Keifer and Shawna Thompson , the husband and wife who currently reign as the CMA and ACM top vocal duo of the year, learned early on in their career the beauty of a life-altering song. In fact, the proof lies within their 2011 breakout No. 1 and platinum-selling single, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.” Knowing how to choose the right tune — even when they didn’t write it — is also a key element to Thompson Square’s chart-topping feat.
“We realized that it doesn’t have to be your song to make a difference — to change your life and to further your career,” Keifer said.
With this week’s release of their appropriately-titled second album, Just Feels Good, the duo again bring an undeniable charisma and passion to their latest batch of work. For instance, take the album’s title song — a tune that transports the listener to warmer weather and summertime. Conjuring daydreams of open roads and classic tunes, the song blends effortlessly with the fast-talking “Testing the Water” and party anthem “Here’s to Being Here.”
Co-writing five of the 13 tracks, they also manage to capture a musical and personal chemistry within their irrefutable love songs. Much like their current and impassioned chart-climbing single “If I Didn’t Have You,” the song was inspired by the heartbreaking passing of Shawna’s father.
“The songs just kind of came to us,” Keifer recently told CMT.com during their visit to CMT’s offices. “The ones that we wrote are so inside, as far as personal experience, they basically wrote themselves.”
Likewise, it’s this intense fervor that complements their expressive songs like “I Can’t Outrun You,” “Maybe It’s You,” “Here We Go Again,” “Run” and “Home Is You,” all of which weave separate storylines depicting the complexities of love and relationships.
“We knew kind of what to do and what not to do to kind of define what Thompson Square 2.0 is going to sound like,” Keifer said. “I think we did it.”
The album manages to find a pleasing balance of lighter material within buoyant tunes such as the flirty “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking” to the fortunate tune, “You Don’t Get Lucky.” But perhaps what’s equally attractive about this couple is their sincerity and authenticity. Spending time with these two, it’s clear they’re not caught up in quick fame or fancy cars. In fact, Keifer shared a story about his recent trip to a car dealership where he was able to test-drive the car of his dreams. But when he got behind the wheel, he realized it was all wrong.
“I just felt like a complete idiot driving this car around because it’s not me,” he said. “It’s not where we came from. I never would be comfortable in that car. I just think you gotta keep yourself grounded.”
What’s more, Keifer explained how their writing partnerships are also just as sincere, rather than some manufactured appointment. When it comes to their close collaborators, they’re as authentic as their lyrics.
“That’s an important step — to love the people you’re writing with,” he said. “We truly love these people. They’re like our family.”
Collaborating with Brett James, whose songwriting credits include hits recorded by Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean , Thompson Square also teamed up with “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” co-writer David Lee Murphy for “For the Life of Me,” a song using clever imagery to paint the picture of the couple’s vibrant relationship. In fact, during the tune’s first verse, Keifer wittily compares himself to The Andy Griffith Show while relating his wife to that of Sex and the City.
But perhaps what depicts their current love affair is found within the lyrics of “That’s So Me and You,” a song detailing their early struggles up until now. From playing one of the honky-tonks on Nashville’s Lower Broadway to their eventual “dream come true” success, the song shines light on the story of this celebrated pair.
“We worked day and night, underneath those Broadway lights,” the song reveals. “Didn’t know singing for tips in a pickle jar would change our life.”
“’That’s So Me and You’ is basically me and Shawna’s story and how we got together,” Keifer explained.
Believing their songwriting has matured and grown since their debut album, Shawna says the two understand each other’s writing process and are able to “jive” together more smoothly.
“We know what works for us and what doesn’t work,” Keifer added to her point. “We’ve lived a little longer and learned a lot these past few years from radio and from our fans and from being out on the road from other artists.”
Currently holding down the middle slot on Luke Bryan ’s Dirt Road Diaries tour, the Thompsons are thankful for the opportunity to share their music with continuously sold-out crowds, developing and honing their craft.
Hoping to again bring home this year’s ACM top vocal duo of the year honor on April 7, they say the ultimate prize is simply being acknowledged by their peers.
“I mean, the pressure’s off of us to win,” Keifer said. “It’s going to be nice to just kind of go and enjoy it. And if we’re blessed to be able to take it home a second time, that’s going to be great. If not, we’ve accomplished that goal. It does mean everything to us, though. That’s one of those things we’ve dreamt about and worked so hard and diligently to get to that point to where our peers recognize you. There’s no cooler feeling than being recognized by people who are doing the same thing you are.”