd. People come there to see Thompson Square, and we are there to see them and we’re there to have a good time with everybody and that’s it. So I mean, new venue, old venue, new venue’s always breaking new ground and there are certain people who only go to certain venues and stuff, so hopefully we will meet some new Canadians and it’s been awhile since we’ve been up there. We have some great friends in Canada. It’s been a few years since we’ve been up there to see them, but I always love coming up there. You guys love country music and we love you for it.

Toddstar: Here in Detroit we love you guys. I’m going to cross the border to come to this show. With the new disc coming, which I believe is slotted for late spring, is there going be a big tour cycle behind this?

Keifer: Yeah, we’re amping up right now for the tour. To be honest with you, we are starting a little bit late because of the record. It was just that important to us, man to spend time on this record. I think you are going to see it was worth the wait. We’ll still end up doing about the same amount of shows that we did last year; we’re just going to be cramming them into a smaller window. It was just important to get this done. We were supposed to do a Navy entertainment trip over to Iraq and a bunch of places over in the Middle East in February but we couldn’t do that so we are going to… If we did that it was going to push the single back even farther so we are going to do that in the Fall and go see the men and the women in the forces, in the Navy in the fall sometime. So we are kind of getting a late start, but we are going to do all of our own tour this year again. We had so much fun doing our own thing last year. Maybe in the fall we might look at doing a bigger tour and jumping on somebody else’s thing, but we really like doing our own thing. Are you there?

Toddstar: There we got you now.

Keifer: I thought I lost you for a second.

Toddstar: No. You’ve got all kinds of good stuff in the hopper so to speak right now. You just did a collaboration with Blues Traveler I understand.

Keifer: Man that was one of the coolest days ever, man. We just got a call out of the blue from John Popper and his people and I was a huge Blues Traveler fan. That record, man. I mean just, it’s one of the best records that ever came out. I think he’s the Jimi Hendrix of harp playing. For them to call and say, “Hey man, we dig Thompson Square and what you guys do.  We want to write a song on the album with you.” The next thing you know, we hooked up with them not knowing what to expect. We kind of camped at the studio for a couple of days. We ended up writing one song really quick. Ended up writing another one the next day and they came out great, you know. It’s really cool to be able to get out of the country world just for a few minutes and just kind of have fun and play with some different, weird kind of stuff. One of the songs we wrote is called “Matador” which is about the struggles between the music business and the fans. It’s just a really cool way to explain that. Then there’s a great love song on there. It’s very country. John playing harp on there, man. He’s taking it to a whole other level. It was cool; we all became really good friends really quick. They’re just really great people with aero ego, and we were all in Vegas about the same time and we went to their show and got up and sang with them. We took John to the ACM Awards with us and we had a good time, man they’re just really good dudes.

Thompson-SquareToddstar: With that being said, now that you got that out of the way, if there is someone that you could have collaborate on a Thompson’s Square piece with you that you haven’t yet, who would you want to collaborate with?

Keifer: There are so many different people; I mean the list is massive, literally. I think Shawna and I have talked about it, doing something with The Foo Fighters would be amazing. The Black Peas would be amazing. I’d love to have some guitar players on a record… like Slash. The list is endless on things to do; we’d love to collaborate with. Man, I was listening to Jimmy Vaughn yesterday. How cool would that be to do a Blues song with them, or The Black Crowes? It just goes on and on. We have a lot of country influence believe it or not and we actually got to sing on a Merle Haggard record. We have two songs on this Haggard tribute record. To be able to collaborate on that with other artists was amazing. But, to be able to collaborate with Merle Haggard himself would be kind of a top for me. I think it would be a dream come true to be able to do a double duet with Kenny and Dolly. I think that would be absurd. Yeah, the list goes on and on. We have so many influences in music and we just love so many different kinds of music and stuff. So, I mean it just goes on and on.

Toddstar: Well you mentioned Shawna, being a married couple and out on the road together, what’s the easiest part about being on the road together as a married couple?

Keifer: The easiest part is the same as the hardest part. No one understands why it works, because most people you know now that they’re married, some people can’t work with each other, can’t spend so much time with each other. But, for some reason we’re just blessed. I mean it’s been a wonderful experience and we get along really well. We’re getting to live each other’s dream and each other’s dreams be lived out. What could be better than that? We’re very thankful for our lives together and together with music. Whatever happens, you know we decided to be together and that was the most important thing. Once you get your priorities in line, everything else kind of falls into place where it’s supposed to. Things happen for a reason and on their own time table and I think some of our failures have caused us to have some of our biggest successes. We’ve done all that stuff together. We’ve pulled each other through it and so it’s been really great. I can’t complain at all.

Toddstar: Yeah. Being together has got to be the greatest thing. But, for anybody who follows you on social media, Shawna eluded your new girlfriend the other day.

Keifer: Yeah. I told her not to post that, but she did anyway. She doesn’t listen.

Toddstar: What can you tell us about your new Bronco?

