Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

We had the pleasure of talking with singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson and the equal pleasure of listening to him sing along. He comes from good stock, as they say. His parents are folk rock icons Linda and Richard Thompson. But on his recently released collection called "Up Front and Down Low," Teddy ditches the folk pop for some torch and twang.

(Soundbite of song, "Let's Think About Living")

Mr. TEDDY THOMPSON (Singer, "Up Front and Down Low"): (Singing) In every other song that I've heard lately, some fellow gets shot. His baby and his best friend both die with him, as likely as not. In half of the other songs, some cat's crying, oh, I wish could die. We've lost most of our happy people, I'm wondering why. Let's think about living.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Let's think about living.

Mr. THOMPSON: (Singing) Let's think about loving.

STEWART: When Teddy stopped by THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT studios, he told us about why he decided to go country and the challenges he faced self-producing this record. Let's hear some of that interview.

Now, the album is a series of cover songs except from one that you wrote.

Mr. THOMPSON: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: How did you whittle it down with so many amazing, in which you say country…

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

STEWART: …songs, how did you whittle it down to the ones you chose for the record?

Mr. THOMPSON: I did - well, I had a (unintelligible), you know, my favorites from when, you know, as a kid that I loved. And then the rest of them, I just bought CDs and started it was a little project, you know? I trolled through the backwoods of country music.

STEWART: You don't sound like you're from the backwoods, though.

Mr. THOMPSON: What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I think people are probably wondering…

Mr. THOMPSON: I'm from the backwoods of London. Yeah, it's a little unusual but I actually grew up on country music, which looks - it may seem strange but that's what was playing in my house when I was a kid and that's what I love.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Was that weird in England, listening to that country music?

Mr. THOMPSON: It was bit, yeah. It was just both of my parents are musicians and country fans and it was just something that was playing a lot in the car and it was the first music that I listen, that I remember hearing and loving.

STEWART: Your dad is actually Richard Thompson and he's on the record as well.

Mr. THOMPSON: He's (unintelligible) a few songs, yeah.

STEWART: When you're working with him, when you're collaborating with him, is he just the guitar player of the day or do you have a relationship of this is my dad and I need to talk to him in that relationship we have?

Mr. THOMPSON: He's more like a guitar player, you know. It's, I don't know. I mean, he's very - he's very professional. He's very - he's not someone you need to tell him what to play anyway so it's more like you just come in and chat and it's nice to see my dad and then you've been playing and he does what he does and, you know, because not, you don't need to give him a lot of direction.

STEWART: One of the things I really liked when I was listening to the CD was a lot of - a lot of - there's a lots of strings…

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah, there's a lot of strings.

STEWART: …on the record. Let's play a little bit so people can hear it and then we can talk about it.

Mr. THOMPSON: Okay.

(Soundbite of song, "Change of Heart")

Mr. THOMPSON: (Singing) Well, I guessin' I must have had a change of heart, you don't really like you did at the start, you can't play and love was quite a work of art. Now, I guessin' I must have had a change of heart…

STEWART: As you could imagine, the name of that song is "Change of Heart" from Teddy Thompson's new record "Up Front and Down Low." Teddy, so in terms of bringing all these lush strings, everything else is really sparse. Why did you make that decision?

Mr. THOMPSON: What I want to use is something a little different. I wanted to do these country songs and it was a fun project to do but as we've hit upon this idea, as we were getting into it, of having a string quartet and quite a non-country sounding single and then so having country songs but with very European sounding strings sort of baroque sounding strings. And we had this wonderful string arranger in England called Robert Kirby, who is famous for doing the Nick Drake records in the '70s. So he's sort of added a different dimension and it became something a little bit more interesting than just some dude doing country songs.

STEWART: Can you play it soon for us?

Mr. THOMPSON: Well, exactly. Yeah, sure. So, this is, the song is called "Down Low" which is the song I wrote on the record. It's the down low part of - I'm probably down low. Okay.

(Soundbite of song, "Down Low")

Mr. THOMPSON: (Singing) Lord, I've been thinking of you. There are things I used to do with the trouble I make. Lord, you'd be better off dead. Put a bullet in your head than to come back for me. Keep it all in down low, until everybody you know, I love you more than I should. And the only man, in my pride makes you man, only ever lead me to sorrow, so go. Go to love, try to grow. (Unintelligible) habits I show. I still got time. We'll find someone who cares to hear them sing but I still got time.

BURBANK: I'm totally understanding why girls go in for singer-songwriters because I kind of want to give you my number right now.

Mr. THOMPSON: You were kind of - you want to hang out later?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Yeah.

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah, up for a drink. Whatever happens, happens.

BURBANK: Sure.

STEWART: Should I leave you two alone?

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah.

BURBANK: Sure, maybe. Teddy Thompson playing off of his new album "Up Front and Down Low."

Your parents are both pretty well known musicians and I was kind of reading up on you the last couple of days and everywhere I see you mentioned, a lot of times, there's a reference to your folks. Has that been something that has been kind of annoying or does it, is it something that has, you know, it's nice to have somebody in the family who had a nose for music?

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah, a bit of both - it's never really annoying, you know. I come from the folk musicians and I come from that sort of English folk musician background thing where it's actually, it's actually a good thing to have family, that's all. It's a big traditional, there's a lot of families that sing and play sort of something to be celebrated where I come from so I don't see as being a burden.

BURBANK: Right, but you don't feel like I've read a lot of - like I said in stories that are about you. Let's talk about what an amazing musician your dad is particularly his guitar work is just - I mean, it's like legendary.

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah.

BURBANK: And I even read someone said, oh, Teddy, he's a competent guitar player.

Mr. THOMPSON: Uh-huh.

BURBANK: And you're like come on. I mean, you know, don't compare me to my dad all the time.

Mr. THOMPSON: Well, I mean, a little bit but, you know, also I was very aware from when I was a kid that, you know, that my dad was, is about as good as it gets from playing a good - playing the guitar. So it's not really something that I ever aspired to getting as good as him that, if you know what I mean. And my mother's was, is a great singer as well so I never really thought I was going to eclipse them in that, in those direct comparisons, you know?

STEWART: Yeah.

Mr. THOMPSON: So, no, not too much.

STEWART: Teddy Thompson, thanks for coming in.

Mr. THOMPSON: Thanks for having me.

STEWART: The name of the record is "Up Front and Down Low."

BURBANK: Teddy, could you just play us out with a little music?

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah, sure.

(Soundbite of song, "You Finally Said Something Good (When You Said Goodbye)")

Mr. THOMPSON: (Singing) You finally said something good when you said goodbye. So don't wait around to see if I'm a gonna cry. Instead of tears streaming down my face you'll burn a great big smile on your place. You finally said something good when you said goodbye. I don't wanna rush you baby but I'll help you pack. I've been waitin' on you to make a move like that. Don't waste your time on goodbye diddy, you already said what I wanna hear. You finally said something good when you said goodbye.

I'll help you move a lil faster, I'll call a cab. Don't worry about the fare I'll pay the tab. You've been talking and talking all these years you finally said what I want to hear. You finally said something good when you said goodbye, hmm, you finally said something good when you say goodbye. So don't wait around and see if I'm gonna cry. You've been talking and talking all these years you finally said that I want to hear. You finally said something good when you said goodbye. Hmm, you finally said something good when you said goodbye.

BURBANK: Damn right.

STEWART: A little performance and chat from Teddy Thompson here in THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT studios.

BURBANK: And me swearing, if you put it that way.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.