Country is being re-born…(Ward-Thomas are)…fresh artists with country influences and the dexterity to create a credible home grown version of the music– Sunday Times Culture
With the sounds of Country music permeating in the UK after the success of the hit television series Nashville, people both within and outside the music business have been asking – where are Britain’s home-grown country stars? Ward Thomas may well be providing some of the answers. They are on the threshold of becoming one of the first genuine major British Country acts.
Ward Thomas are 20-year old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas from Hampshire. Whilst in sixth form, a rough demo of the Ward Thomas track “Footnotes” found its way into the hands of Nashville’s most respected session musicians, leading to the recording of a debut album ‘From Where We Stand’ (out 21st July) that could spearhead a UK Country sound.
After Nyne were thrilled to be able to meet with the Ward Thomas sisters last week for exclusive insight into their sound, and how they feel about spearheading a contemporary UK country music movement.
Ladies, I’m sure you hear this all the time but..Hampshire..Nashville..as far removed from each other as could possibly be. What is it about country music that resonated with you from such an early age?
We have always sung together but started off in a classical choir at our school. Catherine was the Alto and I (Lizzy) was the Soprano. We used to go home and practice our parts together. So we have always harmonised together and when we heard the harmonies and the melodies of Country music we absolutely loved it. We have also both been big on story telling whilst growing up. And we loved the way Country music tells you a story with the lyrics, melody and the harmonies. So we wanted to tell people our own story by mixing our English upbringing into the Country music style.
Which artists did you have exposure to growing up, and what influence did this have on you?
Our parents were in an old 60’s and 70’s rock cover band when we were growing up. So we were exposed to many artists and bands like the ‘Kinks’, ‘The Beatles’, ‘Blondie’, and so on. We loved this music growing up and I think it gave us a good education on music early on. However, when our cousin came over to England she ended up living with us for a few years and exposing us to artists such as the ‘Dixie Chicks’, ‘Carrie Underwood’, ‘Tim McGraw’, and so on. We were completely sold and influenced hugely especially by the ‘Dixie Chicks’. Our grandmother has always loved country music too like ‘Loretta Lynn’ and ‘Patsy Cline’ and that contributed to the influence country music had on us when we were growing up.
Tell us about the evolution of Ward Thomas as an act – when did you both decide that this was what you wanted to do?
We have always wanted to sing together and go into something to do with music when growing up, though we started to write songs when we were set on wanting to make this a career. We realised how much we loved writing, performing and meeting new people all the time. And so we realised this was where we really wanted to go.
When was your first major indication that people where sitting up and recognising what you were trying to achieve?
When we were in school, we always spoke seriously about it. But it was in our last year of school when we went to Nashville and people took notice over there – that really made us think through our career choices. It was when we got back from our first trip to Nashville that people had started to notice what we were trying to do.
No A-list songwriters..but a cracking Nashville-based production team. How did the dynamic of the different members of the team contribute to the sound and feel of the record?
We were very lucky to get to work with some of the most respected musicians in Nashville. We were wowed by how in tune all of the musicians were with each other. You can see how they have played together for years. I think that really helped with the production of the record. The producers Chris Rodriguez and Bobby Blazier were also the players on all of the songs on our album and Chris was the Musical Director. This helped hugely with the production as they both understood our songs and our sound very well.
Some acts ‘act’ country..others just ‘are’. You girls ‘are’. What do you think are the qualities in your work, and yourselves that enable that genuine country spirit to break through?
Everything we write about is from real life experiences. We grew up on a farm in the English countryside and although we are influenced by American Country music we like to put our own spin on it.
How does it feel to be leading the ‘British Country’ surge?
That’s very nice of you to say :). We are very passionate about the country music scene. We are hoping with our fellow country artists such as ‘The Shires’ that we all bring the real Country to the UK.
Finally, what’s next for Ward Thomas?
We have many exciting gigs coming up. We are currently on tour, doing summer festivals and plenty of great venues. Our album is out really soon on the 21st of July. We are very excited about that!
Pre-order the album here and get new single “Push For The Stride” as an instant track:
Ward Thomas will be playing the following dates this summer:
10th – The Musician, Leicester (w/ The Webb Sisters)
12th – Americana Festival, Leicestershire
12th – Meonfest, Petersfield
16th – The Castle, Manchester
17th – Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge
18th – Fort San-Antone, Blackpool
19th – Chagstock, Devon
20th – Guilfest, Guilford
25th – Green Note, London
26th – Halfway to 75 Festival, Oxford
2nd – Cheese & Grain, Frome
5th – Mr Wolf’s, Bristol
6th – The Live Lounge, Weston-super-Mare
7th – Phoenix, Exeter
8th – The Lamb Inn, Sandford, Devon
9th – South Devon Arts Centre, Totnes
12th – Bread & Roses, Plymouth
14th – The Taphouse, St Agnes
15th – The Good Intent, Petersfield
17th – Talking Heads, Southampton
31st – Weyfest (Rustic Stage)