Addison Lea Thompson…..What is there to say about him….
Someone that you could say a million things about and yet saying nothing might be just as powerful. Addison is someone who doesn’t share his words easily, but it does leave you craving more. Here’s someone who literally crawls in his own skin until you put a guitar in his hand then it’s as if his world fades away into an abyss and the music encompasses him. I’ve met a lot of people, a lot of "creatives", but I’ve never known someone whose demeanor shifts so dramatically when he is in his element.
Addison writes and sings songs of heartache and of living in the Rocky Mountains in Montana. He plays the guitar as any good cowboy songwriter should.... and he writes songs that hit the heart hard with lyrics like:
Hey there cowgirl
what the hell do you think your momma taught you better
than to dance with one just like me
He’s easily one of the youngest guys breaking into the "Outlaw Music" scene right now, and he’s got the ambition to prove it. He has recently been working on recording his first EP. Meanwhile, he is still making time to play a variety of shows in local honky-tonks and bars within the area. His loyal sidekick follows him around wherever he goes: Lander, his heeler mix would likely follow him to the ends of the earth if he asked but she definitely follows him into every local bar and sleeps quietly. I had the privilege to meet Addison in January. We spent an afternoon, that night, and the following morning together; playing, creating, and drinking… just like any outlaw music loving fan would do. I asked Addison if I could feature him on my blog with a series of images to follow and to my delight, he was happy to! I was eager to learn more about his music, his life, and why he's following the path that he's chosen.
Me: When you’re not doing music, what do you like to do in your free time?
A: I like to… basically anything outdoors… hunt, fish, hike, ski, rock climb. If it’s outdoors, I’ll pretty much do it.
So, uh, you look kind of young. Just how old are you…?
A. Mhmm… (amused) I am 22. Even though I might look like a 15 year old with a beard.
Okay, okay. So how long have you been doing music?
A. I started taking piano when I was about 6. My mother forced me into it. I was not keen on the idea at first, but looking back on it, I’m more than thankful. I started guitar when I was 12. I basically kind of cut a deal with her, because her rule was "I would like you to take music so you always have it there". So I was like, "Well fine! I’m going to take guitar because that seems cooler than piano." You know, in my typical 12 year old brain. So I ended up taking guitar and loved it and have stuck with that ever since.
So did you grow up in a musical family?
A. Yes and no. My mom took piano lessons as a child. But neither of my parents played music growing up. But, my brothers and I were heavily submerged in it. My middle brother took guitar lessons, my baby brother has done piano, guitar, and he plays the trombone in his high school jazz band. He kind of mimicked my path. He and I were the ones, since I was in band in school, he kind of mimicked my path of picking up a lot of different instruments instead of just trying to master one.
Nice! So you are recording your first, EP right now, that’s correct?
How do you like being in the studio?
A. You know, it’s familiar but still a new experience. In high school, I did an album with a little blues project that I was doing at the time, kind of more for my own benefit than public release. So as far as the same rhythms, of being the studio, such as tracking and focusing on a song for an extended period of time that’s not new to me. What is new to me, is doing it on a much more professional level as far as working with instead of just my self and playing all of the instruments (or good friends playing the others). Working with, musicians that you know, I’m strictly doing the guitar and the vocals: Ron is strictly doing the drums, John is strictly doing the bass. You know, it’s cool to work with them and different at the same time. To really create music and give the songs even more life than they already had.
Yeah, absolutely! So you like the crew that’s in the studio with you right now?
A. I could absolutely not say anything better about these guys. They are just amazing musicians. The truly care for bringing these songs to life and bringing the emotion out of them. They are all just so phenomenally talented, it’s just insane to me.
So tell me about the songs that you having coming out on your EP.
