Ward Thomas are formed of twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy, they were born in London and grew up on a livestock farm in Hampshire, where, at aged 16, they fell in love with country music, especially the tones of Johnny Cash, Carrie Underwood and The Dixie Chicks.
We were invited into the 'green room' (which wasn't even green) at The Phoenix Arts Centre in Exeter to sit and chat to the ladies about supergroups, Nashville and nappy wearing goats (yes, really!), here's how we got on....
Please introduce the band your music in one sentence....
We’re called Ward Thomas (it’s our surname), we started writing music about 2 years ago when we discovered country music at the age of 11 and have gone on from there, we’re twins from Hampshire who grew up on a livestock farm. This is the shortened version of who we are!
You recently released your debut album ‘From Where We Stand’ which has garnered some impressive reviews, I’ve read comments such as British country music at last! - Brilliant debut! - Every bit as good as US country music! How do these comments make you feel?
Amazing, it makes us feel that finally people over here in the UK are ‘getting’ country music, it’s especially nice to hear that people are appreciating what we do, we put so much work into the album and you do worry that people might not like it, we’re very lucky.
Give me three words that best describe you?
(At this stage Catherine had a meltdown and couldn’t think of any words to describe herself so we asked Lizzy to describe Catherine and vice versa) Lizzy on Catherine – Scatty (in a funny way), ditsy and chatty. Catherine on Lizzy – Crazy, funny & kind.
You did an interview and a live session with Whispering Bob Harris on Radio 2 recently which is due to be aired on Aug 14th, how was the experience and what were your highlights from the day?
Mad and amazing, Bob is so cool, he is so clued up on music, you google him and are amazed at what he has done over the years and he is SO friendly, he makes you feel right at home and comfortable. We got to play in front of him, he just loves music, he’s not all about the hook in the song, he wants to hear ALL of it. He also spends a lot of time in Nashville so we had loads to talk about with him.
Did you find it particularly hard to gain attention with country music in the UK?
Doing country music in the UK is quite risky, country used to be a bit of a taboo subject here in the UK but it’s really starting to gain momentum now. We are self-releasing at the moment so we started our own label to see how things go, I think that what we would like to do is try and do as much on our own to prove that we can make it in the UK. Introducing more country acts from the UK would be a dream, you really don’t know how things are going to go, it’s almost like investing in a business, it’s a risky business but fun too!
You’ve just kicked off your August tour, what were the highlights from the July tour?
Many many many highlights, the summer festivals were just brilliant, we had the band with us and during a cover version of George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’, we had most of the crowd up on stage with us. We only meant to invite these three girls on stage to join us as they were dancing during our set and being really well behaved, suddenly everyone joined us on stage and then 3 large bearded men were stood so close to me, breathing down my neck and I was trying to sing, so distracting but great fun at the same time, the sound crew were going mad!
If push came to shove, what is the BEST album ever released and why?
Gosh, that's a hard question. We have lots of favorite albums... But the two albums we love to bits are, 'John Mayer' -"Continuum" and 'Dixie Chicks'- "Long Time Gone". Both albums are albums where we can listen to the whole album loads of times. The lyrics, melodies, musicianship in these two albums are just incredible!
I see on your Facebook profile that you grew up on a livestock farm and sing about family, friends and your string of wild adventures, can you share just one of these adventures with me?
Our last track on the album is called ‘Town Called Ugley’ and that is a very long adventure, we got lost in the town, it’s in Essex and it’s actually quite pretty. We decided to write a song about it as we kept driving around in circles passing places such as the ‘Ugley Women’s Institute’ and the ‘Ugley Parish Council’. If you want an example of one of our crazy farmyard antics, we bought a goat into the kitchen and may well write a song about it one day and we put a nappy on it as we wanted to have tea in bed. Another time a pony wandered in the house whilst we were having tea so there’s a couple of examples there for you!
What’s your favourite Sunday Morning album?
