With the release of his debut album, Way Out Here, singer-songwriter Josh Thompson has only begun to quench his thirst for the country music spotlight. Already scoring a Top 20 hit with the rowdy hit “Beer on the Table,” he’s following up at country radio with the album’s title track. Listeners can rest assured there’s plenty more where that came from.
“I’m not trying to sell them a line of bull,” he told CMT.com during a recent interview in Nashville. “I’m giving them what I feel is music that I stand behind.
“My work ethic is probably a big factor of what has shaped who I am as an artist,” he explained. “And that came from growing up in the concrete industry. My dad was big on making sure that I knew how to work because I would always have that.”
The Cedarburg, Wis., native not only began working for his family’s business when he was just 12 years old, he also befriended the outdoors at an early age. Growing up in the country without many neighbors, Thompson spent much of his time at the bass pond, apple orchard or the small stream out behind his home. In fact, before his big move to Nashville, he took a nine-month course at the Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin where he lived off the land enduring the four seasons.
“It’s really primitive survival skills they’re teaching,” he said of his experience. “It is a very long time, but it takes longer than that to really set home what you learned and to be able to grasp it and to apply it in a real situation.”
Just as he felt the need to chase the open air, Thompson also “got the bug” to follow his other passion — writing and recording country music. By the time he was 22, he had already written several songs.
“It started a fire, and I couldn’t stop writing,” he said. “I was always looking for something to write about — always writing stuff down, no matter how stupid it was. I’m still doing that. It just kind of got into my bloodstream.”
As a result, Thompson decided to leave his hometown in 2005 to chase his Music City high hopes. Although he landed a publishing deal right away, his achievements waned during the next few years. Nevertheless, the experience provided the confidence he needed to continue pursuing his music. He went on to co-write the title track for Jason Michael Carroll’s Growing Up Is Getting Old album and later signed his own recording deal with Columbia Nashville.
His new album is chockfull of rowdy party anthems, any number suitable for a honky-tonk set list or during the occasional “swaller-and-holler.” Thompson, who co-wrote nine of the 10 tracks, begins his record pinching pennies to afford hard-earned “Beer on the Table” and follows with an ode to the country outlaws, blaming Waylon Jennings for his don’t-care-attitude and long hair.
Even still, there are a few songs peppered throughout where Thompson hones in on sobering subjects. He explores feelings of repent in “Sinner,” inner faults in “Always Been Me,” pangs of a breakup in “I Won’t Go Crazy” and two teenagers losing more than a diamond ring in “Back Around.”
For the most part, however, the album is packed with pick-me-up tunes like “Won’t Be Lonely Long,” “A Name in This Town,” “You Ain’t Seen Country Yet” and his in-your-face title track.
“That’s definitely just a state-of-mind song,” he said referring to the lyrics of “Way Out Here” where the chorus boasts, “We won’t take a dime if we ain’t earned it/When it comes to weight, brother, we pull our own/If it’s our backwoods way of livin’ you’re concerned with/You can leave us alone. We’re about John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere.”
“It’s really not about living out in the sticks. It’s about beliefs,” he remarked of the song’s message. “Regardless of what’s going on around the country, as wussified as we may be becoming, there are still people that believe in the Bible and guns and still think John Wayne and Johnny Cash are great. They make their living and don’t stand in line for handouts.”
Currently, Thompson is sharing this new music with fans on the road alongside Eric Church as part of their 32-stop Jägermeister Country Tour. And other than a lot of Jäger, Thompson promises to deliver the goods as well.
“They can expect a good time,” he said of the fans. “We play the album, and it’s mainly [up] tempo, so there’s not going to be a lot of dull moments.
“And songs that are ballads,” he added, “aren’t mushy love songs.”