Sharing Secrets: The Enigmatic Music of Molly Thompson

Sharing Secrets: The Enigmatic Music of Molly Thompson

Google “Molly Thompson” and you’ll turn up only one high-ranking link related to the composer/singer who put out the 2007 album Ash. Her own dedicated website is not quite ready for public attention, and though she’s performed her own work on New York stages and written for the California EAR Unit and the fearless new music pianist Kathleen Supové, the online chatter is at a surprising hush. Somehow, however, it also seems fitting considering the noir-ish stylings of Thompson’s smoky vocal music, but is it an intentional artistic angle?

Molly Thompson at home in her studio
Photo by Karen Lindskog

Tune in to Counterstream Radio on June 26 at 9 p.m. for more talk and full tracks of Thompson’s music. If you miss the show, you can catch the recap on June 29 at 3 p.m.

Eavesdrop on a sample of the interview right now.

“I guess I’m a little shy,” Thompson confesses. “I know it’s totally silly, but I think I’m much more vocal as a performer and as a person one-on-one, and I’m still kind of figuring out my way in the Internet universe.”

Shy is a word you otherwise wouldn’t immediately associate with Thompson. On stage, her music comes across the listener as honestly raw and yet sophisticatedly crafted, filled with intimate lyrics and intriguing cross-genre influences. Off stage, she’s disarmingly forthcoming—the kind of woman you could easily think of as your best friend after a 15-minute conversation. Still, her musical personality seems to draw a curtain around some more mysterious internal characters. It keeps her audiences on their toes and asking themselves, “Did she really just sing what I think she did?” Sometimes it leaves the musicians performing her work guessing as well.

“I get these kind of facial expressions from people in my ensemble every once in a while when they haven’t heard a song,” she admits with a laugh. “I see these eyes just pop up, and I’m like, ‘I guess they haven’t heard that lyric before!'”

That Thompson feels confident enough to write starkly confessional lyrics and to push at traditional stylistic boundaries is a boon for her artistically as a composer and as a performer, but it can also feel like a wall. She explains, “I think part of the reason I began focusing on songs and singing is because I wanted to speak to people in a more direct way. So it’s kind of interesting when people say, ‘Oh, but the way you’re doing it, some people don’t understand it.’

“It is a dilemma, because if you have the potential to reach masses and you could maybe do something a little differently in order to reach them, are you supposed to do that?”

Thompson is sensitive to all these issues, but the right answers are not yet clear to her and the examination process is necessary but exhausting work. “It’s made me question: What am I doing as an artist? What am I achieving? Who am I hoping to speak to?” she says. “These are honestly hard things to be thinking a lot about, because I just want to sit down and write my music.”

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