Alison Krauss and the Union Station- "Paper Airplane".
If you had a chance to put together your own ‘super group’, who would be in it?
Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Rait, Stevie Nicks, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, June Carter, Patsy Cline, Christine Aguilera (for her big voice), Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin & Elvis Presley of course!
Who photographed you for the album cover?
I have heard ‘Push for the Stride’ on Radio 2 for the past few mornings when I’m travelling to work, how does it make you feel when you hear yourself on the biggest radio station in the UK (15 million listers per week)?
Is it really that many listeners? That is just mad, it’s so crazy, so exciting, I just cannot get over it when you hear it on the radio, it’s so surreal. Sometimes our friends have a game when they hear it on the radio, they pretend it’s on the CD player instead and vice versa, just to confuse us!
You were recently interviewed on the sofa for BBC Breakfast, was it an early start?
It wasn’t that bad as we weren’t on until 9am, so we had to be there for 8am, it could have been a much earlier start, it was a mad experience though, so nerve racking as we knew it was live and when you’re in the studio there’s 5 people watching you but what they fail to tell you is that it’s going out to TV’s all over the UK.
Which act or band made you want to start pushing your music out to a wider audience?
The Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert & Zac Brown Band.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
"9 to 5" 'Dolly Parton'. We love the melody and the lyrics to that song. Love what it's about. Such a fun song to sing.
You recently visited Nashville where I understand you did the ‘tourist thing’, which was your favourite attraction and why?
We got to go to the Country Music ‘Hall of Fame’ twice whilst we were over there where we learned so much about country music, we went to Memphis and learned all about SUN Studios and the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’. The Country Music Hall of Fame was the best though as it was laid out from the very beginnings of country music to present day and you picked up information as you travelled through the ages. We were surprised as country music actually originated from the British Isles, influenced heavily by Scotland and Wales, we learned a lot from that place and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Nashville.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
"McFly" at Wembley Arena when we were eleven.
Is it true that twins have the ability to communicate via ESP?
Not at all for us. Haha I'm not sure if it's different for other twins.
Name three people (alive, dead or fictional) that you would like as dinner party guests?
Lizzy's guests - Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Forrest Gump.
Catherine's Guest - Elvis Presley, Sherlock Holmes, Michael Jackson.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, aside from yourselves, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
"Striking Matches", they are amazing. Nashville based duo. Phenomenal guitar players, singers and song writers. They should be huge!
"The Shires". Another great duo, from England. We're off on tour with them in November.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.
Your video for ‘Push for the Stride’ is interesting, you flag down a nice looking man in his Oldsmobile after you breakdown, ride into town before stealing the car whilst he’s making a phone call, is this an every day thing or just a one off?
Only a weekend habit. Haha.
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
Haha we feel sorry for the poor chickens. They will always have motives for us to question.
What are your plans for what remains of 2014?
We have been on tour the whole of the summer and we are still going. We have a plan for our next single in a few weeks time with a new music video. And we're off on tour with 'The Shires' in November!
We just about had time to squeeze in a few quick fire questions for Catherine and Lizzy before we were ejected from the green room by the makeup ladies....
Coffee or Tea?
Coke or Pepsi?
Drum machine or the real deal?
Real deal (both)
Mac or PC?
Twitter or Facebook?
Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton?
Dolly Parton. (Lizzy)
CD or Vinyl?
Car or Motorbike?
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Tattoos or Piercings?
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?
Robert De Niro (Lizzy)
God or Google?
Both are useful.
We would like to thank both Catherine and Lizzy for taking time out of their hectic tour schedule to find time to talk to us, we wish them every success on their current and future live dates and will sit back and wait for them to tick the 'Global Domination' box on their bucket lists (which should be happening in the next couple of months)....
Interview by Steve Muscutt
Photographs by Julian Baird
Ward Thomas are currently touring the UK, click HERE for dates and venues and to buy tickets, their November dates are also available.