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Shawna Thompson

Shawna Thompson Biography

The stories in country music stick with us for a lifetime. We pass them down from generation to generation like family treasures. Raised on those same stories, Shawna Thompson proudly carries on this tradition. The Alabama raised and Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and co-founder of chart-topping multiplatinum duo Thompson Square grounds her solo debut, Lean On Neon (Sun Records), in a legacy of timeless country songcraft empowered by 21st century attitude and a graceful touch of personal poetry.

“I’ve been drawn to classic country music for as long as I can remember,” she affirms. “Daddy introduced me to Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, George Jones and countless others. At 8 years old I was tagging along everywhere he played/performed music.”

Slowly but surely, Shawna and her Dad started singing staples from the Nashville songbook together as she also discovered the likes of Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Pam Tillis and many others. In fact, the genesis of Leon On Neon can be traced right back to those formative years.

“My Dad was the biggest influence on this record,” she exclaims. “He played me the first music I’d ever heard. I lost him 12 years ago to colon cancer, so writing and recording this record was a way to feel closer to him. Growing up, I was his shadow. I’m super thankful he took me with him to so many shows and included me in his love of country music. If it weren’t for his influence, I never would’ve started singing or met my husband Keifer and started Thompson Square. Lean On Neon is the album I moved to Nashville to create. It just took me a while.”

Over a decade since the formation of Thompson Square, to be exact, but who’s counting?

After years of sustained success, the stars aligned for Shawna to finally create that record. A confluence of changes provided the perfect opportunity when Thompson Square found themselves between record deals. With this time on their hands came the perfect opportunity to revisit her long dormant idea of a solo album.  As she personally co-wrote seven of the thirteen tracks, Keifer and two-time GRAMMY® Award winner Chad Carlson [Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood] hopped behind the board as co-producers.

“I was finally going to make a traditional honky-tonk album,” she smiles. “In Nashville, ‘Goin in to make the record you want to make as an artist,’ without outside opinion, doesn’t happen a lot. The timing couldn’t have been better.  And with Keifer’s help, I was finally able to express myself as that solo traditional country music artist that I moved to Nashville to be. He knew my vision and shared the same passion that I have for this beautiful style of music.”

The title track “Lean On Neon” embodies her vision. Over the plucky twang of acoustic guitar and airy fiddle, she places listeners in the heart of a “whiskey glass” and “a smoke-filled room. “It’s an old school honky-tonk drinking song and the essence of of this album,” Shawna explains.

With background harmonies from none other than Jim Lauderdale, she sings, “I used to hold a cold one, those nights when I had no one. When a jukebox is your only friend, that quarter drops and a heartache spins. You want to know how I moved on? I used to lean on neon.

Elsewhere, an electric riff curls around confident confessions on “Small Town Wreck.” Co-written by Keifer and Leslie Satcher [George Strait, Martina McBride], Shawna paints another vivid picture by asking, “Who else prays with whiskey still on their breath?”

“I have always been a big fan of Leslie’s work. I wanted to write with her for this album from day one and as is turns out she was an extremely integral part of the process helping pen 4 of the 12 songs. But it’s funny, I actually missed our first session, because I happened to be too hungover to write. Which is ironic because of the topic that Leslie and Keifer wrote about that day,” Shawna laughs.

“It’s the story of a small-town wreck.  A woman whose life has been destroyed by alcohol,” she explains.  “Not knowing where else to turn, as a last resort, she turns to God in a small country church knowing she may be judged by some of the congregation. It’s her conversation directly with God.”

Small Town Wreck was the first song written for the project and it really set the bar for the rest of the record.

“Outlaw Women” lives up to its title by uniting Shawna with fellow female country artists Sunny Sweeney and Ashton Shepherd. “Bama Clay” doubles as an uplifting eulogy to her father. Accompanied by Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, it rolls towards a revival-style prayer, bluegrass stomp, and sweeping refrain, “When they bury me in that Bama Clay, don’t weep for me.”

“My Dad was my rock,” she admits. “The hardest thing I’ve ever faced was losing him. My faith is really what got me through it because I know I’ll see him again one day.  Singing such a personal song with Vince and Ricky was a dream collaboration. It is bittersweet though, because daddy isn’t here to hear it.

Breathing new life into a few classics, she puts her own spin on “Yes Ma’am (He Found Me In A Honky Tonk)” originally recorded by one of her heroes, Leona Williams. The album Lean On Neon culminates on a minimalistic rendition of the Buck Owens ballad “Together Again.” Above sparse instrumentation, her voice takes center stage and ripples with tearful, yet triumphant emotion.

“On the last day of cutting in the studio, Keifer asked, ‘Are you sure there’s nothing else you want to do for your Dad?’,” she recalls. “I was listening to Spotify while I was getting ready for the day, and ‘Together Again’ came on. I just broke down. Keifer could see I was having a moment and suggested we cut the song.  Later that day, with just enough time left for one take, we recorded it like they would’ve back in the day.  With just acoustic guitars, upright piano, upright bass, snare drum, dobro and one microphone. It was the first time I’d ever sang it.  But I had heard Daddy sing it a million times and it felt like he was right there with me.”

In the end, Shawna delivers a record worthy of both tradition and its own legacy with Lean On Neon.

“I have a deep seeded passion for classic country music. In creating Lean on Neon, we tried to honor its authenticity and pay homage to all the artist that came before me that molded and shaped me into who I am today as an artist. It’s very important to me to pass down this tradition to the next generation,” she leaves off. “And for my fellow old school country fans, I want you to feel like you stepped into a time machine when you’re listening.”

Shawna Thompson Releases