To the casual observer, husband-and-wife duo Thompson Square have not experienced much disappointment in their career to date. The pair emerged into country-fan consciousness at large in 2010, with their remarkably successful/infectious hit “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.” The tune went on to sell more than a million downloads, with a hot debut album and a string of rapid-fire award nominations following.
The couple found themselves in the unique position of jumping from award-shows’ new artist category (the 2011 Country Music Association Awards) to the actual artist-proper slot (the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards–which they won)–in the space of less than six months. After scoring the ACM win, Thompson Square landed Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2012 CMAs–again, not much more than a few months later.
“From the very beginning when we signed with our small label we were told that you’re never going to win anything,” Keifer Thompson notes of the period, which also included two Grammy nominations and a formidable string of other industry recognition. “I tell you, the, when you hear and the winner is…and then your name following…that is nothing short of amazing. It’s hard to compare to anything just ’cause I’ve never felt that way.”
Indeed, the couple’s seemingly overnight rise to fame was actually a considerable time in the making. Working as separate musicians doing the usual Nashville circuit (they married in 1999) the Thompsons finally decided to join forces, which–naturally–became the catalyst for their eventual fast-track.
“I was playing guitar for other artists and she was doing her thing,” Keifer explains. “Thompson Square was formed out of the need and the desire to want to be together and do music. So in order to do both of those things we formed Thompson Square and that’s kind of when everything started happening. Maybe we should have done it a long time ago,” he deadpans.
Following all of the excitement, of course, the duo was faced with the daunting task of releasing their second album, Just Feels Good, on the heels of “everything happening.” Keifer notes that just about everything involved with this has been, as he puts it, “intimidating.”
“We were really focused on the writing of the second album,” Shawna explains. “We knew what we needed for it. We needed some uptempos and some party songs, along with the ballads and stuff that we love to sing. [We wrote] four of the songs on there, and then the ones that we picked from outside–every one of those songs have some personal meaning to us. This record, I think, is a lot more Thompson Square than the first one if that’s possible to say.”
Keifer agrees. “It’s just the record we wanted to make,” he says. “The first one kind of introduced us as a sound, and this one’s going to introduce us as people. A really introspective look as to who we are now, and a little snapshot–cross-section, if you will–of our life, and over the past three years what we’ve learned.”
One important lesson the couple has learned is how to maintain their 14-year marriage in the midst of a crazy, demanding schedule. “We’re better friends and better people,” Keifer relates, but admits that the two don’t have much time for themselves lately.
Shawna agrees, but notes that they do try to fit recreation as a couple in wherever they can. “Keifer has a motorcycle and we go out and we ride the motorcycle to get away from things. And we both love going to the movies so that’s a big stress-reliever.”
“We like to fish and hunt, so when we have time to do that, we do,” adds Keifer. However,”There’s no compartments in our life, so it’s all kind of mashed up. Downtime could be in the back lounge, laying in bed watching a movie or something…you just have to kind of find those moments when you can.”
“But to be honest with you, it’s been, it’s been a couple years since we’ve actually had some time to take off. So that’s why this year we really scaled back on how many shows we’re doing–so we could get back to normal a little bit.”
The pursuit of balance is admirable, but both artists have no problem admitting that what they most love is working together. “I think our relationship is a lot healthier now, just because we’re doing what we absolutely love to do,” says Shawna.
“She’s my favorite female singer,” smiles Keifer.