INTERVIEW: RJ THOMPSON | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Local lad RJ Thompson has had a busy year. Not only has he been touring with the likes of Jools Holland, he also recently became a father for the second time. On top of that, he’s written and recorded his new album set for release in November, and February will see him play the record in full at a homecoming gig at Gateshead Sage with John Waugh from The 1975 guesting on saxophone.

Echo Chamber is unmistakeably political, which RJ says was a deliberate thing as he wanted to make something that was extremely relevant to the current time. “There’s been so much happening in the world in the last 18 months that it is almost impossible not to have been affected by it all. I have very strong opinions on recent events, purely from a human point of view – the division that is growing between people due to political scaremongering and mistruths. I wanted the album to be about how people are reacting to everything.”

Unsurprisingly he also says that fatherhood has given him a new perspective on the world, especially in relation to his songwriting, which is particularly evident in tracks like the punchy and emotive London. “I don’t think I would have made an album like this, with such a strong political and social theme, if it wasn’t born out of the worry about my kids’ futures. This album is my way of rationalising that and standing up to it. The last song on the album, Lie Close To Me, is me speaking to my wife saying ‘you know what, we’re going to have to stand up to this, for the sake of them’.”

There’s been so much happening in the world in the last 18 months that it is almost impossible not to have been affected by it all

Previously, RJ has admitted to ‘stewing’ over the mixing and mastering of his records, but he says that wasn’t the case this time around. “This album process has been so different to anything I’ve ever done. I started writing it in late January, and the whole thing was recorded by May. I wanted the album to be very coherent and consistent, so as soon as I finished one song I moved straight onto the next. There is a lot of lyrical and musical continuity throughout the record.”

While RJ’s previous releases have had a bluesy sound, Echo Chamber is very definitely influenced by 1980s pop and rock. The female backing vocals on Blackout Windows are reminiscent of tracks on Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album while The Girl And The Gunman’s powerful message is set to synths and percussion, clearly influenced by the artists like Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruce Springsteen that he grew up listening to.

“In the past I’ve been guilty of not really knowing what kind of music I want to make. Somewhere along the line my early influences were lost and I was writing songs that I thought fit into a certain niche. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really nailed down what kind of artist I want to be. I don’t want to be constrained to just guitars, or a specific ‘singer songwriter’ stereotype, I want to make something that excites me.”

RJ Thompson supports Jools Holland at Newcastle’s City Hall on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th December. Echo Chamber is available now.



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