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About Teddy Thompson
"This is a happy record," Teddy Thompson says of his new Verve Forecast release A Piece of What You Need. "Well, maybe not happy, but upbeat. Actually, maybe not upbeat, but it does have some up-tempo songs! Anyway, it's as close as I've gotten to making the record I've always wanted to make."
Indeed, happy or not, A Piece of What You Need — Thompson's fourth album overall and his third for Verve — is the London-born, New York-based artist's most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, showcasing his formidable vocal, songwriting and guitar talents while venturing into rewarding new musical and lyrical territory.
Thompson's trademark blend of catchy songcraft, pensive emotional insight and good-natured black humor is present on such new tunes as "In My Arms," "What's This?!!," "Don't Know What I Was Thinking" and the bittersweetly fatalistic "Turning the Gun On Myself." The album's effortless pop sensibility is matched by a playful sonic palette that incorporates such aural surprises as the careening brass band on "Can't Sing Straight" and "One of These Days," or the Hitchcockian orchestral rushes that haunt the cinematic "Jonathan's Book."
Although Thompson co-produced his last two albums Separate Ways and Up Close & Down Low, for A Piece of What You Need he made it a point to recruit an outside producer to help realize his expansive musical agenda. The man for the job was Marius de Vries, whose extensive production resume includes work with acts as diverse as Bjork, Madonna, David Gray and Rufus Wainwright.
"I knew that I wanted this one to be more adventurous, with strong, solid rhythm tracks and beautiful airy touches to support the songs,"
Thompson explains, adding, "Marius gets all the credit for that. He's taken the arrangements up a notch. There was nothing off-limits, nothing that was too weird or too difficult. I could tell him that I wanted something to sound like fairies dancing around a maypole, and he'd know what button to push to get that. We were able to add a lot more layers, without overshadowing the songs themselves."
Thompson, son of folk-rock legends Richard and Linda Thompson, developed his musical drive early in life and launched his first band while still in his early teens. By the time he released his self-titled solo debut in 2000, he'd served a stint in his father's touring band and contributed guitar and vocals to his dad's albums You? Me? Us? and Mock Tudor. He subsequently co-produced and played on his mother's 2002 comeback disc Fashionably Late, and toured as a member of Rosanne Cash's backing band.
After signing with Verve, he released his widely acclaimed 2006 sophomore album Separate Ways, which demonstrated how much his songwriting, performing and record-making skills had evolved since his debut. It was followed in 2007 by Up Front & Down Low, a collection of personally charged readings of classic American country songs that demonstrated Thompson's increased assurance as a performer and interpreter.
"My first record was made in two weeks, and I had no idea what I was doing," Thompson states. "Separate Ways was done over a long period of time in bits and pieces. And Upfront & Down Low was done quickly and was intentionally free-swinging and loose. With the new one,we put a lot of time and effort into it, but we made it pretty quickly, because we had a plan and did a lot of preparation and pre-production. Because of that, it feels more like a complete package to me."
"But it was stressful in other ways," he adds, "because I went into making this record without having finished a lot of the songs, which is something I've never done before. I'd be out on tour, sitting in a hotel room in Canada, pulling my hair out and trying to think of a rhyme for antediluvian. In some cases the songs ended up taking a different shape because of that, and they developed in interesting ways that they wouldn't have otherwise."
A Piece of What You Need is a landmark for an artist whose creative restlessness continues to yield deeply compelling musical results.
Thompson's sense of purpose — and sense of humor — are reflected in the song title that provides the album's name.
"The song was born from frustration with the state of music," he explains. "I liked it as an album title because I thought it sounded like an offering, like this record is a small bit of truth. For most people, it's gonna be an absolutely miniscule piece of what they need.
But I'd like to think that I'm contributing some tiny little building block of something worthwhile, rather than just adding to the massive pile of disposable rubbish."