HOT DISH: Thompson Square Turn Love at First Sight Into Country Stardom

More News About Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Other Country Stars

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

“Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”

It just made sense to begin my column with the title of one of the year’s hottest songs so far. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” has sold more than 800,000 copies and recently hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s country chart.

Now, who is the duo that sings this song that has to be included when awards time comes around again? It’s Thompson Square.

Actually, they are Keifer and Shawna Thompson — Mr. & Mrs. Thompson — but where did the name come from? I had to ask them that (and more) when they visited my kitchen to tape an episode of CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks .

Keifer told me they originally called themselves Thompson Squared, but everybody asked, “What is Thompson Squared?”

Keifer and Shawna smiled, so I smiled back, hoping they didn’t realize I had no idea what it meant. So I asked my grandson, Jeremy, who’s really good at math. Jeremy tells me how much I should tip when we eat out. He doesn’t have to take a pen and figure it out like I do. He just looks at the total and tells me the to-the-cent percentage.

According to Jeremy, squared means something times itself, so Thompson Squared meant times two. Keifer and Shawna are two and they are Thompsons, but to avoid confusion, they are now simply Thompson Square.

I knew very little about this wonderful duo when they arrived at my house, but they impressed the daylights out of me when they paraded right into my office where I was seated behind my desk. Keep in mind, it was my first time to see them. Right off the bat, I thought, “2011 Sonny & Cher.”

I took special notice of Keifer’s flattop cap that he keeps on, his baby face and gentle smile, the way he uses his hands and the fact that he’s almost as tall as his wife. Shawna’s hair is blond in front and pulled back in the Hollywood style of the 1940s, while the sides and back are black. Blue eyelids, black eyeliner, lip gloss and her outfit are so Cher. Both sets of smiles have shiny white teeth. She looks at Keifer like Cher looked at Sonny when they were still in love.

The talented couple has been in Nashville for years. They’ve been waiting tables and bartending at the Wheel on Lower Broadway to support their two main habits — eating and performing. Keifer came from Miami, Okla., and Shawna from Chatom, Ala., and both moved to Music Town the very same week.

Said Keifer, “I took one look at her and fell in love.”

“Me, too,” Shawna added. “We’ve been together ever since.”

Through the years, they’d enter talent contests and work their day jobs. And do it all over again and again.

When I think of all these people who win contests such as American Idol, few of them have ever paid their dues like Keifer and Shawna have. With all the national contests, I wonder if the people who show up on Music Row with a guitar and a dream have a chance anymore. Unless they come to stay and have that gut determination, refusing to give up even when they’ve given these streets more than five years — or in some cases twice as long — are they strong enough to tough it out like the Thompsons? It would be a crying shame for an act as good as this to fall through the cracks of the music industry.

Last year, the twosome signed with the independent Stoney Creek Records, the sister label to Broken Bow, the bigger imprint owned by Benny and Carolyn Brown. Keifer and Shawna wrote nine of the 12 songs on the album that is produced by NV — New Voice Production Company that consists of Jason Aldean‘s band! Look for Thompson Square opening concerts for that hawt Jason beginning in July and on into cold, cold weather.

Their biggest thrill is performing on the Grand Ole Opry. Shawna allowed that singing on the Opry was like “singing in church times 20.” (Another math reference!) They’ve appeared on Conan and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, but they say it’s not like singing on the Opry.

Being an Alabama girl, Shawna dug into the big, white butter beans I cooked for them. Keifer enjoyed the fresh broccoli with cheese, but the more he tasted the beans, the more he realized they were tasty, too. The three of us dug into the coconut pie. I baked the one that requires no crust. Was it delish! I also made pork loin with plum sauce.

The Thompsons made me smile when they told me just how great CMT has been to them. CMT … now that’s my people!

Some Thoughts About the ACM Awards
The very first time I saw Miranda Lambert walk onto a stage playing her guitar and stomping her boots in time with the band, I knew we had a superstar in the making. The pretty Texan made herself at home last week at the ACM Awards show. With seven nominations, she got four awards. In fact, she won so many, Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley thanked her for winning the album of the year award in 2010 so the trio’s Need You Now could win the prize this year.

Brad Paisley and Alabama excelled to high heavens on the awards show. Their performance of “Old Alabama” was so good, I had to stand — and I was watching it at home. Brad took home his fifth ACM trophy as male vocalist.

It was totally cool to see and hear the Zac Brown Band performing their latest No. 1, “Colder Weather,” with James Taylor. Of course, it was equally as cool to hear the two acts singing one of Taylor’s classics, “Sweet Baby James.”

After 13 years at the helm of the ACM Awards, Reba McEntire knows how to host. You know what, though? Blake Shelton knew how to host even though he’d never done it before. I’ve been pulling for Blake for ions. All he does is wonderful.

Martina McBride blew me and the audience away. She is still one of the best singers we have and one of the best-looking. “Teenage Daughters” is a great song. And she was wearing a killer gown.

I didn’t like the outfit Carrie Underwood wore when singing with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler on the show, but I loved her vocalizing with him. As much as I dislike dragging Hollywood on to sing with our people, are you surprised I liked Steven Tyler?

Am I the only person who would prefer Merle Haggard, George Jones or Charley Pride as presenters in place of Celine Dion?

And does dating Julianne Hough give Ryan Seacrest the license to present the entertainer of the year trophy?

I know Taylor Swift was not playing a five-string banjo on “Mean,” and I wondered if she was really frailing that uptown banjo with a guitar neck or if someone behind a curtain was helping her out. That front porch scene favored a bluegrass album cover, but the musicians looked too slick for that.

Everybody’s still talking about Darius Rucker‘s performance of “Music From the Heart” with the Vanderbilt Music Camp Choir. Teary-eyed, Darius called it one of his greatest music moments. The performance benefited the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s program of music education and research for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

More News
While we were dodging tornadoes on April 4, Jennette McCurdy was enjoying her weekend awards. She took home the favorite TV sidekick honors for her role of Sam in Nickelodeon’s iCarly during the Kids Choice Awards. iCarly also won the award for favorite TV show.

The Hollywood Reporter confirms that Miranda Lambert is developing an hour-long TV drama for the ABC Family network. The project, based on her Texas childhood, will revolve around a family with parents who are private investigators, with the children assisting in solving crimes.

Kenny Chesney‘s sold-out stadium concert in Tampa, Fla., grossed almost $4.4 million. His arena show in St. Paul, Minn., sold out, too, and grossed $1 million. Alan Jackson‘s sellout in Melbourne, Australia, grossed almost $1.5 million.

The wonderful Lee Brice, who recently visited my kitchen, joined Drew Carey on a recent episode of The Price Is Right.

The legendary Tony Bennett stopped by Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville where he hosted a party following a recording session for his upcoming Duets II. Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones and Willie Nelson are just a few of the artists joining him on the project.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1661655"]Easy Coconut Pie.[/news]