RJ Thompson, rising independent singer songwriter, is due to release his new single “When I Get Old” this summer. Renowned for his acoustic bluesy sound and evoking live shows, RJ shares with us his start in the music business, the highs and lows of being independent, and the influences behind his new material.
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Introducing… RJ Thompson – Q&A
So, how did this all begin?
It’s a pretty long story! Back when I was 14 or 15, I picked up my dad’s guitar and started to learn a few Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan songs. I’d never really thought of writing my own stuff at the time, and I’d never really performed in front of people. I remember going to see U2 live – I think it was 2001 – and getting home that night and writing down loads of lyric ideas. Within a few months I think I’d written about 50 or 60 songs. A year or two later I booked out a studio for 10 days and recorded my first record.
So you were, what, 17 or 18?
I’d just turned 18 when it was released.
And did it do well?
Not too bad. I was pretty young and naive at the time, and didn’t really have a plan, but it sold a few thousand copies, mainly at gigs… we gigged it a lot! I set up my own record label (Chicken Wire Records) as a vehicle to release it.
So now you’re 25, with a couple of independently released albums under your belt. Tell us a little bit about your next single “When I Get Old”…
It’s about one of those days when you’re drifting along, I think we’ve all had them, and something out of the blue happens which throws you back into the real world. A lot of my songs are based on my own life, but a lot of people will be able to identify with this one in particular. We brought a four-piece brass section into the studio to record it with us which was unbelievable. We only had them for three hours, and they had three songs to record!Earlier this year you released another single called “A Better Life”. Have you had the chance to get out and play the songs live yet?
Yeah. I’ve played a few solo shows so far this year, and a few big support slots (with Madeleine Peyroux, Midge Ure, and Gabrielle Aplin). The response at the gigs, and from the last single, has been amazing. I’ll be getting the band together later this year and touring properly.
Is playing live something that has always been important to you?
Definitely. It’s essential I think. You can’t get the same level of connection with people without getting out there and playing to them.
If you had the chance to share a stage with any of your idols, who would it be and why?
I’d probably have to say Bruce Springsteen, Ray Lamontagne, or John Mayer. I’ve never been a fan of Springsteen’s 80’s stuff, but Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and a lot of his newer albums are amazing. Ray Lamontagne, in my opinion, is the best singer on the planet right now, and John Mayer is a hell of a guitarist. They’re definitely my three biggest influences these days.
What are your opinions on the major label to independent shift in recent years?
I don’t have a particularly strong view on it. There are positives and negatives of both routes if I’m honest. Obviously, if you’re signed to a major label you have the financial backing and access to all of their connections, but if you’re prepared to work hard, you can definitely make a success of the independent route… especially with recording costs coming down, and the internet playing an even bigger role.
What are your plans for the rest of 2011?
The new single will be out in July, and there will be a new EP later in the year, and a tour.