May 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm , by Ron Kelly
They may have just been crowned the Academy of Country Music’s Vocal Duo of the Year, but Thompson Square certainly flexed some potential Entertainer of the Year muscle when they visited us here at Ladies’ Home Journal a few weeks ago. Shawna and Keifer Thompson not only impressed the room with an intimate, stripped-down set of their hits (be sure to check out the video after the jump), but they also earned an instant, easy rapport with the staff and kept us all in stitches with their hilarious stories and banter. (One coworker enthusiastically emailed me her review after their performance: “It was like a 2-for-1 show—music and comedy!”)
Still, when the husband-wife act landed in Las Vegas last month for the ACMs, they were—to hear them tell it—feeling like long shots. “You’re going up against Sugarland and they’re kind of like the new Brooks & Dunn,” explains Keifer, giving props to the two acts that have dominated the Vocal Duo category since 1991. “We’ve been around a couple of years, but it’s really just been a year and a half that we’ve been in the thick of things. We figured it might take us four more years to even get close.” But luck proved to be a lady—and her husband—that fateful night: T2 hit the country music jackpot and became the first new act to take top honors in the duo category in 20 years.
“It’s hard to process all that’s happening. Just hearing you introduce us in there and saying we’re the Vocal Duo of the Year, it’s weird. It’s a strange feeling,” Shawna admits. “I kind of compare it to getting married,” Keifer adds. “You think you’re gonna have this amazing feeling come over you, like, ‘Oh, we’re married, and this is what it feels like when you’re married.’ But it doesn’t work that way. It probably took us 10 years for us to finally feel like a married couple. And that’s how all of this feels. None of it feels real. It’s truly a dream come true.”
While Keifer and Shawna remain incredibly humble, the award is far from being undeserved. Their breakthrough single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” was the most played song on country radio in 2011 and they’ve taken home three American Country Award wins plus multiple Grammy and CMA nominations in the past year. And in a few weeks they’ll be vying for two CMT Music Awards, with a double nomination (for both “I Got You” and “Glass,” their latest release) in the Duo Video of the Year category.
“We don’t have any kids but I’d imagine it’d be harder to say that one’s better than the other,” says Shawna, finding it difficult to play favorites with her video creations. Keifer is equally as torn, but ultimately does reveal a preference. “I thought ‘I Got You’ was a brilliant video. [Director] Wes Edwards did a fantastic job of putting that whole thing together and it was so different,” he says. “ ‘Glass’ is our new single and you want that one to win, too, but from an aspect of what deserves to win? ‘I Got You.’ Hands down.”
Whether they come out on top at the awards show, a win is definitely headed fans’ way when the duo heads back into the studio later this month to work on new music for their next CD. “We actually got about 16 things demo’d and we’re going to start to put some tracks down in preproduction,” Keifer says, noting that there will be a more diverse range of material on the new album than on the first. “We’re gonna have some really beautiful ballads, which we don’t really have on the current album—except for ‘Glass.’ We were just really scared about being pigeonholed with that whole ‘hokey married couple’ thing on the first record.”
The CD will still be rockin’, though, Shawna promises, proving she’s learned some lessons on the road from all of the extensive touring T2 has done. (Currently, T2 is opening for the red-hot Lady Antebellum Own the Night tour.) “It’s hard when you’re a new artist to go out and play new songs for people that aren’t familiar with you,” Shawna explains, “so it’s important to have some energy. When fans come to our show, they’re going to hopefully have a good time and rock out with us.”
For now, you can rock out with Thompson Square by viewing their fun-filled LHJ performance after the jump. You’ll also find some highly entertaining bonus interview moments, in which I get their he said/she said take on everything from KISS-ing on the ACM red carpet, what drives them nuts about each other and why Keifer may start following Blake Shelton’s lead on Twitter.
Shawna and Keifer on the recent two-year anniversary of the Nashville floods and how the city responded.
