He felt trapped in a life that required the big paycheck to pay the big mortgage to keep the marriage rolling, and it all came tumbling down when Jeff Thompson, a former therapist, got fired two years ago.
“‘Catastrophic’ is too strong of a word,” Thompson says about the events that led to his phoenix-like musical resurrection and the release of his first studio-produced album in 14 years. “A fortunate series of tragedies led to liberation from a life that wasn’t a good fit,” explains the artist, who once won the revered songwriters’ competition at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia. (Fellow past winners include John Mayer).
“I found myself with nowhere to go but up, staring at the rubble of my old life,” he says. His great job was over, his marriage headed the same way, but these circumstances also gave him the freedom to recreate himself: “It was one of the most creatively prolific periods of my life.”
The result is a new album aptly titled So Far, So Strange. Thompson’s style scales through jazz, folk, rock, reggae — nothing is off limits. His lyrics may be brooding or humorous. It’s all a reflection of the many sub-personalities that author his work. (An occasional actor, he was briefly a YouTube sensation for a witty video spoofing New Age-y Asheville men.)
“I play whatever style [each] song wants,” says Thompson.
He’s not afraid to take a political stance, either. His satirical song “Tribute to Carl Mumpower” was penned after the former Asheville City councilman compared the rainbow flag to a Nazi flag.
With his band The Outliars, Thompson chose an organic approach to the studio recording. “I’ve got a talented team of musicians who have been playing the material for a year. The parts have been worked out the long way — something that can only happen over time.”
Now a full-time performer, Thompson recently met someone special and is excited about the possibilities: “This could be my last day on earth. I don’t want to play it safe. I want to spend it doing what makes me really happy.”