Country Spotlight: Thompson Square

May 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm , by

Shawna and Keifer entertaining the troops here at LHJ. Be sure to watch their performance clip, after the jump.

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.

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Book News: Playdate … for Adults Only

March 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm , by

Entertainment journalist Thelma Adams’s novel Playdate, just out in paperback, explores the minefields of modern marriage with humor and sass. But Playdate is no empty romp. In addition to parenting precocious pre-teens, the protagonists—couples Lance and Darlene and Alec and Wren—are dealing with complex issues. Lance, an unemployed weatherman, is married to Darlene, a restaurateur, who maintains an inappropriate flirtation with her restaurant’s financier, Alec, who is married to Wren, a yogi, who is having an affair with Lance. Got that? If that love quadrangle weren’t dizzying enough, a fierce forest fire is menacing their comfortable upper-middle-class California enclave. We asked Adams to talk about the game plan behind Playdate.

You’ve been a film critic and entertainment writer for almost 30 years. How did that experience inform your first novel, which is about marriage and relationships?

I am a married film critic and entertainment writer with relationships. Some of which, I confess, are a little convoluted. This novel began as an idea for a screenplay: What if we melded Warren Beatty’s handsome rootless philanderer in Shampoo with Michael Keaton’s overwhelmed dad in Mr. Mom? It seemed like a funny concept. However, as it turned out, I’m a prose girl. The movie idea morphed into a novel.

With his sensitive nature and commitment to parenting, Lance is the heart and soul of the book. But he’s also having an affair. Was it hard to construct a sympathetic cheater?

Making Lance sympathetic without demonizing his wife Darlene was one of the great challenges of the book. Personally, I am the daughter of a relatively sympathetic cheater. My dad was no saint, but he was no demon either. I was a daddy’s little girl who adored her father, and growing up we had this kind of very easy, affectionate, unconditional love. And then, when I was in my early twenties, I discovered that I’d lived in a house where a pattern of infidelity on my father’s side gutted my mother. Being daddy’s little girl was suddenly a difficult position to have within the family politics. And, on top of that, when I found out about my father, I was still crying over a post-college live-in relationship with a serial cheater with whom I was crazy in love. That’s a long time ago, but fidelity, and understanding how infidelity molds a family, and a relationship, has been central to a lot of my writing. In the end, I came to understand my father, which is not exactly the same as forgiving, through my love for Lance and [his daughter] Belle. Read more


Ladies’ Home Journal Goes to Pot!

March 13, 2012 at 10:43 am , by

Today, the April issue of LHJ hits newsstands, and with it comes reefer madness! In the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” column, everyone’s favorite since it launched back in 1953, the problem in the marriage is that the wife, a successful working woman, gets high on pot every day. In the margin at the top of the page, we show the results of a poll that we did on attitudes toward medical marijuana: the majority of our readers (60 percent) approve.

We’ve just done a dramatic redesign to make Ladies’ Home Journal much more cutting-edge and fun. But have we gotten, uh, a little too groovy? In short, what were we smoking?

Actually, this is hardly the first time we’ve covered illegal drug use. Way back in 1963, we ran a feature in which Cary Grant talked about the amazing experiences he had on LSD. It was before all the risks were known and it was part of a medical experiment, but still! LHJ? Who’d a thunk it?

The reality is, Ladies’ Home Journal has a long history of covering the reality of women’s lives and current trends, even when it’s controversial. Back in 1906, we endorsed sex education as a way of preventing sexually transmitted disease—an idea that some people still disagree with. Since then we’ve covered everything from housewives struggling with drug addiction (1971) to moms struggling with raising gay teens (2010). Our readers have always been plugged-in, modern women, and we’ve always provided them with content that keeps them informed and up-to-date.

So, yeah, we’ve come a long way since the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” of ’53 in which one husband’s quote was, “Nancy could learn a lot from some of the secretaries in my office. They know how to be sweet and feminine.” Yikes! Very Mad Men, while the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” for April 2012 is admittedly closer to Weeds. Still, it’s very much in line with our editorial tradition.

