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

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Like many musicians, Newcastle-born RJ Thompson was inspired by one of his favorite bands to start playing guitar. After seeing U2 at the MEN Arena in Manchester, Thompson decided to pick up his guitar and write his first song. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2003, he released his debut LP Hidden Daylight and since then has released a string of EPs and toured with Ultravox, Deacon Blue, John Martyn and The Proclaimers. Now he’s gearing up to release his latest EP, House Upon The Hill.

Since the early writing process, recording the EP has been a long labour of love, with demo version of the tracks being created 18 months ago. “Our first session on this was that long ago!” Thompson exclaims. “I ended up sitting on some of the songs and holding them back for this EP for when I was happy with other tracks that I wanted to add to it. Generally we work quite quickly in the studio, but it’s the mixing/mastering stage that I really stew over…it can take me weeks and weeks to settle on a mix!” The title track in particular emerged from a particularly long gestation period. “I actually wrote the melody and guitar parts about three years ago,” Thompson admits, “but I never had anything I wanted to say that truly fit the song.” The fruit of Thompson’s labour is possibly the singer-songwriter’s most sincere EP to date, as he himself points out: “I’ve just tried to be as honest as I can. Write what I want to write.”

The EP combines a pop rock sensibility with bluesy flourishes and stripped-back acoustic guitar ballads. Born Alone’s sensitive lyrics combine beautifully with Thompson’s skilful guitar playing, while No Man’s Land builds up into a rustic crescendo of piano and smatterings of brass. EP highlight The Numbers places Thompson’s soulful voice alongside cheeky brass, a simple but highly effective guitar riff and old school bleeps to create an infectious concoction.

Final track Cannery Row sees Thompson stripping back some of his poppier sensibilities, once again to provide lyrical intrigue and deft storytelling akin to one of Thompson’s heroes, Bruce Springsteen. Thompson reveals the unlikely inspiration behind the song: “I was in a bar on Cannery Row one night, and this old guy starting talking to me. He was telling me about how I was the first person he’d spoken to all week…which in itself is incredibly sad, but it got me curious about what his backstory was. My imagination ran wild and I wrote a backstory for him!”

After releasing the EP, Thompson is once again set to tour with Jools Holland. “We played a few shows with him earlier in the year and then we got invited back for the big winter tour, which includes one of my all-time favourite venues, the Royal Albert Hall,” Thompson explains. “I couldn’t be more excited!”

RJ Thompson releases House Upon the Hill on 24th November.

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