She says: Nashville just came together. Being a musician is almost like being part of a sorority or a fraternity: Everybody just kind of looks out for each other. I think that was a big part of Nashville getting back on its feet.
He says: It’s an extension of your family. It really is. That was definitely a test of its will and character, and Nashville definitely showed the world what it was made of. It wasn’t like, “Will you help us? Will you help us?” It was just, like, done. It just got done.
Shawna and Keifer on being a couple act in the world of country music.
He says: I love being in the duo category. When we do the Opry, they put us in the duets room so you’ve got pictures of Johnny Cash and June, and Porter and Dolly. Everybody. It’s awesome, man.
She says: The first time we performed at the Opry and they put us in there, we were both very emotional, seeing those pictures on the wall.
Shawna and Keifer on how the song “Glass” made it’s way to them.
She says: Somebody at the label played that for us and the demo was originally a male song. Keifer tried it, and we played around with it at the house to see if it would work for us. We have to do that with different keys and stuff like that, just because of the harmonies and everything. And it didn’t seem like it was flowing very well with him singing it so he was, like, “Why don’t you try it?”
He says: I liked it much better when we switched it.
She says: So we went into the studio and recorded it and we just felt like it’d be a really good way to introduce my voice. On the first two singles, it’s primarily Keifer. “Kiss Me or Not” is the Keifer show, as he likes to say, and “Glass” is the Shawna show …
He says: [teasing] Just like you like it.
Shawna and Keifer on why they shot two videos for their latest release “Glass.”
He says: We don’t agree on anything and she wanted to do a black-and-white one and I wanted to do a color one. So instead of fighting about it, we just shot two.
She says: It seemed like the easiest thing to do.
Keifer: They’re vastly different.
She says: Just the mood is different.
He says: I like the way that [director] Wes [Edwards] shot the color video. I just really like Wes. He’s such a great guy and he put so much effort into it. The other video I do like, too. It’s very intimate but one-dimensional to me.
She says: It’s very classic looking.
Shawna and Keifer on what real-life gripes about one another didn’t make it into their song “As Bad As It Gets.”
She says: Oh, there’s so many! There’s one I talk about onstage every night before we do that song: Keifer is notorious for leaving the cabinet doors in the kitchen open when he goes in for a bowl or a plate or something. And I have to go around and shut them. It’s not even just the cabinets, it’s the drawers. Like, he’ll go in for a spoon, so you walk in and it’s, like, “What is going on in here?”.
He says: (Sighs.) It’s such a terrible thing. (pauses) We didn’t talk about you being a slob.
She says: I’m pretty messy. I’m not going to argue with you on that.
He says: There’s just stuff everywhere, man. My side of the room, 99% of the time is very clean and you can see the floor. My bedside table is dusted and everything is where it should be. And in my closet, all the shoes are arranged a certain way, all my clothes are up. And you can’t even open the door of the closet because all of her crap is just, like, it’s just like … it’s like she’s a hoarder! It’s terrible. It drives me friggin’ nuts, man.
She says: Well, the problem is we don’t have enough room to store everything and be organized.
He says: No, no, no, no, no, no. The problem is you don’t pick up.
She says: I don’t. I go in the closet and I’ll find an outfit and then I’ll be, like, I don’t want to wear that. And then I’ll just kind of throw it.
He says: And it carries over to take out food.
She says: (big guilty laugh)
He says: You get something to go and you leave that crap out. Like, she had some spaghetti the other day and I was gonna see how long that bowl would sit there with spaghetti in it.
She says: Oh, Keif!
He says: It was! I pay attention to that—because I’m the one going around and cleaning up everything. But whatever, it is what it is. It could be worse.
Shawna and Keifer on the one thing they would change about the other.
He says: I would like to have some help cleaning up your stuff all the time. That would be a really great improvement. That’s about it, though. You’re alright other than that.
She says: I’m trying to think of something.
He says: See, that’s how good I am. Next question, please …
Shawna and Keifer on the one trait of the other that they hope will never change.
