Grounded and humble, she’s happy to be spoken of in the same breath as two icons of the genre.
Indeed, far from feeling overshadowed by her parents, The Rails’ front-woman considers herself fortunate to have grown up in the orbit of a pair of music industry veterans.
“My lack of world weariness comes from knowing what the business is like,” says the chipper vocalist and guitarist.
“There are no big cheques any more. We’re all in the same boat now, apart from those at the very top. It is certainly different from my parents’ time — or even from that of my brother [folkie Teddy], who is ten years ahead of me. He caught the tail industry of the business, when it was workable. It’s a pretty level playing field now.”
The Rails is a collaboration between Thompson and her husband, James Walbourne, who also plays guitar with Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders.
They were a romantic couple before becoming a musical partnership, and, with touring occupying a fair chunk of their schedule, spend most of the year in one another’s pockets.
“We’ve managed not to kill each other yet,” she says. “We got together slightly before we started playing music. We spend all our time together. Getting away from each other might be something we should think about!
“We didn’t plan on collaborating. The thing about musicians is that, if you put two in a room together, with some instruments and a bottle of wine, they’re going to start playing. That’s what happened with us.”
Thompson didn’t grow up dreaming of a life on stage. If anything, the fact her parents were songwriters inclined her to do something else. It was only in her 20s that she accepted that music was her calling.
“In the end, you have to come to terms with the fact that this is who you are, don’t you?,” she says. “It was something it took a while for me to come around to.”
She is looking forward to touring Ireland. “You get a very similar feeling from audiences in Ireland and America. They give you back a lot. There’s a sense that music is very important, a feeling of genuine respect.”
Thompson and Walbourne are signed to her dad’s old label, Island. The record company was so enthusiastic about The Rails that it revived its 1970s folkie imprint, Pink, especially for the duo. Did Thompson had a problem being so publicly linked to her dad?
“Well, Nick Drake was also on Pink — and he was the really iconic one to me. That is why I was excited about it. So many great folk acts have come out on Pink. It was cool.”
She isn’t sure if she thinks of what she does as ‘folk’. The Rails’ repertoire is overwhelmingly acoustic — but ought it have the ‘f’ word dangled around its neck?
She shrugs. “If we’re calling Mumford and Sons folk, then what does ‘folk’ mean?” she asks. “It’s become a catch-all term. Anyone with an acoustic guitar gets called folkie. It doesn’t seem to have any meaning anymore.”