Reactions to our March issue, the first of the current redesign, have been positive: “Looks fabulous and reinvigorated. Love it!” one reader tweeted. “Great job, y’all,” another reader wrote us via email. “Was thrilled to see my old favorites were still in there,” she said. We seemed hipper, yet still the LHJ she loves. The real story is that we were always pretty hip. Your grandma probably did subscribe to Ladies’ Home Journal, but we’ve never been a grandma magazine. We are up-to-the-minute and ahead of the curve—and have been, for a very long time.


Watch A Special LHJ Episode of Life Dare With Liz Nead

March 8, 2012 at 11:37 am , by

We love the show Life Dare: Host and life coach Liz Nead helps women tackle challenges big and small to—as she says—”put some life back into your life.” Amen, sister! So we knew we had to team up with her for our April story on mental flexibility, “Go With The Flow.” Our story is all about trying to relax and be less rigid about the little (and big) things in your life, so Liz found a woman who needed a little help loosening up and produced a special episode for us. Guest Lisa isn’t a big fan of foods with weird (to her) textures and flavors–slippery, raw, and spicy foods were just not her thing. But she was ready to break out of her habits—with a little help, of course.

Watch Lisa as she faces her food attitudes on camera. They explore raw foods with chef and nutritionist Sheree Clark (can you really put sweet potato with pineapple in the juicer?), slippery foods at Django in Des Moines (Lisa doesn’t want to gag on oysters in front of you!), and spicy food with Chef Brandy Lueders (spicy Indian food can be really hard on your stomach). Slippery, raw and spicy—will Lisa make it through all three food experiments and leave her old food routine behind? Watch now, above (or see it big here).

But wait, there’s more! (Because if you watched that fun episode, you probably want to tackle your own challenge, right?)

 


Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s So Needy, It’s Making Me Crazy

March 1, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Marlene, 44, and Roy, 49, had a grass-is-always-greener problem with their marriage. Both divorced, they’d experienced bossy and distant spouses before, and were ready for a smoother, more romantic ride the second time around—and they got it. But before long, togetherness turned clingy (for Marlene) and concern turned critical (for Roy), and both wondered if they were actually better off before they remarried. Read on to find out how they reconnected, or find the full story here.

Marlene’s turn: On their honeymoon, Marlene couldn’t believe much she loved Roy. They wandered the streets of Paris hand-in-hand, and she couldn’t imagine a life apart from him again. That is, until the honeymoon was over (literally), and all she wanted was some quiet time for herself after a long day at work as a litigation attorney. Instead, Roy follows her around the house, craving her attention. That is, when he’s not leaving a mess in the kitchen, half-finishing chores, or missing important appointments. Plus, their sex life is just not good—Roy gets too nervous, and they’ve tried everything make it easier. Lingerie, videos, Viagra … everything. Marlene loves that Roy has become a father figure for her son Carl, but that seems to be the only item in her “pro” column. Should she have just stuck with her single, yet peaceful life?

Roy’s turn: Roy is terrified that Marlene is going to leave him, but he doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong. So what if he leaves a spices out on the counter? He’s made his wife a delicious gourmet meal! Big deal if he’s not a handyman. He’ll gladly pay to have someone come work on their house! And why does Marlene avoid him when he tries to start a conversation? Husbands and wives are supposed to talk! Their sex life is just the icing on the cake. Roy feels horrible about not being able to please Marlene, but the more pressure-packed the situation becomes, the harder a time he has.

The counselor’s turn: When asked to rank their biggest marital complaints, Marlene and Roy laughed to see that they’d listed the same problems—but from opposing viewpoints. Marlene yearned for alone time, but Roy felt like she never wanted together time. Marlene hated that Roy never cleaned up after himself, but Roy felt like she was overreacting and didn’t appreciate the nice meals he made for their family. And finally, Marlene didn’t understand why Roy couldn’t do some household chores, but Roy preferred to pay someone else to play handyman. Out loud, this all seemed pretty trivial, so the counselor urged them to remember to pick their battles, and promise to make compromises. Soon enough, Marlene and Roy were able to enjoy married life again—outside and inside the bedroom.