A. So we have 6 songs. In no particular order, because the order is yet to be finalized, while we’re talking about this, I’ve got: “Going back to Montana” which is just kind of a little number about this state and about where I’m at and where I’m living. I wrote it with a good friend that was raised here, over a bottle of whisky actually and we just wanted to try and capture this state in a song and do the best that we could. Another one is “Late Fall” that is about a dear friend of mine that recently passed away that was a big part of my life. Then there’s “Outlaws like Me” was basically written as far as the various people that I come across in my life and the kind of people that I enjoy hanging out with. The chorus refers to “Raise your Glasses for the Ones just Like Me” the Dirtbag which is kind of a term that refers to the rock-climbing, backpacking, hiking community, but just think of your typically hippie type of person. That term is thrown around in that community a lot so it is kind of talking about them. The rambler, the cowboy, and the free which are kind of all the crowds that I enjoy hanging around - typical people you’d find in a bar out west or really anywhere.
So your influences from your songs mainly come from real life experiences?
A. Yeah, they really do. Another one of those songs, “Me and Jim Bean.” It’s about a break up. Literally that song talks about when I felt like the only friend that I had was a bottle of whisky. “Hey There Cowgirl” that’s about a breakup. I could go on for days.
Tell me a little bit more about “Doc and Me”. I know that’s a pretty emotional song for you.
A. “Doc and Me” is… pauses Doc was a good friend of my dads who filled a grandparent roll in my life we are actually calling the song Late Fall officially. But Doc… I shot my first
deer sitting on his lap when I was a kid. He was the kind of guy that I could call and be like ‘hey this is going on, what do I do?’ and he had advice for everything. Even when
you thought it was the situation that you were just… done for. I could call him ‘hey, what am I going to do?’ and he was able to give me advice to get me through it. He passed away this year and I needed a way to work through that. So I turned to what I usually do, which is music. I wrote that song about it as an outlet to get through his death and to bring closure to it.
So going into that, what’s your biggest struggle with your music? Is it the emotional side…? What challenges have you faced so far?
A. Pauses I think my biggest challenge at the end of the day is that I write a lot of songs, maybe not even putting them to notes but just a lot of lyrics. At the end of the day, for me, it is sifting through all of that. If I had it my way everything I write down on a daily basis would become a song. But at certain times there’s just certain stuff that takes me a little more work though that might not instantly become a song, if that makes any sense. It takes me a lot longer to write a song than most people.
What does your song writing process look like then?
A. I’ll come up with a lyric in my head and I’ll either write it down on a piece of paper, put it in my phone, or I’ve been known to write it on my arm in pen. I’ve usually always got a pen in my pocket. Then, from there I’ll work with it as far as creating lyrics. When coming up with notes, that can be just as simple as me just sitting around and messing around with my guitar at night. But one of the really cool ways, in several songs that I’ve written – it rarely happens but when it does it usually creates a song that I fall in love with personally, one that usually ends up becoming fun to play. It’s just off the cuff and instantly ready to play right there. It rarely happens, but "Outlaws Like Me" was written like that, "Spanish Moss Dream" was written like that. Where I’m just sitting there playing and I’ll run through the first verse idea. Then, I’ll come up with a chorus and I’ll do both of those. Then suddenly a second verse will pop into my head and I’ll run through that without pen and paper. It’s very rare that it happens but there’s been a few that come out like that.
Nice! That’s awesome! What does the future of your music look like?
A. As far as the future holds that’s hard to say. But as far as goals, right now, obviously get the EP out. Get that out to the public you know, then just bringing the live shows to more and more people on a broader spectrum: branching out more so from the Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho area. There’s a friend of mine in Kansas City that wants me to come play some shows over there and I want to! I don’t (want) to stay stuck here ‘in the Rockies’ That’s the main goal right now: to branch out and bring it to as many people as possible. That’s why we’re really looking forward to the EP is because that is on such a national scale.
Yeah, absolutely! So with your music what are you most afraid of?
