Thompson Square … unplugs
Multi-award-winning country-music duo serenades with acoustic show
Most Wednesday evenings you can find husband and wife Keifer and Shawna Thompson on Facebook hosting “WinoWednesday,” where fans are encouraged to join them in sipping some wine and sending in requests, which the duo perform live.
“We sit around and have some wine and talk to everybody and play some songs,” Keifer explains. “It’s real low key and everyone has a good time. We talk to 100,000 people or so. It’s a fun way to connect with fans. We try to do it every week. ‘WinoWednesday’ is becoming a thing.”
Recent segments have ranged from Kenny Rogers’ “Islands in the Stream,” Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise,” to Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and new songs, “Let’s Do Something Stupid” and “Masterpiece,” from their forthcoming album.
Known for hit songs, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not,” “If I Didn’t Have You” and “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About,” Thompson Square will bring its “This Is Us” acoustic show to the Castle Theater in Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
To celebrate the opening of their new tour, the popular country duo released a cool acoustic cover of U2’s “With or Without You.”
“Having an acoustic tour right now was kind of the inspiration,” he says. “Shawna at some point would like to record an entire album of acoustic covers of songs that meant something to us growing up. That song helped me through some adolescent years, as did a lot of U2 songs.”
While the duo has played many stadiums and arenas, they chose to play smaller theaters on the latest tour offering an intimate, unplugged approach.
“Shawna and I started Thompson Square playing acoustic music,” he says. “I wish I could see all my favorite artists in an acoustic setting. For us, it was something we’ve always loved to listen to. It’s very loose and a lot of fun.”
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.
Shawna was raised in Alabama, while Keifer was born in Oklahoma. Growing up with a passion for country, the musicians met the first week they had both moved to Nashville, connecting at a songwriting competition a few days later. It was love at first sight.
In the summer of 2010, the duo released “Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not.” It became the Thompson’s first No. 1hit, sold double-platinum and was declared iTunes Country Song of the Year. More hits for the band followed with the upbeat love song, “I Got You,” from their self-titled debut album.
Thompson Square’s single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in May 2013. It served as the lead song 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.”
With hints of Lynard Skynard’s Southern rock, the duo released the turbo-charged single “Trans Am” in 2015.
In between their own albums, the duo have contributed to “Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard,” and they appeared on Blues Traveler’s album “Blow up the Moon,” co-writing the songs “Matador” and “I Can Still Feel You.”
In June, the duo parted ways with their longtime label, Stoney Creek Records, and began working in the studio with Grammy Award-winning producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum).
“We asked to get out of our label and they let us out,” Kiefer reports. “Shawna felt it was time to move on. It had run its course. We had a great career there. We went right into the studio and started recording our third album and we’re practically done. We’ll start dropping songs the first of the year. It’s been so inspiring to do it on our own. We’ve been able to make the record we’ve always wanted to make, and live or die by it.
“I want people to hear this record and go, ‘it’s a lot better than a lot of stuff out there — I’ve got to have it.’ It’s always been tough to stand out. One thing for me and Shawna is we’ve stood out a bit because there are no other married duos. Everyone is trying to wave their hand a little bit higher than the next guy. The only thing you can do is to try and make your music better than everybody else. That’s our goal.”
Willie K and the Warehouse Blues Band had folks “Dancing in the Street” to the Motown classic at Makawao’s Third Friday town party. The Maui legend closed his set with his signature “Katchi Katchi Music Makawao” which segued into an amazing Hendrix- flavored take on the opera aria “Nessun Dorma,” and an encore of Journey’s “Faithfully.”
Ram Dass will host his 12th annual Thanksgiving Satsang program on Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Makawao Union Church. This annual event serves as a food drive for the Maui Food Bank commemorating a week of “giving thanks.”
This year features special guest Krishna Das with a program that will include traditional Indian music, kirtan chanting, meditation and a dialogue between Ram Dass and Krishna Das.
The event also features Monsoon India restaurant serving an Indian dinner buffet in the church’s community hall. Participants are encouraged to bring boxed/canned food donations for the Maui Food Bank.
Grammy-nominated Das will also hold an “enCHANTing” evening of kirtan on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Makawao Union Church. Known throughout the world as a kirtan leader, The New York Times called him, “a charismatic figure with a fascinating life, an unusual art and worldwide fans.”
His latest CD, “Trust in the Heart,” was recorded live in the studio, with accompanying musicians including former Pat Metheny bassist Mark Egan.
“The words of these chants are called the divine names and they come from a place that’s deeper than our hearts and our thoughts, deeper than the mind,” he says. “And so as we sing them, they turn us towards ourselves, into ourselves.”
He will be joined on Maui by David Nichtern (guitar), Arjun Bruggeman (tabla), Genevieve Walker (violin), Mark Gorman (bass), and Nina Rao (backing vocals).
Nichtern is an acclaimed songwriter and record producer. A four-time Emmy Award-winner and two-time Grammy-nominated composer, he is widely known for his classic song, “Midnight at the Oasis” made popular by Maria Muldaur. Over the years he has collaborated with a range of artists including Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Garcia, Lana Del Rey and Chaka Khan. He played with Garcia in the Great American String Band along with Taj Mahal.
* Advance tickets are $30 cash for each event, available at Maui Kombucha in Haiku, MacNet in Kahului, Monsoon India restaurant in Kihei, Island Spirit Yoga in Lahaina, or online at www.krishnadas.com. Admission at the door is $40 cash only.
With Christmas approaching, the Maui Choral Arts Association presents its “Happy Holly- Jolly Days” at 3 p.m. Sunday in the MACC’s Castle Theater.
Directed by Gary Leavitt, a chorus of around 100 talented singers will celebrate the holiday season with their annual concert accompanied by pianist Lotus Dancer, Cheryl Lindley on cello, and Peter Della Croce on percussion.
* Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, go to the box office, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org.
Louise Lambert presents her annual “Beatles Sing-Along” at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Musicians joining Lambert include Steve Craig and the House Shakers. The audience is encouraged to sing along to their Beatle favorites.
* Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Mulligans, Bounty Music in Kahului, Lahaina Music, Mandala in Paia and Chez Fifi Boutique in Kihei.
Internationally renowned pianist Nadejda Vlaeva will present a concert of Beethoven, Liszt and Bortkiewicz at the Makawao Union Church Sanctuary Friday at 7:30 pm.
The Bulgarian-born musician has performed internationally, giving solo recitals and concerto performances throughout Europe and North America. Her major awards include first prize at the Liszt competition in Lucca, Italy, and third prize at the International Liszt Competition in Budapest, Hungary. Her recording of Chopin works for piano and orchestra was praised for its extraordinary beauty in International Record Review.
A $10 (cash only) minimum donation at the door is requested.