Thompson Square couple hit right notes; Ribfest appearance near
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media June 23, 2012 10:39PM
Keifer and Shawna Thompson, of the group Thompson Square, pose for a portrait in Los Angeles. | AP
When: 7 p.m. July 2
Where: Knoch Park, 724 S. West St., Naperville
How much: Tickets, $10-$15; free for 11 and under
Phone: (630) 779-2702
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:23AM
Keifer and Shawna Thompson have been a couple as long as they’ve been bandmates.
It’s a professional and personal union that has worked spectacularly well for them.
Country duo Thompson Square had a huge year in 2011 and isn’t slowing down any. You can see them at Ribfest at 7 p.m. July 2.
Their Platinum-certified hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” was iTunes’ Country Song of the Year and was nominated for two Grammy awards.
In all, Thompson Square was nominated for 14 industry awards in 2011; including an American Music Award nomination for New Artist of the Year; two 2011 CMA Awards nominations for Best New Artist and Vocal Duo of the Year and two CMT Music Awards nominations.
In 2012, Thompson Square dethroned superstars Sugarland to become the Academy of Country Music’s Vocal Duo of the Year. In doing so, they became the first new act in 20 years to do so.
But don’t call them an overnight success story. Although their debut self-titled album seemingly shot out of nowhere, Thompson Square has been quietly plugging away in the Nashville music scene for more than a decade.
They moved there within the same week, meeting at a singing competition a few days after hitting town. (Keifer is from Miami, Okla.; Shawna is from Chatom, Ala.).
The couple briefly toyed with solo careers before deciding it made more sense to go it together. In 2009, a manager caught their act in a club, and before they knew it they were signed to Stoney Creek Records.
“Nothing that takes 16 years feels overnight,” Keifer Thompson said. “The past year has been very surreal and extremely fast-paced, but it took us the better part of our lives to get to this point. It doesn’t feel like an overnight success, but we’re very fortunate to be where we’re at.”
They have been married for 13 years, and dated three years before they got married. So how do they make it work, being in a band with their spouse?
Find the right person to marry, he said bluntly.
“We understand it doesn’t work for a whole lot of people, being with your spouse 24 hours a day, but it just works for us,” he said. “I’ve been asked that question 10,000 times and I wish I had a better answer for it. I feel that we married the person we were supposed to marry and that’s why it works so well.”
Being married to your bandmate definitely has its advantages, he said.
“You get to experience the same dream together and you get to watch the other person succeed and you get to live your lives together,” he said. “A lot of couples who are doing this and one stays home … we were out almost 300 dates year. That (absence) takes a toll on a lot of marriages.”
The worst parts are “being exhausted all time” and, surprisingly, not getting any alone time, he said. Fortunately, they are at a point in their career where they can have a separate tour bus for the band, he said.
“You’re always together, but you’re always working,” he said. “It’s very time consuming, but this is something we dreamed about our whole lives. It’s an awesome way to live it.”
They have disagreements as any married couple would. Giving some insight into their relationship in a series of short films on YouTube called “Married to the Music,” Shawna describes her husband’s approach to laundry.
“He’s really good about washing clothes. But he’ll gather the clothes and put them in the washing machine and in the dryer. But he won’t put them back up. He just puts them in the basket,” she says. “Keifer would say he does 95 percent of the housework. But that’s not the case.”
When it comes to the songwriting side of the business, they share the duties. It helps that they both grew up listening to old country.
“I think my voice kind of fools people that I’m a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll than she is she, and I probably am, to a certain extent,” he said. “As far as songwriting goes, we get together and just write from your heart and from what’s going on. I don’t think anyone sets out to write a hit. You just write what comes to you. You hope the song speaks for itself and that it’s good enough to get on the radio.”
Naperville audiences should expect to have a good time at their Ribfest performance, he said.
“We definitely like to rock out. It’s definitely more of a country-rock vibe,” he said. “It’s not a boring, stand in one spot and watch us sing love songs to each other kind of show. That’s not us anyways. We don’t do that in real life so why would we do it onstage? We just like to have fun and as long as the crowd’s into it … hopefully they will have a good time and rock out with us.”
Thompson Square is on tour for the remainder of the year, and is simultaneously working on a new record and are shooting for a spring 2013 release.
“We’re really looking forward to getting new music out there,” he said.
Are children in the couple’s future?
“Not in the immediate future,” he said. “We’re so busy with this and both of us doing it — there’s no way in the world. I don’t want a nanny to raise my kids and Shawna doesn’t either. We’ll know when we get there.”
Thompson Square is nominated for Choice Country Group at the Teen Choice Awards airing July 22 on Fox.
They are also partnering with Purina Dog Chow to promote the Patriot Rover program. Post a picture of your dog on the company’s Facebook page and Purina will donate $1 to the program, which provides service animals to wounded warriors, he said.
“We’re also involved with a company called Child Fund International,” he said. “We’ve been doing this all year long, getting kids from third-world countries sponsored through monthly donations at our shows.”