A. To lose it. I don’t think I would ever get to a point where I would say “I’m done with this” because it’s such a big part of my life. Music is everything; I’ve always had music pretty much for most of my life. My biggest fear would for be something to happen that would cause me to want to give it up which I don’t know what that would be. You know when anything does go wrong in life or when something is eating at me or when something negative happens in my life – I turn to music because it’s an outlet. It’s therapeutic for me but that would be my biggest fear would be to loose it.
So what other kinds of music do you like then?
A. Good God, pauses well, I mean… just looking at my iPod, I love metal. I love classic rock, 90’s country, most forms of country. The blues – Oh my god… In high school that was everything to me. I can remember going back stage at a Bluesfest as a kid and meeting Paul Thorn, meeting Roy Rogers who was a slide guitarist who played with John Lee Hooker and just all of these blues legends! I like folk, I like bluegrass. I’ll listen to just about anything at least once because you know that’s the beautiful part of this art form.
Tell me, if you love all of these genres why outlaw country for you then? Why is it so appealing to you versus mainstream country or continuing with the blues?
A. I think for me outlaw country is the fact that there’s no rules so to speak. I can sing about whatever life event and somebody in that crowd is going to connect. I think outlaw country fans, like blues fans, really connect with real world experiences. That’s not to say that other genre fans don’t. But I truly feel like outlaw fans are just insanely in tune to real world experiences. I can sing about say a break up and dealing with it with a bottle of whisky and making bad – or multiple bad decisions and outlaw fans are going to go “Yeah! I’ve done that, oh my gosh. Yes!” or “Oh my God, that’s happening right now!” That’s just cool to me. That ability… there’s just no rules in this genre.
Right on! Do you have any good stories about a gig?
A. heavy laughing Yes, I do. So when I got ahold of Outlaw Resurgence and we set up the first live feed that I did with them. We were going to do it at this bar in Dillion that was such a staple venue for me. I walk in and laughing… it’s one of those you couldn’t planed it any better. I walk in... I knew the bartender and I said, “Hey I’m here to set up” and she says “Okay cool.” And I look and there’s a guy just passed out on the stage. So I’m like “Hey so and so… uhm there’s a guy on the stage.” She replies with, “Oh crap! Can you get him off? Just get him up, and I’ll get him a ride home.” So I wake him up and he looks at me and goes, “What do you want!” So I tell him, “I’m here to play some music… uh I need the stage." Then he says, (This is where Addison imitated said drunk dude with gruff voice) “You play music, what do you play?” I said, “Country.” Then he goes, “I knew Willie back before he was Waylon!” Then he just passes right back out on the stage. I’m just like….. holy shit. Laughing. Then the bartender and staff came over and took care of him, but you know, I can just remember looking at the bartender afterwards. and I’m just like “You’ve…. Gotta be kidding me.”
Laughing That’s so awesome…. What does your pre-show prep look like?
A. Usually a couple of alcoholic beverages, spend a lot of time by myself, and just kind of getting into the mood. Not that it takes much. I’m always worked up and anxious as Hell before a show. Then I get on stage and I’m like, “Okay, I’m in my wheel house – I know what to do”.
Do you get nervous then?
A. Yeah! I think that most guys that I’ve talked to in this industry are. But, for me in takes getting through that first couple of lyrics then I’m alright, I know what to do. But, yeah, I get nervous before a show… who doesn’t?
So tell us where we can find your EP and when?
A. You will be able to find my EP upon release. We’re going to have hard copies for sale. We are currently working with various different organizations. You’ll be able to find it on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora. We don’t have a release date set but it will be this spring for sure.
Rad! Is there anything you’d like your loyal fans to know or for your growing fan base to know?
A. Just thank you so much for your support. It’s amazing that I’ve even made it to the point where we’ve been able to pull this off within the past few months. And it’s ALL because of them. I can’t thank country music fans enough for what they’ve at least given me!
Thanks so much for your time Addison: and thank you even more for opening up and sharing a piece of yourself with us. I know that personally I can't wait for Wapiti and I look forward to hearing more music from you!