Spartanburg teen Maggie Thompson making music in Nashville, Tenn.
By Dan Armonaitis
Arts & Entertainment Writer
On a recent visit to her native Spartanburg, Maggie Thompson sat on a park bench in Denny’s Plaza and strummed an acoustic guitar while singing one of her original songs, “Sparkle.”
But before doing so, the 13-year-old who now resides in Nashville, Tenn., issued a bit of a disclaimer in reference to her rudimentary guitar skills.
“I’m still not 100 percent where I want to be with it, but I love playing guitar,” Thompson said. “I’m getting better at it.”
She then added, with a beaming smile and a charming giggle typical of a girl her age, “I’m not sure if this is a thing to be happy about, but whenever I start to form callouses on my fingers, I’m like, ‘Yes! Look at me.’”
Thompson, whose music is primarily in the contemporary country-pop vein, might just now be familiarizing herself with the guitar, but her singing voice is already in top form. She’s also gotten very good at writing songs, having honed her craft by working with several accomplished songwriters in the Music City.
And then there’s the air of confidence she displays, which might be her greatest asset as a performer.
“When I’m on stage, I feel like I’m at home,” Thompson said. “I always feel really comfortable. And especially when people clap for you, it makes you so happy. It gives you faith that they like your song.”
In Nashville, Thompson has performed on multiple occasions at the Bluebird Café, which is regarded as one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms, and she’s been on stage at such Music City venues as the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Belcourt Taps, Douglas Corner and Alley Taps. She has also opened for Broken Bow Records recording artist Adam Craig.
“My main allure to Nashville was having the chance to be around all these amazing singers and songwriters, who are all so different, and to be part of the community,” Thompson said. “And now when they see me, they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, this is a 13-year-old singing at this bar, but she sounds great.’ I love it so much.”
Before taking up residency in Nashville early last year, Thompson traveled back and forth between Spartanburg and Tennessee for a couple of years in pursuit of her musical dreams.
One of the influential contacts she made was with Renee Grant-Williams, a top-notch vocal coach whose impressive list of clients includes such major superstars as Miley Cyrus, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean and the Dixie Chicks.
“She has a good pure tone, and lately she’s been getting a little more woman-like,” Grant-Williams said of Thompson’s singing voice. “But she’s still young, and she has fun. I guess that’s what I like about her. I look over and see her singing, and I hear her laughing and smiling.
“Most young people, unfortunately, take it on themselves to make it hard and difficult, but she accepts criticism well and she accepts praise well. She’s a whole grown-up person in a young girl.”
Grant-Williams said Thompson seems to be on the right path in terms of artistic development.
“She’s so young, so you don’t know what’s going to happen with that voice when she grows up,” Grant-Williams said. “But, right now, she’s doing the kind of material that’s right for her. Her songwriting is really excellent. She brings a fresh perspective to her work.”
Thompson, who said she draws inspiration from such artists as Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire, takes the songwriting aspect of her musical pursuits seriously.
“The thing about (writing) songs is that you can find an idea anywhere,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ll just be lying in bed and I’ll be like, ‘oh, that’s a good idea,’ and then I’ll get out my phone and I’ll be up for another hour writing down an idea.
“And then, in Nashville, I’ve gotten to write with so many different co-writers, and each and every one of them has helped me get better as a writer.”
Thompson’s parents are so committed to helping their daughter realize her dream that they’ve turned their world upside down.
Thompson and her mother, Laura, rent an apartment in Nashville, while her father, Doug, has remained in Spartanburg with her 16-year-old sister, Abigail. They visit one another on weekends as often as possible.
“It was hard in the very beginning, but we’ve gotten more and more used to it,” Laura Thompson said. “We try to stay busy and we talk on the phone every day. And, of course, thank God for FaceTime.”
Laura Thompson said the sacrifices she and her husband have made are completely worth it.
“As parents, we try to support our kids and their dreams if we really believe that they’re all for it,” she said. “And, especially, seeing how hard Maggie was working even before we got (to Nashville) and seeing where it was going. You only get one chance in life, and we don’t want her to grow up with regrets.”
Maggie Thompson is fully aware of how much her parents have done for her.
“They didn’t have to spend all the money for voice lessons, guitar lessons, piano lessons and online schooling,” she said. “I could be a normal person and just go to a normal school, but instead they’re supporting me and helping me with my dream, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Born and raised in Spartanburg, Maggie Thompson knew early on that she wanted to become a famous entertainer.
She participated in pageants from the time she was three years old and began pursuing music in earnest at age six. That’s when she started taking lessons from vocal coach Lindsay Bennett-Fluckiger, who co-founded T3 Talent in Spartanburg.
“She was a little firecracker with a set of pipes to boot,” Bennett-Fluckiger said. “We spent the bulk of our time singing repertoire from ‘Annie,’ the musical, during those first years and perfecting breathing, posture and vowel sounds.
“What most impressed me was her work ethic and her kindness. Maggie was the kid who never knew a stranger. I often saw her walk up to small children whom she had never met and tell them how pretty they looked or how cute they were. This always came with a hug or Maggie crouching down and grasping both of their tiny hands and looking straight into their eyes. She couldn’t have been but eight years old.”
Bennett-Fluckiger played a key role in Maggie Thompson making her Nashville connections. T3 Talent brought in celebrity vocal coach, Dave Brooks, to form an artist development program in 2015, and he and Nashville-based ASCAP songwriter, Tom Worth, took Maggie Thompson under their wing.
“What really sets Maggie apart is she doesn’t take anything too seriously,” Bennett-Fluckiger said. “You can’t really — if you’re going to be successful in show business — or you come off as overcompensating. She shows up, has fun and is genuinely creating an experience onstage that is authentic, passionate and something that audiences crave.”
The sky might be the limit for Maggie Thompson, but she’s simply enjoying each moment as it comes.
“I love music so much and it’s had such a big impact on my life,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop whether I’m famous or not.”