Ward Thomas: Country stars from Hampshire chat to The Upcoming
Catherine and Lizzy Ward-Thomas have been singing country music in the US and the UK for a few years now, but what’s most surprising about them is that the harmonious pair don’t come from the Deep South at all. Growing up on the family farm in Hampshire and born just two minutes apart, the pair found they were drawn to the genre. After time spent in Nashville, the pair are now back in the UK to win over British music fans.
You both write the songs yourselves, how does the writing process work for the two of you?
Lizzy Ward-Thomas: We’ve co-written the album that’s available now, and we went over and co-wrote with a whole load of people in Nashville too.
Catherine Ward-Thomas: It’s very different all the time, sometimes one of us has a line, like for our single Push for the Stride, our dad used to teach us when we were younger to push for the stride, and I can’t remember who but, it’s about picking yourself up when you’ve had a bad day.
LWT: We’d had that line in our head for ages, and we put it to a song finally. When we’re working on a chord progression, one of us will come up with a melody, but it happens differently all the time.
What is it about country music that fits so well with your themes?
LWT: I think the main thing is to stick to “write what you know”. And that’s what country music’s about: it’s about real life things.
CWT: And we were drawn because we grew up on a farm,
LWT: I used to write stories when I was younger, and I just loved the way that country music tells stories. And the harmonies. We did harmonies together at classical choir at school, so the stories, the harmonies the melodies. I think what we were drawn to the most was the honesty of country music.
When we were in Nashville co-writing with a whole bunch of people, you’d meet them, you’d have a coffee, and then say “Yeah, let’s try a co-write.” You’ll have known them for less than 24 hours, and you’re all sharing really deep things about yourself, which is what goes into the song. That’s why country music can be so powerful – it’s about real feelings.
You’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years in Nashville, what were your experiences like in Tennessee?
CWT: It’s a different world out there, and the writers over there are machines! We wrote one of our songs with a girl who’s actually from England; we started writing a song and we wrote it in the car for three hours, and then we finished it in the airport, in a Starbucks just before she went back to England. No one even looked around that we had a guitar in the airport, no one even looked twice.
LWT: Everyone writes so much in Nashville. With the NSAI (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International), everyone books rooms and they all just collaborate, Everything is immediately shared.
So does this mean you’re moving permanently?
CWT: No, we love England. As much as we love Nashville, England’s always going to be our home.
LWT: It’s our home away from home.
CWT: We experienced gigging around Tennessee and Alabama. We were so lucky.
How was your reception with audiences in the US compared with the UK?
CWT: Over here we’re obviously trying to get the English public into country music, get them to understand it, and it’s going well so far which we’re so happy about.
In America, they already understand it, it’s from there, but I think in America it’s always different.
Country music is obviously your biggest influence, but are there any big themes that you find you keep coming back to in your song writing?
CWT: Harmonies are definitely a big theme, they’re an essential part of our sound.
LWT: We love the upbeat, like Push for the Stride, and we like to take a sad topic and put it to an upbeat tempo. I think that makes people listen to what we’re saying.
We’re learning to be a lot more honest now, especially because this is our first experience of writing in Nashville, and they’re such a different culture.
CWT: [English songwriters] like to be emotional, but with hidden meaning, so they’re clever with metaphors, whereas Americans just like to say it out. We try to sort of combine the two, which works well.
The two of you come from a very creative family, do any of them get involved with your music?
LWT: Yeah! Our brother, he’s an actor and a writer, and we sometimes get him up on stage and we’ll sing Caledonia, and he sings it and we do the harmonies. He’s got a gorgeous voice.
CWT: His heart’s in acting and our heart’s in music. He wants to go on his own path but it’s great to have him up whenever we can.
Our parents were in a band when we were growing up, it was an old rock classics band, and they sang The Beatles, The Kinks, Blondie…
What was the band’s name?
CWT and LWT: The Swamp Donkeys.
Joe Manners Lewis
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Watch a live performance of Push for the Stride here: