Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Arthur Thompson.
Arthur Thompson was voted 2023's Breakout Artist of the Year. We sat down with him for our year-end BEATS magazine. Check out the magazine article below or keep scrolling for the extended version of our interview in text format.
Read the rest of the BEATS magazine here.
Allen Kepler: Arthur, this has certainly been a breakout year for you as a solo artist is smooth jazz. How did you make this leap?
Arthur Thompson: Well, I’ve been writing music for some time now, but haven’t had a chance to perform my music live. This year I decided I was going to make that leap. I received some support from some friends. To quote the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” I didn’t have anything to lose. I really want the world to hear my music and all that I have inside of me, so I took the leap of faith and put it all out there.
AK: And you are primarily known as a drummer, but your singing is truly amazing and your first single “Smile” did well...
AT: I wrote these lyrics walking through my neighborhood and talking on the phone to someone very special to me. I was expressing how I felt about her and the lyrics were created. The music came later in the shower. I ran-soaking wet-to my piano, towel wrapped around me, and picked out the cord structure. It took awhile between mistakes and mishaps with my towel to get enough recorded on my phone to complete “Smile”. I’m honored to feature my dear friend Mindi Abair on this song.
AK:Your recent single “We Can Beat Cancer” has a lot of personal meaning to you. Please tell us about that and how this song came about.
AT: I have been blessed during my career to play on the stage with some of the best musicians in the business. I recognize that none of us are where we are because of our own works. It takes a team. We need each other. I am a firm believer in giving back because much has been given to me. That is why I created the We Can Beat Cancer© campaign.
Breast Cancer is near and dear to my heart! My beautiful sister, my daughter’s mother, and several of my close friends are Breast Cancer Survivors. All of us have been touched in some way by this disease. Together We Can Beat Cancer!!
AK: Tell us about your time with Wayman Tisdale.
AT: Wayman and I grew up together in Tulsa, OK. We played music together at both of our fathers’ churches when we were in the 8th grade. We continued playing music together throughout high school and were great friends. We got together on a professional level while he was playing basketball for the Phoenix Suns and asked me to join his band. It was a great experience and our close bond was very special.
AK: I know you are deeply involved with music education for young people. Tell us about your work in that area.
AT: I have been working in music education for 20 years now, and I have witnessed how the power of music changes young people from all backgrounds. I take my Drums Speak program to schools (public, private, and charter), to summer camps, to juvenile lockup facilities, and to adult prisons. My Drums Speak program has helped a large number of students with behavioral issues such as anger management, low self-esteem, addiction, and disruptive class behavior. The greatest gift for me is to watch a child discover music and his or her right to express themselves in a way that can only be interpreted through music. I have found a way to combine two of my passions- drums and children- and I am so fortunate for the opportunity to work with students all over the United States.
AK: Is there an artist on your wish list who you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
AT: I would love to collaborate with Marc Antoine. A mixture of Spanish, African, and Soul. To me, this would be so awesome.
AK: I first met you this past year on the Dave Koz Cruise. How was that experience for you?
AT: I’ve been doing Dave Koz’s Cruise since 2012 and it’s the best experience. I get to play with artists I don;t normally play with. I also have the opportunity to meet new fans and gives them an opportunity to hear me play. My favorite part is like Dave says, being able to “see the world together through music”!
AK:… and I think you ended up performing with most of the other artists on board. Truly a collaborative three weeks. Any standout stories?
AT: I had an opportunity to perform with the great Jonathan Butler as he played songs from his new album “Ubuntu”. I really felt the connection to where I know my roots lie in Africa. Playing the djembe and the percussion, the whole vibe of the music really pierced my spirit. I could just feel the blood of my ancestors running through my veins. The connection Jonathan and I had while we played together was so powerful and undeniable.
AK: What’s in store for you in 2024?
AT: I want to put out more music and begin live performances with my band Arthurized!
Learn more about Arthur Thompson here.