With a new baby joining the Thompson Square family, husband and wife Keifer and Shawna Thompson decided to introduce him in a video for their new single, “You Make It Look So Good.” It’s a very cute, black-and-white iMovie starring their 4-month-old son that they shot themselves as a follow-up to the official video.
“We thought it would be fun to promote the single a bit,” says Keifer Thompson. “It turned out real good. Everyone thinks it’s the official video.”
A return to form for the multiplatinum-selling country duo, “You Make It Look So Good” showcases their passionate, soaring vocals over distinctive, melodic guitar licks. It’s the first single from their third studio album, which they are currently in the midst of recording.
“It’s coming along really well,” he says. “We’re still working on it and hopefully we will get some time off in October to get back in the studio and finish it up.”
Recording with acclaimed producer Nathan Chapman, who has worked with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, the husband and wife tried something new in the studio.
“Nathan Chapman had a thought, ‘You guys sing live all the time, why don’t we get rid of the headphones and all the fancy stuff and put two microphones together.'” Thompson says. “We literally stared at each other and sang and it was done. It was a really cool experience.”
With the new album featuring primarily their original songs, Thompson says they picked “You Make It Look So Good,” (composed by some of Nashville’s finest) for their latest single because it fit their style so well.
“It was such a great song, a perfect song for a perfect time for us,” he says.
Of their new songs, Thompson reports he’s excited about all of them.
“If we’re not excited about it, we don’t record it. Sometimes you get into situations with your label where they want you to record songs you’re not necessarily excited about, but it’s usually not the case with us.”
As far as themes, he says, “The main thing we’re exploring is just honesty with us embracing the fact that we’re a married couple in country music. It’s a lot of relationship appropriate kind of stuff, even if it’s edgy and rocking, whatever the production might be.”
Crowned Vocal Duo of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in both 2012 and 2013, Thompson Square’s mix of country, pop and classic rock has earned them broad popularity.
Both musicians grew up with a passion for country.
“Everything was rooted in traditional country music,” he explains. “For me it was (Merle) Haggard, Elvis, Roger Miller, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, all the greats. As I got older, I discovered rock ‘n’ roll and fell in love with it. My influences are country and rock with a pop flair. Shawna grew up on stone-cold country, too, Reba (McEntire), Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless. She knows her way around old-school country music.”
The two musicians met the first week they had both moved to Nashville, at a songwriting competition. It was love at first sight. They tried pursuing solo careers, but after a few years, they decided to pair up and formed Thompson Square with Shawna singing vocals and Keifer playing guitar and singing vocals.
“We started dating for three years, and then we were married for three years doing our individual things,” he explains. “Then we decided we wanted to be together with music as well, so that’s why we joined forces and became Thompson Square. That’s when everything started happening for us.”
Choosing a band name was tough, he recalls.
“It was one of the hardest things,” he says.” “There’s two of us so it actually started out Squared and at some point we dropped the d.”
Were there other names that didn’t quite work?
“We were Runaway Gypsy for a while,” he reveals. “There were a whole slew of names. It’s the hardest thing to name your band.”
In the summer of 2010, the two released their single, “Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not.” It became the Thompsons’ first No. 1 hit, sold double-platinum and became iTunes Country Song of the Year.
What was it like for them suddenly having a massive hit?
“It’s an unreal feeling because I had never had a dream come true,” he says. “It’s bittersweet when you reach a goal like that, in the fact that you have all this hunger and drive to get there and once you get there you have to reevaluate what you’re doing and your goals. Personally I go into a kind of depressive state every time I reach a massive goal like that. Once you chase the rabbit down, it’s like now what do I do? You just set more goals.”
More hits for the band followed with the upbeat love song “I Got You,” from its self-titled debut album. For the accompanying video, the pair dressed up like pop legends Sonny & Cher. Their own song had reminded them of Sonny & Cher’s classic and they thought it would be fun to spoof the duo’s TV variety show.
“That was the most fun we’ve ever had with a video and it actually won an award,” he says. “It was a brilliant video.”
A year after the album’s release, they were recognized as the Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards.
Thompson Square’s fifth single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in May 2013. It served as the lead single to their second album, “Just Feels Good.” A USA Today review praised how the “songs play like a rom-com with dual narrators. They’ve got all the elements – meet-cutes, separation, obstacles and a happy ending – plus a soundtrack that mixes ’70s- rock guitar with mandolin and pedal steel.” And Country Weekly declared: “It’s no surprise the music is upbeat and positive. It’s a great soundtrack for summer.”
Known as T2 to their fans, success continued with hits like “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About,” which became their fourth Top 10 hit. And in 2013, the duo again won Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2013 Academy of Country Music Awards.
With hints of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Southern rock, the duo released the turbo-charged single “Trans Am” in 2015. Celebrating the iconic American car, this rocking, guitar-fueled song reflects their energetic, more up-tempo live shows.
In between their own albums, the duo has contributed to “Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard,” which featured a collection of contemporary country artists singing the icon’s songs. And, last year they appeared on Blues Traveler’s album “Blow up the Moon,” co-writing the songs “Matador” and “I Can Still Feel You.”
“They asked us to write a song for their anniversary record and we wrote two and they both made the record,” Thompson notes. “We just played Red Rocks with them and it was just amazing.”
Fleetwood’s on Front St.’s fourth anniversary celebration continues with the return of the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, featuring Rick Vito on guitar and vocals, performing in the Lahaina restaurant at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The Blues Band will hit the road in September and October, traveling through Colorado, including the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, California and Washington, and ending in Victoria, Canada.
As part of Fleetwood’s celebration, on Aug. 9 Willie K performed with Mick Fleetwood and the Houseshakers to a packed crowd. Special guests showing up to play included rocker Sammy Hagar and Questlove, drummer with the Roots.
Hagar delivered rousing versions of Freddie King’s “Going Down” and Robert Johnson’s classic “Crossroads.”
“He killed it,” says Houseshakers bassist Lenny Castellanos. “It was a lot of fun.” Questlove’s contribution included drumming on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
* For ticket information, call 669-6425.
The Roots’ drummer continued his vacation on Maui by presenting an epic, surprise DJ show at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia on Aug. 10. Questlove, a Grammy-winning musician, is acclaimed not only for his work with the Roots, who perform nightly on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” but also as a producer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ.
“It was phenomenal,” says Brendon Smith of Requests’ Music. “He played nonstop from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. His set was insane, every genre. Other DJs there were amazed at his combinations and overlays.”
Questlove played everything from New Orleans brass and electronica to Britney Spears, and threw in some rare Prince alternative versions.