It has been five years since Thompson Square released an album and with Masterpiece, out now, the country duo continues where 2013’s Just Feels Good left off. Now the proud parents of a two-year-old son, Cooper, Keifer and Shawna Thompson have lived a lot of life since their last project and these experiences are woven throughout their 11-track independent release.
After departing from Stoney Creek Records, the label home for their first two albums, the couple found themselves navigating the music industry themselves. As they began penning and producing what would become their third project, they also welcomed their first child in early 2016, and he proved to be a major influence throughout Masterpiece.
“We wanted to be right there with our son every second for the first two years,” Keifer says, seated beside his wife of 19 years, Shawna, during a recent press day in Nashville. “I think it’s made us closer as a family. He spawned all kinds of inspiration for this record — having this peace inside that he brings to us. What really matters in life is him and us. The career obviously takes a backseat to him and our family, but just having that peace had spawned a lot of song ideas. We’ve had the ability to tell some stories that we’ve never been able to tell before.”
Happy mother’s day to this beautiful, loving and strong woman. I can’t imagine life with out her and I know she couldn’t imagine a life without our son Cooper. To simply say she’s a great mother would be a great understatement. I’m pretty sure he thinks she’s the best mom ever. I think he just might be right.
The album’s triumphant title track is about Cooper. “Masterpiece” kicks off the album and was written late in the songwriting process for Thompson Square’s third album. As Keifer explains, “Masterpiece” was a missing piece to the record and after he played it for Shawna, she suggested it become the album’s title.
The idea for the song came to Keifer one morning while lying in bed. He says he woke up with the song title in his head around 6 a.m. and wrote it down in his phone. He planned to return to the song later but he couldn’t get back to sleep.
“I got up and went out by the pool with my guitar and started thinking about what ‘Masterpiece’ was and what I wanted it to be,” Keifer recalls. “I think when song titles come to you they want to be something, and you have to figure out what that is. Most of the time you miss it, but sometimes you hit it. For me, a masterpiece is someone’s best work that you’ll never be able to top. I was thinking, ‘Well what is that for me?’ And without a breath it was Cooper. I can’t imagine anything getting any better than that. It started pouring out and I played it for Shawna when she got up a few hours later. I was recording it as I was playing it for her so I could have a work tape of it, and I looked up and she’s just completely silent, she’s got tears rolling down her face.”
“Masterpiece” is Shawna’s favorite song on the release and she says she had a vision of the album cover after she heard the song. Another personal track is album closer, “Breakers.” Thompson Square penned the song with Marti Dodson and Patrick Droney, and Keifer says the track serves as a “massive exclamation mark at the end of the record.” Dodson had the idea for the song following a bad breakup. During their writing session at Thompson Square’s home in Alabama, Dodson mentioned that you often hurt the ones you love the most.
“The backside of it came up: ‘Must be lucky, everybody must love me the most,'” Keifer recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! This is it! We’re doing it right now, this is happening!’ And we sat down and knocked it out. She just came off of a really bad breakup; it’s that tragedy thing. Creative people love to live in misery because it’s very creative.”
While the heartfelt “Masterpiece” and “Breakers” serve as the album’s powerful anchors, Thompson Square also show their fun side on the tongue-in-cheek “Stupid Girls Stupid Boys” and the reggae-inspired “Good Day,” the latter of which was written while on a writers’ retreat in the Bahamas.
“We were staying at Compass Point in this bungalow, thatched roof thing. Waves were crashing in,” Shawna recalls writing “Good Day” with a smile. “We literally wrote how the day went down in that song, just being by the water. It makes you feel good. We love reggae. That’s always our go-to when we feel like we need a little pick-me-up. Turn [Bob] Marley on and let it go.”
Meanwhile, Shawna describes “Stupid Girls Stupid Boys” as a song that recalls the concept of Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road,” where one appreciates the exes of the person they’re currently dating. “Shout out to the stupid girls, baby / Screw must have come loose kind of crazies / I don’t mean to be mean / But I don’t think they knew what they were losing,” Thompson Square sing on the chorus.
“It’s totally meant to be tongue-in-cheek ’cause you have to thank everybody for letting whoever you’re with go because you see something in them that they obviously couldn’t,” Keifer adds.
No one knows this more than the married couple, who recently celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary. When asked the secret to their longevity as a couple and as a duo, Keifer says it’s simple: he married his best friend.
“There’s only one person that I want to spend this much time with. I haven’t found anybody else in this world of ours that I would spend this much time with,” he admits. “I think the secret is just marry the right person. Our right is being together all the time. It fits, our two puzzle pieces fit.”
In addition to Masterpiece being Thompson Square’s first independent release, it will also be their first record available on vinyl. Masterpiece is available on June 1.