INTERVIEW: NAPA VALLEY REGISTER - The veteran rockers of BottleRock
5/9/2013 (updated 5/9/2013)

Richard Thompson

How do you achieve longevity? You have to see music as an exploration, as an exciting journey. If you stop learning as a musician, then you're basically dead or you're going backwards. You have to somehow remain excited and buoyant and optimistic.

Physically, you have to keep yourself fit for the job, whether it's your voice or your fingers, you have to keep them in good shape. And it's important to keep fit.

You know, performing on stage isn't the most rigorous thing you do in the day, so it's important to do something aerobic every day if you can. Sometimes it's a good thing to train with weights to keep yourself strong enough to do the job, particularly as you get over 40 you have to start using weights. It's quite like an athlete, keeping yourself functioning.

Thompson spoke at length about meeting the challenge, performance after performance, of being fully present with an audience.

That's a huge thing, you know, and not something that's often discussed. Focus for performance is extremely important. I start quite early in the day of a performance, just very slowly focusing in on performing later that day with the whole idea that you are going to be as present as possible. You can play music for yourself, and that's one thing, but to communicate with an audience is really something very special. When it happens, it's a beautiful thing, an extraordinary thing, a wonderful feeling for the performer - this idea that you play something and people get it.

The way that you're able to get stuff across to an audience is by getting inside the music as much as possible, reaching that really still place in the center of the music where you are totally present, almost unconscious, and totally engaged in the musical process and the storytelling process. When you get to that point, you’ve really achieved just about everything you can achieve as a musician. - RT

Thompson performs Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at BottleRock.

David Kerns, Napa Valley Register