Passionate Community Work and a New Single: Will Thompson’s Making Waves! - 30A

Passionate Community Work and a New Single: Will Thompson’s Making Waves!

By: Gen Handley | Posted Apr 5, 2023

Singer-songwriter Will Thompson has a mission. No, it’s not getting a song on the Billboard 100 or a big record deal – he wants to give young people the opportunities of expressing themselves that he grew up with.

“It means a lot to me, to give people the opportunity to express themselves,” he said, forcing back tears. “I get kind of choked up about it, but there are people we’ll never hear about, in the back of their rooms, just writing their hearts out or sharing their pain…and they’re talented and they’ve got something to say. So giving them a chance to do that is really near and dear to me.”

Thompson channels that passion into his music, as well as the Bay Youth Music Association, a non-profit he founded in 2014 that helps youth around Bay County access the power of music through new instruments, equipment, and scholarships for music art education. (They recently gave a local school their own recording studio for students to create their own music.)

“The funding in our schools for the arts is dropping dramatically,” Will explained. “Having parents who were music teachers, I know the struggles, I’ve heard the conversations in the living room about finding support for these programs and music.”

“I want to give back because I don’t feel like there are enough opportunities for some people,” he added.

Thompson is the fifth generation of a musical family that includes a long line of symphony conductors as well as an influential uncle and professional trumpet player in LA he would visit during the summer, even joining him on gigs – memories that would stay with him forever.

“I would really soak that up,” he reminisced. “It was larger than life. Like, I was meeting Lionel Richie and Bon Jovi and all these people at these gigs. My job was to shut up and carry his trumpet. I wouldn’t speak to anyone and would just sit in the corner watching people and just soaking it all up.”

“It was a lot for a small-town boy,” he laughed.

Photo credit: Michael Booini – Boo Media

But 30A is not the only scene of his passionate live shows and performances. After Hurricane Michael destroyed their house, Thompson said the 30A community really helped him and his family.

“30A was an area that really extended their hand out to Panama City when my home was destroyed by Hurricane Michael,” he said, nodding his head. “Whether it was donating money or helping us with a place to live, they were always there for us.”

When so many artists moved to bigger cities with large labels, Thompson, who was offered record deals in the past, decided to stay in Panama City where he was born and raised. You don’t hear that very often in the music industry.

But this small-town boy embraced those experiences and his family heritage to help others experience the positive impact of music and self-expression while writing his own inspired songs including his most recent song, “Checklist”, a playful look at artistic freedom and a list of requirements needed to get played on pop radio these days.

“There’s this goal, whatever we do, to get on the radio,” he said. “It’s not what you’re passionate about, but this desperation to get on the radio and that’s success for a lot of people – but not for me.”

Despite the somewhat serious premise of the song, the video is the opposite, a playful interpretation of the song’s satirical lyrics, as well as, in a way, a tribute to the 30A area showcasing a number of his favorite areas such as Grayton Beach and Red Bar where he plays nearly every week with the Will Thompson Band.

The band performs somewhere along the 30A strip usually four times a week.

“People always ask me why I don’t move to somewhere like Nashville and maybe I’m naïve, but I think you can build whatever you need right where you are,” he explained. “You can build whatever you need where you call home and [Panama City] is my home.”

He experienced some of the glamor of the mainstream music business, but very quickly realized it wasn’t how he wanted to create music and make a difference.

“It wasn’t for me,” he shrugged. “The whole energy of dog-eat-dog wasn’t for me and I couldn’t be under the grip of something like that.”

And from his home in Panama City, he’s built a unique career and passion, especially with more songwriters like himself and his wife coming to the area with events like the annual the 30A Songwriters Festival that takes place every January and has a more impressive lineup with each passing year. Thompson said it’s become a “creative hub” of sorts, also resulting in him going to play other parts of the country because of the bonds he had formed here.

“It’s these connections with people who come to the 30A area and take us back with them to their different locations – it’s been a beautiful place where relationships are built,” he said. “It’s beautiful with the sandy white beaches, but what makes it really special are the locals and people it attracts. It’s an amazing place…it’s the ultimate meet-up.”

The first impression of listening to “Checklist” is how difficult it is to fit into a specific box or genre. Thompson says he considers himself “genreless,” although online he is usually linked to country music, whatever that means these days. Yes, those influences are undeniable, however, you also hear pop and hip-hop – and they are equally present and prominent in the song.

“I’m not a country artist, per se,” Will clarified, “I’m a songwriter who can sing country and write country, but I don’t want to be caged in that one genre.”

Will Thompson Band. Credit: Michael Booini – Boo Media

To learn more about Will Thompson, visit his website or follow him on Facebook.









Gen Handley is a music writer living in Vancouver, BC where he can be found running its wet streets or trying its many restaurants with his wife and son.