Latest Information:

Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk.

In 1993, Thompson founded The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. In the years since, he has provided music-themed commentaries for the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the first member of the NPR Music staff ever to sing on an NPR newsmagazine. (Later, the magic of AutoTune transformed him from a 12th-rate David Archuleta into a fourth-rate Cher.) Thompson's entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown) and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion's softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings. Later in life, Thompson redeemed himself by teaming up with the small gaggle of fleet-footed twentysomethings who won the 2008 NPR Relay Race, a triumph he documents in a hard-hitting essay for the book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years (Chronicle).

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson now lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his two children and a room full of vintage arcade machines. His hobbies include watching reality television without shame, eating Pringles until his hand has involuntarily twisted itself into a gnarled claw, using the size of his Twitter following to assess his self-worth, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

Pages

Tiny Desk Concerts
2:00 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Shovels & Rope: Tiny Desk Concert

Shovels and Rope plays a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:10 pm

Shovels & Rope's presence in the NPR Music offices attracted plenty of interest; many in attendance had long since fallen in love with the husband-and-wife duo's mix of rowdy folk-rock and rootsy balladeering.

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
1:48 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Sarah Jarosz, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Sarah Jarosz performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 9:47 am

Sarah Jarosz was still in high school when she signed her record deal, and she released her debut album (2009's Song Up In Her Head) shortly thereafter, but the versatile bluegrass star seemed to emerge fully formed. For one thing, the 22-year-old keeps her music sounding warmly pretty — and rooted in accessibly poppy folk — rather than focusing solely on her Grammy-nominated instrumental chops.

Read more
All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Song Premiere: The Avett Brothers, 'Another Is Waiting'

The Avett Brothers will release Magpie and the Dandelion on Oct. 15
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 7:46 am

It hasn't even been 11 full months since The Avett Brothers released The Carpenter, the North Carolina band's most recent collection of poignant and infectious, bluegrass-inflected folk-rock.

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
12:45 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 7:51 am

The Newport Folk Festival understands the value of a good palate-cleanser — not to mention the way folk and gospel's roots intertwine — so this year's lineup taps the rich vein of talent at Boston's Berklee College of Music to bring fans the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir.

Hear the group perform as part of the 2013 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Sunday, July 28 in Newport, R.I.

Set List

  • "Strange Fruit"
  • "Work Song / It Is Well With My Soul"
  • "I'll Never Turn Back To More"
Read more
Newport Folk Festival
4:45 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Iris DeMent, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Iris Dement performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 2:44 pm

Iris DeMent is as credible as folksingers come: The 52-year-old singer-songwriter grew up singing traditional gospel and country music alongside 14 siblings in rural Arkansas. Once endorsed as "the best singer I ever heard" by no greater an authority than Merle Haggard, DeMent seems to emerge from another era entirely.

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
3:08 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Bombino, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 12:36 pm

A young, Niger-born Tuareg guitarist inspired by the wizardry of Saharan rock bands like Tinariwen, Omar Moctar (a.k.a. Bombino) has helped make African music more relatable to U.S. fans, thanks to both his own instrumental gifts and to collaborators like The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced Bombino's new album, Nomad.

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
11:02 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Tift Merritt, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Meagan Beauchemin for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 3:01 pm

Tift Merritt was first known as a decorated country singer — her 2004 album Tambourine was even nominated for a Best Country Album Grammy — but the North Carolina native has spent the years since wandering down far-flung side roads. Merritt keeps finding ways to place literal and figurative distance between herself and Nashville: She's lived in New York City and France, while exploring the sounds of folk, cosmopolitan pop and even classical music.

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
1:19 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Black Prairie, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 2:45 pm

When Colin Meloy put The Decemberists on long-term hiatus to focus on other projects — including his own set at this year's Newport Folk Festival — the remaining members needed their own fresh musical outlet.

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
1:03 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Dana Falconberry: Tiny Desk Concert

Dana Falconberry performs a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:19 pm

Dana Falconberry's songs are gentle, almost invariably delicate, sometimes mysterious and frequently feather-light. But her music's sweet, intricate softness never stands in for strength: This is a confident songwriter, whether she's ambling through six- and seven-minute epics ("Leelanau," "Dolomite") or chirping sweetly in the bouncy "Crooked River."

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
1:03 pm
Sun July 28, 2013

The Lone Bellow, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

The Lone Bellow performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Adam Kissick NPR

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 10:09 am

Rising Brooklyn folk-pop band The Lone Bellow infuses its songs with charm, radiant hooks and intense emotions. Formed as a creative outlet for singer Zach Williams as his wife recovered from an accident that nearly paralyzed her, The Lone Bellow performs with a sense of necessity; given the circumstances, it's no surprise that the group so often reflects on redemption in memorable ways.

Read more

Pages