Thompson Square has topped the charts with emotionally charged love songs. Their singles, “Are you Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” and “If I Didn’t Have You,” helped launch their career as a country music duo, and this summer, with their new single “Trans Am,” the pair gives listeners a taste of their new sound. While their latest album isn’t a complete departure from their career-defining, duet-style songs, they do explore a fresh, fun sound that showcases a different side. Today, we introduce you to the female half of the talented twosome: Shawna Thompson, today’s FACES of the South.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a really, really small … it isn’t even a town … it’s basically a community in Alabama. It is called Chatom, and it’s almost on the border of Mississippi. Chatom is a quiet, quaint place, and it was really fun to grow up there. My mom still lives there, but I don’t visit as much as I like to since we are on the road so much. If we do visit, it is usually in the fall. That is usually our off time. Keifer and I will take our tent and our four-wheelers, and we will spend the night back in the field behind the house and just enjoy the outdoors.
What do you miss about living in such a small town?
Everybody helps everybody out. It’s the small stuff. If you break down on the side of the road, someone is right there to help you. In our community, if anyone got sick or if someone passed away, you always had the support. We were all like family; we were all so close.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a country music star.
It is a long one! We have been in Nashville for almost 20 years. I moved right out of high school … my parents were super supportive, which I am so thankful for. They let me move to Nashville and pursue music. I was here about a week before I met Keifer at a singing competition at this bar called Nashville Nightlife. We have been together ever since that night! We connected as friends first and got married three years later and just celebrated 16 years in May. We were working on individual things in our music and nothing really worked out, so we decided to do some things together and things started happening for us.
Of all the places you have played, which is your favorite?
The Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman, where we had our debut. We always heard stories about the energy in the room that just makes you nervous. I hardly ever get nervous, but that night, right before they announced our names, I immediately got cotton mouth and starting freaking out a little bit … just because of the history of the place. It was pretty incredible; it was a great night.
You recently went on tour with Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. What is your dream lineup for a tour?
Oh, wow. Well, we have been super fortunate to tour with the biggest acts in country music. For my dream lineup, I would probably throw it back a little bit … Keifer and I are super influenced by traditional country, even though we might not sound traditional. Both of us love Merle Haggard, and that would be very cool to open for Merle Haggard.
With your new song release in early summer and an album coming out this fall, do you ever have time to relax?
Well, actually, Keifer and I just took a five-day vacation, which we had not had in about, I don’t know, 15 years. We went to Mexico and spent five days in Cancun. It was so relaxing and so nice. When we are home, we just enjoy—as simple as it sounds—just binge-watching some shows we have missed out on. I am trying to catch up on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and Keifer loves “Sons of Anarchy,” so we watch that. We love going to the movies, things that most people might take for granted.
How do you feel like “Trans Am,” your new song, differs from past hits? Do you feel like your music is taking a new direction?
It is definitely something new for us. We started writing for this album, and we wanted to write songs that we felt would perform well live. When you go to a concert, you want to have a good time; you want it to be a party, and we had that in mind when we were writing. I think “Trans Am” is a really good indicator for the fans of what the album will sound like. There will still be some of the “old school” Thompson Square on there—the duets and the love songs. We wanted to also have some songs that are just fun and not as serious.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and who gave it to you?
That would definitely be from my [late] dad. When I first moved to Nashville, I was scared to death and was 18 years old. Moving from such a small community, I was worried that people weren’t going to accept who I was and how I talked; my accent was thick, and I was pretty country. He just always told me, “Just be yourself, and if they like you, they like you, and if they don’t, they don’t.”
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Making my parents proud, because they have always been so supportive, especially my dad. He was a fellow musician, and I feel like he was living his dream vicariously through me. The fact that he got to see me succeed and see me play the Opry is so fulfilling for me.
Who would be on your dinner party playlist?
Shelby Lynne, Harry Connick Jr. and the Alabama Shakes
A lot is happening in the music industry with Apple Music, the outspoken Taylor Swift and the recent topic of women as the “tomato” on the country music salad. What is your take on the current state of affairs in the country music industry?
Country music is bigger than ever right now. To me, it feels like the biggest genre that there is. I heard someone say the other day that “country music is American music.” One cool thing right now, with the current generation, is people listen to a lot of different genres. Keifer and I listen to everything … country music is strong right now, and I am really proud to be part of the country family. I feel like when given the chance … like Kelsea Ballerini—I am so happy for her … if girls were given a little bit more of an opportunity, we would see them on the radio. They are not given a shot like everyone else, and that is sad. But it can be done; she did it. For young women coming up in the industry, just keep playing away at it … keep trying. If you quit, you will never know. Keep trying, keep writing and hold your craft. If it is good enough, it will get people’s attention. You just can’t give up.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
A dog or pet. There is something about that unconditional love they give you. Preferably a dog. I am not big cat person. My iPod. Not having music in my life would be a really sad place. Mascara. A girl’s gotta have mascara. That is the one thing, if I am at home and do not want to do the whole makeup thing, I just put some mascara on.
Thanks, Shawna, for giving our readers a glimpse into your life. We look forward to hearing the new album in its entirety this fall!