Country Duo Talks 'Kiss Me' Success, Grammy Noms & Next Single
It was in Grand Rapids earlier this year that Shawna Thompson had a feeling that 2011 might very well be one to remember.
"I think the record was in the top 30, and people started singing it back to us. Keifer's face was priceless. He looked back at me, and said 'Oh, my gosh, they're singing along.' That was my moment when I thought there might be something here."
"Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?"
The "Keifer" she is referring to is her husband, and together they comprise the duo Thompson Square, and the song they are referring to is their first single -- and eventual chart-topper -- "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?"
The song changed the lives of the couple. Keifer says it was a performance on one of the most hallowed stages in the format that made him realize something special was going on.
"I think when we made our Opry debut at the Ryman. That was a huge deal for us, and getting the Jason Aldean tour was huge, and things kept snowballing after that. It's been an amazing year," he tells Billboard.com. "Another thing was when we had 250 shows on the books."
From the chart success of that single, as well as their debut album -- all the way to their recent ACA wins and CMA nominations, the duo has had a little bit of trouble believing their good fortune. "We still can't," said Keifer. "Everything that is happening, we talk about it every day. We're thankful for what we've been able to be blessed with this year. We're in awe about the whole thing."
Though, one might be mistake if the success of the debut single meant there was no more pressure. In fact, Keifer says, it actually is quite the opposite.
When the follow-up, 'I Got You,' did well on the charts, Keifer said "It did take a little bit of the pressure off, but not a whole lot. Now, we've got to come out with another one. It's a cycle. You're always in a constant state of panic and worry, and hope you can hang on for one more song," he says.
While it has been a great first year for Thompson Square, both say that they are still on the rise. "There is a misconception that if you're on the radio, you're rich beyond belief. I wish that was the case, but you spend so many years trying to get a deal. That took thirteen years, then you get one, and it's a constant feeling of 'Are we going to be gone tomorrow.' I was talking with Jason Aldean about it, and we both said 'If you ever lose that edge where you think it will never go away, that's when it does. So, you can't really get complacent about where you're at. You've got to strive constantly to go above it."
Some, even in their inner circle, don't quite understand that fact. "We had a family member who, as soon as 'Kiss Me' went number one, say 'Sheryl Crow has a house for sale for $2.5 million dollars. You might be interested in that.' I'm thinking 'Are you serious?' It doesn't work that way. For everyone on the outside who thinks once you get here, you're done, it's just not so."
But, those moments on the stage are the ones that make it all worth it, says Shawna. "When the fans give that energy back to you, it makes you forget about all the hardship you go through on the road. It's a beautiful thing."
2011 ends with the duo getting some more good news. "When we found out we were nominated for two Grammys, we just about flipped out. We didn't expect that at all," admits Keifer. "That song just resonated from kids all the way up to older adults, and you can't explain why. I wish I could. I'd be extremely rich now. That three-minute song changed our lives. It's absolutely crazy. It doesn't get any bigger than that as a musician."
The duo will also be releasing their third single in January, as well. Keifer tells Billboard that "Glass' is a song that the first time we heard it was a male demo, and we loved the song. I didn't feel like I could sell the song as well as Shawna could. We switched it over, and she did a version of it that blew everybody out of the water. It was absolutely the right move. I think the fans are going to love it. It's a really fragile, intimate song that showcases Shawna's vocal ability. I think the country music world is going to love it!"