He says: I think her innocence. When I met her, there was an innocence about her. And she still has it. There’s just something really cool about that. And the genuineness of how she is and what she believes in. She shoots me straight most of the time. And I like that.
She says: Keifer’s very supportive. I’ve had a pretty rough year, so far, with losing my dad and stuff, so just him being there for me. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
Shawna and Keifer on dealing with Twitter haters.
She says: It’s just weird because since we’re in the public eye, people feel like it’s okay to say whatever they want to say and they don’t think about you being a human being. I would never go up to a stranger on the sidewalk and say, “You look fat in that.”
He says: Or “Your hair looks awful. You need a stylist.”
She says: I would just never do that. I would never say anything that hurtful to somebody.
He says: People are very brave because they know I’ll never see them. We just turn our fans loose on them and they usually go away.
She says: For a while we had our “Twitter Hater of the Week” and we would repost tweets.
He says: We would take a picture of [their tweet] and—we didn’t tell our fans to do it, they just did it—but they’d see the Twitter name and go whoooop! And there’s actually people that shut their Twitter accounts down. They just kept getting pounded. It’s funny, man. If I could really be open on Twitter, I would have a blast with it. That’s what Blake [Shelton] does and I think that’s why he’s so big on Twitter. I mean, I would love to just tell these people exactly how I feel when they say something like that, you know. Maybe I’ll start doing it, I don’t know.
Shawna and Keifer on posing with KISS on the red carpet at the ACMs.
She says: That was an incredible night.
He says: I’ve been a fan of KISS since I was a little kid. My cousins turned me on to them when I was really small.
She says: I honestly grew up listening to pretty much nothing but country because my parents were country music fans. But I remember my cousin having a KISS record and I just thought it was so cool, the makeup and all that. And then after we got married, KISS came to Nashville and we went to the concert. I was so obsessed after that. And I watch Gene Simmons all the time on his TV show.
He says: I’ve seen them three times. It was weird because we were doing an interview and Gene was standing next to me and he put his arm around me and shocked my ear because the red carpet was very electric that night. He shocked my ear and he goes, “This one’s cute!” It was cool. It’s so intimidating because they’re so big in those boots. It’s crazy. It’s genius. I’d love to [tour with them]. I think it’d be awesome. We talked about doing a CMT Crossroads and having them sing “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.”
Shawna and Keifer on Keifer’s odd cake-eating style.
He says: After the ACMs, Lady Antebellum had a cake made for us that said congratulations and had our picture on there, so I cut out Shawna’s face …
She says: Of course, the piece that he goes for …
He says: I was gonna eat her face. That’s me eating her face.
LHJ says: But why were you holding the fork like that?
He says: Because I’m gonna stab it. (They both crack up.) In a good way.
LHJ says: So who got the piece of cake with your face on it, Keifer?
He says: I don’t know. Some lucky soul. I’m sure it was the best tasting cake they ever had. Shawna looks like, “What are you doing?”
LHJ says: Well, it’s kind of sweet, actually. The wanting to have the piece with her on it part—not so much the stabbing part.
He says: It’s actually just how I eat cake. I get in there, man, and just dig it out.
Shawna and Keifer on perhaps the coolest headphones. Ever.
She says: Keifer actually forgot his earbuds that day and we were on the airplane, and I was, like, I have my Hello Kitty headphones if you’re brave enough to do it.
He says: I said, I’ll wear it.
She says: Yeah, these are mine. They were a Christmas gift from my brother last year. I’m a little obsessed with Hello Kitty.
LHJ says: How was the sound quality from them?
He says: They were okay. Not bad.
She says: They’re comfy.
LHJ says: So what were you listening to?
He says: It probably was Bruce [Springsteen].
She says: For Keifer’s birthday, I got tickets for us to go see Bruce in Jersey.
He says: Was that on the way? If that is on the way, I was definitely listening to Bruce. Yeah, that’s it! Good show …
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