Emerging British singer-songwriter Kami Thompson has released her debut album titled Love Lies (Warner Music / Naxos). Her music blends British folk-rock, Americana and pop.
Kami grew up listening to roots music. Her father is Richard Thompson and her brother is Teddy Thompson. Family friends include Sean Lennon and Martha Wainwright.
Thompson was not keen to jump into the family business. Her father and mother Linda had broken new ground in the roots-rock scene. Her brother was making his way as a professional musician in Los Angeles. She’d grown up surrounded by musical families and had become familiar with the whole business from the inside, right down to selling merchandise at her father’s shows.
“I kept thinking, ‘I don’t want to go into the family biz, and into a whole new world of personal judgment,’” Thompson explains. “In a musical family, everything is heard with professional ears, and even though everyone has been extremely supportive, they’ve also been brutally honest when they’ve heard my songs.”
But the music emerged, despite Kami’s hesitancy. “I had all these ideas, all half-finished,” Thompson recalls. “In my early 20s, I started writing whole songs. I did it for my own pleasure, coming home after long week at work, sitting with my guitar and playing away. It seemed like a good alternative to sitting around the TV and drinking another bottle of red wine.”
The songs that appeared dealt with the complexities of love gone wrong, with unexpected approaches to that time-tested theme. “Blood Wedding” imagines a conversation between Thompson and her mother, as it may have unfolded in an English ballad several centuries ago, and features her father’s mandolin solo. “Gotta Hold On” mixes heartbreak and defiance with a honky-tonk vibe. “Don’t Bother Me” is an almost eerie perspective on a George Harrison classic.
Kami Thompson’s music eventually saw the light of day. She played a concert with her father, singing a duet that attracted the attention of Will Oldham (aka Bonny Prince Billy), who just happened to be in the audience that night. He located her and invited her to join him on tour in New Zealand and Australia.
“It took someone from outside the hothouse world I grew up in,” notes Thompson. “I realized I should finish these songs that I’d half written.”
Once finished, Kami worked with Brad Albetta, bassist, producer, and partner of close friend Martha Wainwright, and Ed Haber, saving up her money to travel to New York for studio sessions, wandering the streets between takes, and wondering at her good fortune. The songs took on a markedly American sound, a fact Thompson credits to the recording location and musicians involved, including Martha and Lucy Wainwright on vocals.
“If we’d done it in Britain with British musicians,” she says, “it would have had a totally different sound. It wasn’t intentional; everyone just played what they wanted to, and it turned out beautifully.”