Teddy Thompson has a musical pedigree that gets your attention immediately – as the son of folk legends Richard and Linda Thompson -- but it's his soaring voice that won our hearts. Chris Douridas hosted a special session recorded at KCRW's Apogee Sessions in front of a live audience which airs on Morning Becomes Eclectic at 11:15am.
Chris Douridas: Teddy Thompson in live performance. A song called over and over which you can find on the album Bella on the Verve Forecast Label which is a very well known Legacy Country Label.
Teddy Thompson: Ha ha! I was going for jazz. Whatever, Country is just Pop Music with a fiddle.
CD: There you go. I want to remind people where we are. I'm Chris Douridas and we're listening to a special edition of Morning Becomes Eclectic, broadcasting live from the Apogee Berkeley Street studios in Santa Monica, CA.
TT: It's so early in the morning, isn't it? Weird to be up this early. It's tough on the voice.
CD: Again I want to personally in front of everybody here, thank you for this album and congratulate you on it. I was very excited about this album when I first heard it, as I told you. I immediately sent off an email to you and was kind of, over-excited about it.
TT: No, it was good. There's no such thing as over-excited when it comes to people praising me. I can't. Yeah. Just go for it.
CD: And I was kinda of surprised too to see that that the album was produced by David Kahn because David's done, just to help people out, he did the Strokes. He's worked with Sugar Ray...
TT: Regina Spektor.
CD: Regina Spektor...
TT: Yeah and he also produced Walk Like an Egyptian.
CD: Did He?
TT: Yeah. I thought that's my man You're hired. Congratulations! And he's the guy doing the whistling. The whistling solo. That's him. So he says...so he says. I tried to get him to whistle on this record.
CD: How did you end up with David?
TT: Uhhh, we're not together. It's not - I mean we just - we worked together then we both went our separate ways. He's married - I don't know what you're talking about! But we ended up - well, I basically just went looking for a producer and it was because of Regina Spektor records, because I liked the way they sounded so I just I looked at the back of the CD and found out who it was. I'll have to give credit to Ethan Ubanks who's playing drums with me tonight. (Applause) Well you haven't heard what I'm giving him credit for yet. He actually - through another friend - put me in touch with David Kahn and that's how that happened.
CD: I should point out that you and the drummer and the bassist that we're hearing today, you guys have a rockabilly trio as well.
TT: Yeah, we do. We have a band called Poundcake. We'll give you a slice of Poundcake later.
CD: So I have to confess, there's a percentage of your base, the people that follow your work, and I'm part of this percentage, that can hardly look at your work without looking at you in the context of your lineage. I've been fortunate enough to have spent some quality time with both of your parents and we've had a little talk about you. You really need to get your grades up because this just isn't going to cut it...
TT: This is getting weird, is this an intervention? It's an elaborate intervention. Which, by the way, is my favorite program on TV you should check that out. It's so good. I mean it's, you know, it's just - I think it's on AE. If they need any music, by the way, for any of their intervention moments, I think I've got some - just call me up. Sorry, carry on.
CD: Yeah the last time we actually sat down together was about 8 or 9 years ago when you put out your mother's album Fashionably Late, the Linda Thompson album. Obviously your parents together were one of the great romantic collaborations of rock history, and you obviously the result of at least one of those great romantic collaborations. You know there must have been a moment though when you…yeah here comes the jacket. I want to hear about that moment when you were growing up when you realized and "Oh wait, this is where I am in this world, and here's where I fit in in this time line of music history." You know there's a dawning when a kid looks at his parents and goes, "Ok I get it this is who I am." I wondered if you could you speak to that about seeing your sort of place in music and having to kind of come to terms with that as a person wanting to grow up being a musician.
