Thompson Square, the husband-and-wife duo of Shawna and Keifer Thompson, is one of those overnight show business successes that in truth was over a dozen years in the making.
“It’s amazing. Keifer and I have been in Nashville for 15 years,” Shawna Thompson says in a phone conversation late January. “Two years ago, Benny Brown decided to give us a shot.”
Brown is the insightful and aggressive veteran record executive from California who owns both Broken Bow Records, Jason Aldean’s label, and the newer Stoney Creek Records, whose artists include Thompson Square and Crossin Dixon. Aldean has been one of the hottest acts at country radio the last several years.
“Hot” would be a fitting radio word for Thompson Square as well in 2011. Maybe “sizzling” would be even more appropriate, given the breakout success of their single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not,” a No. 1 smash that Mediabase said was the Most Played Song last year at country radio.
Thompson Square, or T2 as they sometimes are called, will be in the New Faces Show, the climactic event of the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, on Feb. 24.
“That’s one thing we’ve just always wanted to do,” Keifer says. “Even before we got a record deal, we hung out at CRS and tried to see the New Faces Show.”
They will be with Hunter Hayes, the Eli Young Band, and Sunny Sweeney at this year’s New Faces.
On Jan. 27, Thompson Square joins the “Own The Night” Tour with Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker, two acts, which like T2, have also greatly expanded country radio’s appeal with pop and mainstream audiences. In 2011, they toured extensively with Aldean.
“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” was written by the veteran Texas hit-maker Jim Collins and the Illinois native David Lee Murphy, a wonderful singer/songwriter himself who in the late 1990s scored five Top 10 Billboard singles as an artist including the No. 1 “Dust On The Bottle.”
Was Thompson Square surprised at the immediate success of “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” at country radio, where even veteran superstars struggle to get spins these days?
“Absolutely, I think anybody would be surprised, especially for a brand-new artist on such a small label,” the duo says. “It’s definitely a blessing.”
The pair’s new tour mates are both on a big label, Capitol Nashville, whose head Mike Dungan told us at CRS last year told us “every act on this label made money,” a major accomplishment in this economy and this music market.
Still, Thompson Square is very happy to be exactly where they are.
“We knew we didn’t want to be with a big label,” Keifer Thompson says.
Smaller labels historically devote more attention and resources to each artist. Besides, Stoney Creek and Broken Bow have the advantage of several veteran Music Row and country radio professionals on staff, including Broken Bow Senior VP of Promotion Carson James and Stoney Creek GM of Operations April Rider.
Rider and James are both ex-Curb Records Radio Promotion standouts.
“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” was hardly a one-hit wonder for Thompson Square. The band notched another Top 10 with the No. 6 “I Got You.”
Thompson Square, as their fine publicist Natalie Kilgore of Dashboard Media reminds us, was also a sales sensation in 2011. Their self-titled debut album was tops among all new country artists in sales, according to Billboard. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” led the way in several tech areas as well: it was iTunes Country Song of the Year and the No. 1 country ringtone for 12 straight weeks.
A country single that crosses over so well into other formats creates interest on the TV talk shows as well. Thompson Square appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Conan, as well as playing on the CMA Awards Show last November.
Billboard.com’s Chuck Dauphin says: “Thompson Square has been one of the nicest success stories in Nashville for a long time. They have done it through hard work as well as great material. That has a definite appeal for country fans.”
Thompson Square, a duo in music and in life that came to Nashville over a dozen years ago from two very different parts of the country, is a perfect role model for Music City artists and songwriters who keep plugging away year after year to earn a break.
Shawna came here from Alabama, Keifer from Oklahoma The pair met at a singing contest, a perfect location for Music City pairs.
At long last, and with strong support from country radio, fans nationwide, and a little powerhouse of a label, Thompson Square is set to impact Music Row and country radio for years to come.
By Phil Sweetland