Keifer Thompson and his wife Shawna are not into syrupy-sweet, melt-in-your-mouth love songs. They've been married now for more than 10 years and claim it was love at first sight, so they could easily fit the bill to sing such lyrics. But that's not what Thompson Square is about.
Instead, their debut self-titled album illustrates just how deep their love is by relating it in a rather unconventional way. So far, the musical approach is paying off. Their album debuted at No. 3 on this week's Billboard country albums chart -- just behind Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift.
"Our music is a little edgy and it pushes the envelope," Keifer recently told CMT.com. "We don't want to be the boring married couple where you go out and watch the show and it's like, 'Oh, my God. Are they going to make out onstage again all night?'"
Instead, he refers to their bond as more of "yin and yang," an equal balance to one another's personality. That balance comes through on their first single, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," which has climbed to No. 12 this week on Billboard's country songs chart. Written by David Lee Murphy and Jim Collins, the song depicts a couple flirting with the idea of a first kiss and the lip-locking that eventually leads to love and marriage. Essentially, this is Thompson Square's story in a three-minute synopsis.
"It's changed our lives," Keifer said of the song. "I feel kind of unworthy at times, and I know Shawna does, too," he admitted. "We've been working for this for years. The majority of our lives, we've been trying to get to this point and hear someone say, 'How's it feel to have a hit song?' It doesn't even register to us. People have gravitated toward the song. People are buying the song, showing their support. That's the ultimate compliment if someone buys your music. Money doesn't come easy to anybody."
"As an artist, you want to be able to sing a song and want people to believe it," Shawna explained, "and I don't think we have a hard time with that because it is our story."
Thompson Square's story began over a decade ago when Keifer (from Miami, Okla.) and Shawna (from Chatom, Ala.) individually decided to make the move to Music City within the same week and with identical goals -- to become solo artists. Each entering the same singing competition, neither envisioned it would be the time or place they would meet their musical partner, much less a lifetime mate.
"Definitely love at first sight for me," Shawna said while glancing over at her husband sitting closely next to her. "I know it sounds cheesy and cliché. It's weird. As soon as he walked in the door, I mean, we didn't immediately speak or talk or anything."
"It's like Clint Eastwood walking into a dusty bar," her husband quickly interjected.
"There's something about this guy," she said.
Keifer was immediately taken by Shawna's voice and beauty. He still recalls the outfit she was wearing -- a little grey skirt and matching jacket. He was already in a longterm relationship, but that very night, he called his girlfriend of five years.
"I was like, 'I think I've found the one I'm supposed to be with here,'" he recounted.
A few years later, the two were wed and formed what is now Thompson Square. In 2009, the duo signed with Stoney Creek Records. Their just-released debut album features nine original songs.
"For Keifer, it's absolutely his songwriting," Shawna said of her husband's musical strengths. "Some days when we're writing, he'll leave the room and not have a line and turn around and walk right back in two minutes later and just spit it out. He just makes it seem so easy. It's something that's a little more difficult for me."
"That's because you haven't been doing it that long," he reminded her. "I think Shawna's biggest asset is just her voice. She's been my favorite female singer since I met her that first night. It's kind of been that way ever since. It just continually amazes me that she sings so dead-on all the time."
But the duo's music isn't the only standout with this couple -- so is their look. Shawna, with her two-tone locks of black and white highlights, dark eyeliner and cutting-edge fashion, is an instant attention-grabber next to her husband's hat-wearing good looks and complimentary all-black ensembles.
"I had to beg stylists to do my hair like this," she said of changing her naturally strawberry-blond locks. "It kind of caught on as one of our signature things."
Additionally, the two seem in shock at the overwhelming response they've received from their fans and hope they can continue the forward momentum.
"It's a lot of work being out on the road, but it's very fulfilling and it wouldn't work if we weren't doing it together," he said. "But we get to travel together and do everything together. We share in each other's experiences which, otherwise, it wouldn't be very fun. It wouldn't be very fun for either one of us. We're just thankful and blessed to be able to do it."