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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is an English-bred, New Jersey-based singer-songwriter-guitarist. His latest album is “13 Rivers.”

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
In the bath, or shower — why is that? Rumi recited everything in the bath house.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?

The love of fellow human beings, given unconditionally.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?

Love to other human beings. The world truly would stop revolving without all that soppy stuff.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Losing loved ones. We lost our drummer when he was barely 19 years old, and it’s so hard to get past that.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?

Gardening, or some aspect of it, like landscape gardening. It’s so much fun to design and plant outdoor spaces, but I’d be content to be an undergardener somewhere like Kew, or Wisley. Or I could just be a botanist.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?

Losing my temper when I was 18, and being thoroughly embarrassed by it, and resolving to keep a more even keel. For the most part, I’ve done that, and feel I’m better for it.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?

Being befriended by a shaman in Mauritania. The man had extraordinary powers, and was going to do all kinds of things for me, but I preferred fate to take its course.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?

No single opportunity really. I wish I had been more musically focused at times, especially in the ’70s, but the right direction was elusive then.

How do you relax?

I can watch brainless TV, or go to an art gallery. Because my world is musical, I need to shut it off occasionally with something visual.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
You could drop me in the Ecuador Cloud Forest, and that will save me a plane fare — thank you. Great hummingbirds.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
I have very early memories of London — being in a pram and looking up at a row of ducks, being a toddler on reins, and walking down Ladbroke Crescent. Probably my strongest childhood memory is a nightmare — I’m being chased by a giant anthropomorphic packet of sugar.

Describe a perfect day.

A pleasant summer’s day in England, discovering new, leafy back roads, and stumbling upon a beautiful historic manor house and garden. Perhaps tea later at one of those classic thatched tea rooms. Dinner later in the West End, followed by a play. Better stick an afternoon nap in there somewhere too.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?

Prime a canvas, or the musical equivalent. Go back to something unfinished, that needs a verse, or a bridge, and get moving that way. I like to have two or five or twenty different things going at once, so I can jump from one to another when I get stuck.

What is your proudest moment?

I’m very proud of my children, who regularly achieve wondrous things in their various walks of life. Sometimes that just means being a great parent.

What would you like to experience before you die? 

Would oneness with everything be too much to ask?

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