Tyler Thompson has already had a phenomenally successful career as a producer or executive producer of such critically acclaimed and commercially successful films as Black Swan, Rush, American Made and The Trial of the Chicago 7, but the pandemic and a major life event made him reconsider some of his professional choices.
“We had our fourth child, Liv, at the height of lockdown. She was a premature baby and in the NICU for 35 days,” he tells Billboard. “I decided at that time that I wanted to move to the next chapter [with] another way to tell stories that no one could take away from me.”
The natural choice was music. However, there was one problem: Thompson could play guitar but couldn’t sing. With time on his hands during the shutdown, “I just started singing every day and took vocal lessons to get stronger and understand basics from someone who was classically trained,” the Louisiana native says. “I started working through songs at Tipitina’s in New Orleans while the venue was closed due to COVID, which in normal days would have never been possible.”
Thompson, 36, enlisted some powerful names to join him in the studio for the project, which he recorded over a two-year span. His friend, Rolling Stones drummer Steve Jordan, produced and played drums, Derek Trucks played guitar, and Pino Palladino played bass, with Thompson on guitar and vocals. He and noted singer/songwriter Will Hoge, who has written such hits as Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” crafted the 10 songs on the album.
In the studio, “I realized early on that I was never going to be remembered as a phenomenal singer, so I focused on storytelling. That came naturally for me,” Thompson says.
His next step was getting signed to a label. Someone at RCA in New York introduced him to the team at sister company Sony Nashville and he tenaciously pursued getting a record deal. “They weren’t signing anyone new but liked the demos, which I continually bombarded them with,” Thompson says. “They passed and went quiet for six months. One day I randomly emailed them to check in with a couple of my new tracks attached, and I got a follow-up call with [Sony Nashville chairman/CEO] Randy Goodman and [vp of A&R] Margaret Tomlin. They liked the music and the sound and took a bet on me.”
“Tyler’s success in film proves his innate gift for identifying compelling stories and bringing them to a global audience,” Tomlin says. “We’re excited to be his partners for his next creative chapter and can’t wait to see how he connects with listeners in this new medium.”
His first song, “Won’t Take Long,” goes to streaming services Friday, but listeners can hear snippets of the midtempo track in the trailer below. Written by Hoge, it is the opening salvo from the full album still to come.
“It’s one of those breakup tracks about those younger relationships we have all had that usually stings more than you let on,” Thompson says of “Won’t Take Long.” “It’s the important part of storytelling that connects us all to these personal moments. Throughout my career, I have always been passionate about telling stories no one else was willing to tell and bringing back projects from the brink to give them new life. This happened when I made Black Swan, and that’s exactly what I believe we’re doing with this song, which was written by my pal Will several years ago.”
As Thompson, who has signed with CAA for representation for his music career, further explains in the trailer, making music is not that different from filmmaking. “A lot of it was tailoring the storytelling,” he says, “[It’s] no different than when you get a script for a movie.”
The trailer also shows Thompson in the studio working with Jordan in person and remotely and further explaining his mission. “I really wanted to do this … and it wasn’t about money and it wasn’t about fame, because I’ve seen all that sh– and it doesn’t mean anything to me,” he says. “At the end of the day, when you really find something you want to do and a real passion, at the end of the day, you’ll do anything for it.”
Though his immediate focus is on his music, Thompson is keeping his day job. The next film coming out through his Cross Creek Pictures is Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye starring Christian Bale on Netflix.