RJ Thompson Interview

RJ Thompson Interview

At Musicpsych we are fortunate enough to rub shoulders with great musicians who also really understand gear. RJ Thompson is a prime example of a talent who’s knowledge and experience spans both worlds. He has toured with Gabrielle Aplin, Sandi Thom, The Proclaimers, Midge Ure, Madeleine Peyroux, Deacon Blue and Ultravox, and released two critically acclaimed albums and two EPs as a solo artist. But his interest in gear (Stomp boxes in particular) brought Strymon to his attention. We caught up with him to get the lowdown on the musical influences and instruments that have guided him on his way…


MPS
Who are you working with at the moment? 

RJT
In the studio I’m working with producer Adam Sinclair (credits include The Unthanks, Frankie & The Heartstrings) on some new tracks that I released in November.
On the live side of things, I’ve just confirmed a tour supporting Jools Holland. That all kicked off in November!

MPS 
What kind of work do you get the most satisfaction out of?

RJT 
Definitely gigging! It’s all a big cliché really, but there really isn’t a feeling like stepping on stage and singing your own songs to people.

MPS 
Tell us a little bit about your recent solo work?

RJT 
I’ve just released a single called “The Numbers”. It’s a little bit of a departure from the music I’ve made over the last few years.
My older music was more rooted in the singer songwriter acoustic rock world, but with this new single (and the tracks I’m working on as a follow up), I’m making full use of my 7-piece band and attempting to display the quirkier side of my songwriting.

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

RJT 
I can pick out a few, but it’s hard to pin down an absolute favourite.
A couple of the standouts were quite recently actually. We were booked on a couple of Jools Holland dates back in May (in Perth and Middlesbrough), and that was an experience to remember… really big crowds and a great set of people to work with.
Prior to that, singing a duet with Gabrielle Aplin at a couple of her recent UK shows was also a highlight.

MPS 
Who do you count among your musical influences?

RJT
I’m a huge fan of classic singer songwriters like Dylan and Springsteen and legendary artists like Elvis and Johnny Cash, and they will always be an influence on the way I try to write songs. But truth be told… my music sounds absolutely nothing like theirs!
In terms of more modern influences, I listen to and take inspiration from quite a wide range of artists… Beck, John Mayer, Ryan Adams, Ray Lamontagne, Bright Eyes, Gary Clark Jr… the list goes on and on!

MPS 
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

RJT 
Definitely the 1950s in Memphis, Tennessee. To set foot in Sun Studios and witness the start of Elvis and Johnny Cash’s careers!

MPS 
What was your first guitar?

RJT 
I learnt to play on my Dad’s Squier Stratocaster for a few years, before I got my own guitar… an Epiphone SG.

MPS 
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

RJT 
My two main guitars are a Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with Bare Knuckle 63 Veneer Board single coil pickups, and a Fender Select Telecaster HH with Wide Range Humbuckers from Mojo Pickups.

MPS
Tell us about your El Cap and Flint, what made you chose them?

RJT
I use the 3 “big” Strymons in the studio (Timeline, Mobius and Big Sky), and I’ve been looking to get a couple of the smaller Strymon pedals for live use as I try to take a smaller setup to shows.
My most used effects from the three bigger units are the Tape Delay from the Timeline and the Tremolo from the Mobius, so it made sense to get a couple of the smaller Strymons for my live board to take out on tour.

MPS 
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

RJT 
It varies from time to time, but I’m currently using a mixture of Boss (Tuner and DM-2), Ibanez (TS808), Free The Tone (Final Booster and Silky Comp), Keeley (modded Boss BD-2), Vemuram (Neoplex) and Fulltone (Octafuzz OF-2) pedals.

MPS 
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

RJT 
Not really. I’m a bit of a hoarder so if there’s a chance that I’ll still use something I’ll try my best not to let it go. I only tend to sell things that I really can’t see myself using often.

MPS 
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you, and why?

RJT 
The Strymon pedals fall into that category for sure. The big 3 units are phenomenal to use in the studio when you have the time to really play around with everything they have to offer.
Other than that, when I bought my first real Strat I realised what I’d been missing. That guitar makes me write songs from a completely different angle. It’s hard to describe really. I once heard Paul McCartney say that every guitar has a few secret songs in it… songs that are already there and waiting to be found. I understood that for the first time when I bought my Strat.

MPS 
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

RJT 
Write the bad songs as well as the good ones. I went through a faze of throwing out any idea if I didn’t immediately think it was great… but in reality the more songs you write (good and bad) the more ideas you can draw from.
For example, I plucked a whole verse melody recently out of one of my discarded songs and used it as a middle 8 in one of the tracks I’m working on currently. And it works really well in that context!
It’s always worth writing!



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