“You can actually reinvent yourself in America, step off the plane, say ‘my name is whatever,’” says Teddy Thompson. Speaking more about New York City, where the singer-songwriter has lived since moving there as a teen with his parents British folks singers Linda and Richard Thompson, the city also helped him fuse together his sixth studio album Heartbreaker Please (Thirty Tigers), out May 8, as he’s dissecting his own heartbreak, unraveling a portion of it on the album’s title track.
Extracted from the end of a relationship, Heartbreaker Please also references Thompson’s conflicted feelings about the city he loves—and hates. “I feel like all these years here have made me a New Yorker, but 20 years in New York can weigh you down,” he says. “There’s nowhere like it, but it can be exhausting.”
In a sense, Thompson has been finding himself through the past two decades since releasing his self-titled debut in 2000. In the past 20 years, he’s worked with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, toured with Roseanne Cash’s band, produced albums for his mother and singer-songwriter Dori Freeman, and collaborated on several tribute and other projects, including folk ensemble Family in 2014 and a Little Windows with Kelly Jones.
His first album since 2011’s Bella, Heartbreaker Please, Thompson admits pulled him back to his roots, into a 1950s vortex of Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, and The Everly Brothers, all part of his musical base since childhood. Always obsessed with this era of music, in his younger years Thompson was listening to Sam Cooke but found it easier to talk about pop with friends in his earlier years.
Still, the ‘80s are still a powerful force for Thompson—an avid fan of everything from Prince to A-ha and earlier ABBA—and he effortlessly fuses soulful pop through tracks like “Heartbreaker Please.” He’s obsessed with that three-minute pop song, and his is a brew backed by stealthy Americana, folk roots. Written several months after a breakup, the title track is not only a woeful, breaking up is hard to do, but more about about its aftermath and one’s movement forward.
“It usually takes a while for the heartache to work it’s way through the system,” Thompson tells American Songwriter. “When you find someone that seems ideal, it’s easy to be untrue to yourself in order to try to match that ideal.