It’s been five years since Shawna and Keifer Thompson of Thompson Square released their album, Just Feels Good. In 2016, after welcoming their son Rigney Cooper (they call him Cooper), the couple made the conscious decision to step out of the spotlight and focus on family.
“We decided to start a family and the most important thing for us at the time was to soak up every second of the first two years of his life,” Keifer tells One Country. “So that’s what we did. It’s a scary thing to step away for a minute because the minute you step out, everyone’s rushing in. But, it was just the most important thing for us at the time.”
Shawna and Keifer took another important step and parted ways, amicably, with their record label, freeing them up to do things their way. For the past two years the husband and wife duo have been raising their son and writing songs for their new album, Masterpiece, out June 1.
“It’s been a very weight lifting, liberating couple of months,” said Keifer. “We got to record and sing and write exactly how we wanted to do it. And so far it’s being received as the best thing that we’ve ever done. We’re super proud of that.”
The couple’s triumphant return finds the duo at the top of their game, with their distinct harmonies sounding tighter than ever.
The 11-track offering, nine of which were written or co-written by Keifer or Shawna, reveals a more personal side to the couple, allowing fans a glimpse into their 22-year relationship. With songs like “A Love Like This,” “I Know This Guy,” and “Masterpiece,”— the album’s title track, written by Keifer about his son—the couple peels back layers of their emotional journey.
“[‘Masterpiece’] is a song I wrote about Cooper. I woke up one morning about 6 o’clock and the word masterpiece got in my head. I got up and put it in my phone and I said, ‘well, I’ll think about that later.’ I knew it was a song idea.I just kept going over and over it, ” reveals Keifer.
“Finally it got me out of bed and I went out to the back porch by the pool and just sat there and figured out what it meant. I was like, ‘a masterpiece is someone’s best work. Something they’ve done better than anything else they’ve done and they won’t ever top it.’ The only thing I could think about for me is him, Cooper. I don’t think I could win, make, build or do anything accolade-wise that’s going to ever top that. So I just started comparing that to masterpieces that you think of when you hear the word masterpiece.”
“You’re making a masterpiece / You shaping the soul in me / You’re moving where I can’t see / And all I am is in your hands / You’re taking me all apart / Like it was your plan from the start / To finish your work of art for all to see you’re making a masterpiece,” they sing in the chorus.
Masterpiece picks up where Just Feels Good left off, allowing the couple to grow and experiment with new sounds. From “Good Day” to “Up In Smoke,” Masterpiece is an amalgamation of musical influences, ranging from reggae and hard rock to R&B and country.
“There’s a lot of realness and diversity,” says Shawna. “For the first time, we felt like we didn’t have any shackles or chains. We were able to produce two of the tracks on our own. And we’ve always wanted to do that.”
“We made an album. We didn’t make a bunch of singles,” adds Keifer. “I think it’s a lost art. We didn’t write necessarily for ‘hey, this will sound great on radio.’ We wrote and recorded these songs, like, ‘man, this is killing me. This is making me feel this emotion or this makes me happy or makes me sad.’ There’s a little bit of everything on the record.”
5 Songs with Thompson Square
Keifer and Shawna give us their first thoughts on 5 selections from Masterpiece.
1. “A Love Like This”
Shawna: It’s all about fate.
Keifer: Fate brought us together into Nashville from two different states and we met the same week. And we haven’t been apart in 22 years. We didn’t want to have kids, then we decided to have a kid. That’s just been the best blessing we’ve ever been able to experience. And just when you think that whatever happy place you’re in can’t get any better, something else comes in and makes it exponentially better and that’s what happened when Cooper was born. It freed us from a lot of things, a lot of baggage. It pulled she and I together closer as a couple. It’s hard to do when you’re living with someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 22 years.
2. “I Know This Guy”
Keifer: I thought it was kind of an interesting way for me to talk to Shawna without talking to Shawna. Like talking at you. I got a friend that really wants to date you, but they don’t really know what kind of candles you like, or flowers. If someone was going to get that for you, what would it be? It was kind of that couple rekindling, role playing. It was just another way to talk about Shawna, try to impress her.
Shawna: Oh man. Just fun. Fun and country to me. It’s weird. It’s got this cool country- hip hop kind of thing.
Keifer: This is a song you can crank up and get mindless on. You just turn it on, roll your window down, take your top off …the car top.
4. “Good Day”
Keifer: You can’t be in a bad mood when you listen to reggae music. And it always takes you to a place that you want to be. We were at a songwriting retreat in the Bahamas and that was kind of a snapshot—just a killer day. i woke up, opened the doors and the water— the mist is right in your room because you’re so close. It felt like good days are hard to come by, especially in the time that we live. I don’t think there’s enough good days. We just thought that everyone could use a good day, including us. It’s a fun song, too. We’re obsessed. Bob Marley’s our go-to music. It takes you right out of the funk. I don’t know what it is.
Keifer: [Shawna] was crying the whole process. We had to piece that track together.
Shawna: Yeah, if you listen really close you can kind of hear—it sounds like I’ve been crying. It’s just about a family member that for whatever reason, has decided that they don’t want to be in our life anymore and it’s really odd. And we’ve tried and tried. I really didn’t want to talk about it but Keifer was like, you have to, we have to talk about this.
Keifer: The best songs come out of the worst situations and that’s what you have to do as a writer. Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” one of the greatest songs ever, came out of the worst possible situation. She finally got around to doing it and we pieced it together. Those that are close to you can…
Shawna: …hurt you the most.I finally said I had to stand up for myself. Cooper has made me so much more independent and confident.
Thompson Square’s MASTERPIECE Track listing:
1. “Masterpiece” (Keifer Thompson)
2. “Up in Smoke” (Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Keifer Thompson, Shawna Thompson)
3. “Millionaires” (Marv Green, Catt Gravitt, Courtney Cole)
4. “Stupid Girls Stupid Boys” (Ben Caver, Sara Haze, AJ Pruis, Laura Veltz)
5. “Let’s Do Something Stupid” (Jason Lehning, Keifer Thompson)
6. “Stuck in My Head” (Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Keifer Thompson, Shawna Thompson)
7. “Good Day” (Erik Belz, Frank Rogers, Keifer Thompson, Shawna Thompson)
8. “I Know This Guy” (Mike Fiorentino, Keifer Thompson)
9. “A Love Like This” (Cary Barlowe, Keifer Thompson)
10. “Make It Rain” (Emily Weisband, Marv Green, Keifer Thompson)
11. “Breakers” (Marti Dodson, Patrick Droney, Keifer Thompson)