Did you find love after your first marriage? Tell us in the comments or tweet us at @MarriageBeSaved with the hashtag #CTMBS.


Can This (Good) Marriage Be Saved?

February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am , by

No Cheating, No Dying is journalist Elizabeth Weil’s account of the year she devotes to making her self-described good marriage even better. Weil and her husband, Dan Duane—both writers and overachievers—submitted to couples counseling, sex therapy, group workshops and more, applying themselves to their marriage as they would to a new writing assignment, hobby or exercise regimen. But being married with two children is no two-mile swim (which the couple did from Alcatraz to San Francisco). It’s complicated. For every issue unearthed, resolved and shelved during Weil’s marital spring-cleaning, another seemed to pop up to take its place. Weil shared some insights with us about her sometimes tumultuous journey to rehab her “good enough” marriage.

Q. After nearly a decade of a marriage that was not broken, what made you decide to fix it?
A. I noticed that I was being lazy-brained about my marriage in a way that I was not about the rest of my life. I had stacks of book on how to be a good mother. I kept up with the latest research on how to stay healthy. I put a lot of effort into my friendships, my work life and staying fit. But I had an attitude about my marriage that it was either star-crossed or it wasn’t. And once I noticed that attitude, it seemed silly. So I decided to change it.

Q. How did your husband, Dan, react to your proposal?
A. With horror! I’m sort of kidding. But his first reaction, when I brought it up, was “I can’t think of anything worse.”

Q. Where did the name of the book No Cheating, No Dying come from?
A. Those were our secret vows. Of course we stood up at the altar in front of our friends and family and promised to love and care for each other for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health and all that. But privately we said to each other: no cheating, no dying. We figured our marriage could survive anything else.

Q. You refer to a lot of marriage psychology publications and self-help books. Which ones did you find particularly helpful to you as a couple? Why?
A. Stephen Mitchell’s Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time really had a huge impact on me. Mitchell argues that romance doesn’t die in marriage due to neglect. Romance dies because we kill it, on purpose, as it becomes increasingly dangerous. We are so dependent on our spouses. These days husbands and wives aren’t just lovers or financial partners. We’re also co-parents, emotional supports, best friends. We can’t bear to think of our spouses as anything less than entirely predictable. And as a result we can start to think they’re boring and unromantic. But really, we’ve just put our spouses in that box. We need to take them out again.

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Lessons from a Romance Expert

February 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm , by

Who better to know how to heat up your Valentine’s Day than a woman whose business is romance? Romance novelist Robyn Carr (robyncarr.com) has been honored with multiple RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America and her Virgin River series (the newest installment is Redwood Bend, coming out next month) landed her on the New York Times bestseller list. Here’s Carr’s advice on how to apply the lessons of romance novels to your own love life.


1) Set the scene. If you’ve ever read a romance, you know that the sex can be pretty steamy. But rarely do the characters just start going at it and rarely do I give them a chance to get away to a quiet lodge. That’s just not how life is. But I do like to set the scene—let them flirt a little to heat things up. So how can you do that in real life? Traditional things like candles and good lighting are nice, but go the extra step and get rid of distractions. Turn off the phone. Turn off the TV. Send the kids to your mom’s house. Turn on some music so you can’t hear the garbage truck doing its weekly pick-up. (And try a faster-paced mix of tunes for a change!) Make the two of you the focus so the “scene” can happen without any interruptions. My characters are at their hottest when they’re concentrating on each other and nothing else.

2) Write your own romance story. Sometimes words are all you need. Take it from someone who spends her whole life creating romantic scenes from words alone. Take advantage of their power by sending a letter detailing your plans for Valentine’s Day (and night) to your partner. You can stick it in the mail a week before Valentine’s Day so he has a few days to imagine what’s coming. For some last minute “story-telling,” a sexy text message will work too. Just be sure no one at his office will get to his phone before he does!

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