RJ Thompson recently did the circuit with Jools Holland and garners comparisons to Jamie Cullum, but we think there is more to the pianist than initially meets the eye. As he continues to work behind the scenes on his heavily anticipated second album, the Geordie musician has released a poignant and pointed cover of Bob Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin''. While we need not ask the reasons (Trump anyone?), we caught up with RJ to find out what else he is up to.
MG: Hi RJ. What a brave choice of song to cover! What drew you to 'The Times They Are A-Changin''?
RJ: I'm a lifelong Dylan fan, but this song was always a tricky one for me. Last summer I revisited it and started to perform it at gigs and the reaction from the crowds showed me just how relevant it is today. It resonates with people for different reasons, but will always be an anthem for the disenfranchised.
MG: Have you always been a big Dylan fan?
RJ: Always. Some of my earliest musical memories are listening to some of my Dad's record collection, and Dylan featuring prominently.
MG: Your rendition stays fairly true to the original. What do you think is the secret to a strong cover?
RJ: Whenever I tackle someone else's song, I always just try to find its true meaning, what it means to me, what it makes me feel... I put all of my energy into expressing that. Whether that means changing up the song a lot, or not, depends on what's right for the song.
MG: Many publications have stated that the political song is dead. What are your thoughts on the matter?
RJ: I don't think so. A protest song was maybe traditionally a folk or punk song in the past, but nowadays you'll find plenty of political messages throughout every genre. I think it's important for art and music to mirror or commentate on life, and if that means politics, then great.
MG: We can only assume that there was a political drive behind your choice of song...
RJ: Initially no, but the timing of its realise has obviously become quite relevant with everything that is happening in the world right now.
MG: Recent global events have seen several artists speak out politically. Do you feel that as an artist you can help implement a change?
RJ: Historically, music and musicians have had a role to play in energising people to stand up for what they believe in. I don't want to force my views on people, but I strongly believe in speaking out when you see wrong.
MG: The song is a cover, when it comes to your own compositions for the new album are you equally forthright?
RJ: Sometimes, yeah. There has been a lot to write about over the last year, both personally and through world events, so it has inevitably found its way into some of my new songs.
MG: What else can we expect from you in 2017?
RJ: There will be a couple of singles coming in the spring/summer, and
then an album in the autumn. And lots of touring!
MG: Lastly, you have toured as a musician with an array of artists. Who do you still dream of working with?
RJ: Springsteen is a hero of mine, so he is high on the list. Outside of that, the list is long!
You can keep up to date with RJ Thompson via his website, where you can find further information about upcoming tour dates and future releases.