Keifer: Oh man, that Bronco is really special to me. We’re huge George Straight fans and huge Dean Dillon fans, which Dean is responsible for half of George’s number ones. Dean Dillon is just an amazing song writer. I mean he… its just crazy. When you write with him, you’re writing with George Straight. He is that guy, you know. That’s what comes out of him and so the first time I got to writing, the first time I sat down for a song; we got to talking and stuff. He’s this huge car buff and way more so than I am. He used to have a shop and stuff and got to talking about the Broncos and old Scouts. I said, “Man, I’ve wanted an old Bronco ever since I can remember.” So, he took that away from the writing session and started looking for me one. He actually found one just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. He called me and said, “Hey man, I found you a Bronco.” I said, “What are you doing shopping for a Bronco for me?” So, he found it and thought that it might be a really good base to work off of. I said, “Dean, I don’t have time to go out and get it, man. We’re just… we’re slammed.” So, I mean I had even known Dean hardly any time at all and he loaded up his car hauler onto his dually and drove to Little Rock, Arkansas and got that thing for me. Brought it back to Nashville and I took it to this one guy to start the work on it. He screwed it up and took me for some money and he’s closed his shop down. I got kind of screwed on that deal and then we ended up taking it to a place called A-1 Customs; he’s one of the best in the business in this country. I had that vehicle for almost, maybe two years, a little over two years, and driven it maybe three times in the very beginning. It’s been under the knife ever since. But, we finally finished it up the other day and took it out to the house and stuff. I’ve been enjoying the crap out of it, you know. It’s a 1971, got the 302 in it and everything. I absolutely love that style of Bronco. I’ve wanted one of those since I was a little kid as well. So, it was kind of like a little dream come true for me. But, it means a lot to me that actually I got that, you know Dean went out there and picked it up for me. So, that makes it even better.

1092491380221273411Toddstar: Sure. I know you’re a busy man, so I’ve got one more for you if you don’t mind.

Keifer: Yeah.

Toddstar: With everything going on, you know you had a storied career in the last five years. Awards from ACM and CMA. You’ve had platinum and gold singles, which in this day and age is almost unheard of.

Keifer: Yeah, it’s getting harder and harder.

Toddstar: It is, isn’t it? Yeah, it just seems like music is so disposable. But, you know you guys are already proving that you’ve got the goods. But, with what you’ve done in the last five years, looking back, what are a couple things that you’re most proud of, either professionally or personally and that you want to be remembered for?

Keifer: I think the thing I’m most proud of is me and Shawna’s relationship through all that. We’ve been… unknowingly we’ve been an example to a lot of couples, a lot of young people who are looking for that guy or that girl, you know. We’ve had a lot of people get engaged at our shows. We’ve had… our songs are like a soundtrack to a wedding and have been at multiple weddings. But, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You” and “Glass,” are songs that’s getting played at weddings and stuff. So, I’m just really proud of all that stuff. I’m extremely proud of the rewards that we’ve won. Something that we never even really considered being able to achieve. I think mostly I’m proud of the organization that we’ve put together. We’ve got a bunch of great guys out here on the road. There’s no egos, everybody’s a family and it’s just… it’s that kind of stuff, man that will make these days, you know worth their weight in gold later on when they become memories and you know, it’s just we have a lot of fun out here. We’ve always put our relationship first above everything else. I think that’s something in this day and age, definitely. We’re very honored to have sold as many songs as we have. It is getting harder and harder every day because people are streaming and everything else and not realizing what we’re doing to ourselves. I mean streaming services and Pandora and Spotify and all that stuff is killing our business at an alarming rate. I think it’s sad because the consumers, they don’t understand what it’s doing to the song writers, and what it’s doing to artists, but more the song writers. I could preach about this for days, but it is disposable. I mean these are creations. These are works of art. These are paintings and they’re just being utilized for free. You can only work for free for so long. This has put a lot of song writers out of business. Getting paid to be a song writer in Nashville is down by 80 percent. Hopefully, I’d love to see either it go away or it become monetized in some version that… I mean these companies are making billions of dollars on advertising and everything else. None of it is tricking down to the song writers. So, I know the song writers are the least popular person when it comes to music. But, if it wasn’t for them, man, we wouldn’t have songs. I’m a huge advocate for that. Hopefully we get back to buying singles and stuff. We’ve gone from an album society to a single society and now you know it seems like a dollar s too much now too. It’s just crazy. Shawna and I buy everything. We always have and always will.

Toddstar: I’m with you there. I love to have that piece of plastic in my hand. I like to read the liner notes. I like to get that feel. I just like that.

Keifer: Yeah. You know, I do too and even downloading it, I’m fine with that. We download tons, but we pay for it. You know that’s just the difference. It’s a different world we live in. But hopefully the education process will be out there even farther and our hardcore fans are always going to buy our music and support us. Without spending that dollar, it’s really, I mean you can’t do shows at the scale you want to. You can’t travel where you want to and everything else. That stuff feeds this whole machine, you know so it’s not that we’re trying to get rich. We’re trying to… you know people working for a living. I mean you know when you’re spending you know literally tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce albums and then everyone streams it, no one buys it. I mean you can go out of business pretty quick. It’s happened to a lot of people and I hate that.

Toddstar: Sure. I’m thinking when you’re here in Windsor April 4th, at the Colosseum inside Caesar, maybe we can do a shot of Jack and talk about this in length because this is a subject that is dear to my heart.

Keifer: Yeah, it sure is. All right, man well that sounds good.

Toddstar: All right, brother. Well here’s hoping that “Trans-Am” takes off and it’s your next platinum single and I cannot wait to see you next Saturday, again at The Colosseum inside Caesars in Windsor.

Keifer: Awesome. Thank you, man. Good to talk to you.

Toddstar: All right, Keifer. Talk to you soon.

Keifer: All right. Bye-bye.







Photos by: Anthony Baker

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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