When putting songs together for Separate Ways [Verve Forecast], his second solo album of leisurely paced, introspective tunes infused with buoyant rhythms and his lilting vocals, Thompson leveraged Apple’s GarageBand software, but in a rather old school manner.
“I know GarageBand can do amazing things, but I only use it as a Dictaphone,” he says. “I click ‘Record,’ and sit in front of my laptop, singing and playing guitar into the computer’s built-in microphone. It’s really handy for writing—particularly when I’m traveling. It’s a good way to capture ideas as they happen, and I can listen back to them whenever I want. I also rely heavily on jotting things down on a notepad.”
His guitar of choice while recording
Separate Ways was a
which he prefers because of its “big, flat, and even sound.” In addition to Thompson’s expressive acoustic and understated electric work, his dad also lent his incomparable lead-guitar talents to five tracks.
“I’m not very technically proficient as a guitarist, but I have good time, rhythm, and feel,” says Thompson. “Personally, I think today’s music can do with a lot less virtuosity and a lot more feel, so I’m quite happy to be erring on that side. My goal as a guitar player is to play whatever the song and voice call out for. In a way, the guitar provides the warm glue that holds all of the other elements together. I think it’s similar to my dad’s philosophy. He isn’t a showboating guitarist, although he’s certainly capable of it. It’s always about serving the song for both of us.”
The melancholic vibe of the album’s lyrics is also reminiscent of his parents’ leanings.
“I like sad songs, because they’re simply more affecting,” says Thompson. “It’s incredibly hard to write a really good happy and uplifting song. I believe sad songs work better because they truly mirror the human condition. That idea is reflected in my parents’ work, as well, and I’m sure it rubbed off on me. I think that’s where my natural disposition sits. There’s also probably some influence of that sort of typical dour English thing. Ultimately, it all boils down to honesty for me, and that should be the single most important consideration for songwriters. The most truthful tunes are the ones that stand the test of time, and I think it’s natural that those are often the darker ones.”
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