TT: Yeah I mean I think I just kind of ignored it really. How do I feel about that? I never really a hard time of it. For me it was always I felt like I benefited greatly from being slightly different from them musically. Quite different from them musically. So I never really felt too much direct comparison and that was kind of a good thing. As far as their music goes, I mean I guess, I used to listen to my Mom and dad in my late teens - that was probably when I came to terms with the fact that they were good, they'd done some good work there. I used to listen to my dad a lot as a way of trying to be close to him as well, because my parents were divorced and I didn't spend that much time with him. I used to put head phones on and listen to my dad talk and sing and kind of had a weird bonding in a way.
CD: Yeah, it's an interesting thing too. I also was kind of fascinated because you're also close with Rufus Wainwright who also has parents who are in a similar situation, and I wonder if there's something about being kind of a part of that special club where you're, you know, the next generation of...in a way...
TT: Yeah, I never really felt that way, I always thought - maybe it was just low self-esteem - I didn't think that I really belonged in that crew. I mean Rufus is a very self-assured and confident person, so... (audience laughter)... don't laugh... so of course he feels like he belongs wherever he goes. And you know the other kids that I met were just through him, you know I never knew any of those people really, too well, the Cohen kids and Chris Stills and people - really talented people who were around when I lived in LA like, ten years ago, but they were friends of friends, you know, and so I never really felt like I belonged in that world, because my parents weren't that famous enough to really be, uh, to be that seen.
CD: Where did you spend most of your youth?
TT: In London, yeah in the pub.
CD: And so, obviously there was a decision at some point to come to Los Angeles, and it's kind of where you got your footing in the music world and what was the draw to Los Angeles for you?
TT: Honestly, I was just trying to get away from my exam results, which...I just took an extended vacation, because, like, in England it's just like doing SAT's you're in your A-levels, and you do them and it takes a couple of months for the results to come in, and I thought that if I left the country and got a job, they wouldn't seem so important when they arrived. It kind of worked, but I think when they came through I was living in LA driving around, you know, with a job, and someone called and said hey your exams came in they're terrible, and I like "What?...I've got to get to work I'll call you later." But in retrospect I think I was trying to sort of reinvent myself a little bit by moving to America and sort of being a new person and I could just sort of become a musician because nobody knew who I was.
CD: Well in watching your growth, it's been a very organic thing for me, to witness this sort of forging of you as an artist and forging of this identity that you've built over the course of now five albums, and I find it fascinating that over the course of those albums there's always been this one or two leans toward what I would recognize as sort of a country-ish thing and those are the things that I always gravitated to and I the things I would always end up playing the most or responding to the most, and as I said to you before, when this album came through and I realized there was this sort of unabashed movement towards that, for me at least, you're nodding your head no...
TT: No it's just, it's funny that you say that, because I think you're right, I spent my first musical interest and love was country music and I don't know why that was but it's just the way it is, I do know what that was, my dad used to play the Everly Brothers in the car, and it was the first thing I heard where I was like, "Wow, what's that sound, I love that. What's that?" And I sing really country I have a country twang but I think if you took all the vocals off this record and somebody else sang it I don't think it would sound country at all. I think it's in the voice rather than the music. And lyrically I suppose you could say there's kind of country...
CD: And the way it's produced, there's a stylistic production choice here I think in some ways, I mean it's got a rock base to it I guess, I'm not trying to put this into any kind of genre or anything...
TT: Yeah and I think it doesn't really I think that's kind of been my biggest problem really that's why I haven't sold millions of records, cause I don't really fit into any, I can't get on country radio cause it's not country enough, I can't get on pop radio cause it's not pop enough.
CD: Right see for me this feels...
TT: And I can't get on folk radio because it's not folk music... so all I can get on is KCRW. Thank you very much! I mean, that's a good thing I don't mean to... yeah. I mean thank god for KCRW otherwise I would not be on any radio station.
CD: You know it absolutely lives on KCRW and it fits on KCRW but I also, you know, in a perfect world, in my mind's ear it should live and conquer country radio.
TT: Well that would be nice...who can we talk to about that?
CD: I know, let's share notes after the session. Well here we are we're at the Apogee Berkley street Studio in Santa Monica with Teddy Thompson, and it's Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW special edition, let's return to the next set.
Banner image: Jeremiah Garcia