British singer-songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson, 65, is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone put him on its Top 20 list.
Thompson’s career began in 1967 as a member of Fairport Convention and he’s been an active musician ever since. His debut solo record was 1972’s “Henry the Human Fly.” In 1973 he and his then-wife, Linda Thompson, released “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” Between his solo work, collaborations with Linda and soundtrack work, Thompson has released 40 albums.
Earlier this year “Acoustic Classics” came out with a 14-song collection of stripped down versions of some of his most well known and beloved songs. From “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” to “From Galway to Graceland,” “Wall of Death” and “Walking on a Wire,” the album is the embodiment of Thompson’s work.
He’ll be performing a solo acoustic show on Sunday in Westbrook.
I chatted with Thompson from his home in London (he also lives part of the time in California) about the album and the tour, among other topics.
You have such a huge body of work, how did you choose what to record for “Acoustic Classics?”
The album was conceived as something for the merchandise table at live shows. It was really considered to be something for first-time listeners, for people coming to a show for the first time and thinking, ‘Well, I liked that show, is there something I can buy that’s like the show?’ So that’s all I did. Rather than just grab, you know, live recordings which I’m never entirely satisfied with, particularly with the guitar sound, I thought I’ll just sit at home and do what I think would be a popular selection of songs.
Is there anything you have to do to keep your hands and your arms in shape? What do you do to maintain the health of those body parts? Because they certainly take quite a beating when you’re performing.
You have to be sensible. You have to practice to the point where, if you feel like you’re destroying your tendons, you have to back off a bit. You have to do stretches. It’s very important, especially as you get older. And you have to maintain muscle as well, so you have to lift weight to some extent and depending on which part of the body you’re talking about, you have to lift appropriate weights.
How is it being on the road? Obviously you wouldn’t do it if it was not a rewarding experience.
It’s fun. You have to be sensible about it and you tour as much as you feel comfortable doing. I really enjoy touring. I love to play live. Sometimes touring means a lot of stressful traveling.
What can you tell me about the upcoming Thompson family record? Your son Teddy came up with this idea, right?
Yes, he did come up with this and he kind of wrangled us all into shape to get it done. It was a bit piecemeal. Files were sent around the world.
What are some of your longtime, standby favorite records if you need a guaranteed good listen, or is there anything new that you’re excited about?
There’s always new stuff that’s good and inspiring. John Fullbright is a wonderful writer. Shovels & Rope I like a lot. There’s some good stuff in the U.K. as well. There’s a very good singer over here called Olivia Chaney. I listen to a lot of roots music and traditional music from various countries, and I listen to a lot of classical music and jazz. If I go out to a concert these days, it’s to go to the opera or a classical concert just to learn. After you’ve played music for 30 or 40 years, you’re looking for somewhere else to go in terms of harmony. I’m always interested in learning.
What do you do for fun?
I don’t have any fun.
Yes you do, come on Richard.
I love horticulture. I love gardening. I love botanical gardens and being in nature. In the middle of the rain forest I feel very happy and relaxed and at peace. I play some tennis and go hiking, that sort of thing. It’s nice to be outdoors.
Is there anything else that you are working on or up to that we should know about?
I’m doing a First World War project for the British Arts Council.
Tell me more.
Various artists are contributing things. I’m planning to have a piece ready for 2016. I’ve already started playing some parts of it in my normal shows. It’s to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. And I’m working on the next band album, which should be out next spring.
– In 2011 Thompson received the OBE (Order of the British Empire), an honor bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
– Thompson’s songs have been covered by many artists, including Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, REM and Don Henley.
– In 2010 Thompson won the Gibson-sponsored Mojo Les Paul Award for his accomplished guitar playing.
– Believe it or not, Richard Thompson covered the Britney Spears hit “Oops! I Did It Again” on his 2003 live album “1000 Years of Popular Music.”
– When he comes to Maine, yes, Richard Thompson enjoys eating lobster.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St.
HOW MUCH: $40