Sasha McVeigh

Balsamo Deighton

Ward Thomas

Brooke Eden

Old Dominion

Sarah Darling

Sasha McVeigh  |  Interview by: Fran & Chris

It has been a hectic 12 months for Sasha McVeigh, since appearing at the last minute at the fantastic if poorly attended Yeehaw festival with the likes of The Shires, Ward Thomas, Raintown and Dexeter among others. She has done a solo UK tour, and a band tour, co-headlining with Sonia Leigh as well as appearing in a couple of slots at the Country2Country Festival at The O2. She also found time to record one of 2015's finer albums; the BCMA nominated "I Stand Alone" and has just completed hitting the roads around the UK one more time in a triple bill with The Loveless Effect and fellow PopUp artists from the Country2Country Festival - The Cains, the sibling trio from Alabama.

Having completed her sound check at Culpeppers, and with The Cains doing their sound check inside, while the Loveless Effect were shooting a video outside, we found some chairs in a quiet part of the car park to catch up with Sasha and reflect on how things have gone and what lies ahead.

#TEAMw21: The first time we saw you was at Yeehaw in August 2014 - you seem to fly in as a late entry and were not in the official programme?

Sasha: That was actually my first UK appearance! When I started things properly in the UK, we found out about the festival and the festival had found out about me, and said "Well we haven't really got any room but if you want to come along and do a guest slot or something” - I was only aiming to do 4 songs and then one of the guests were delayed and so the organisers said "Keep going"!

#TEAMw21: Had you been in the US for a while, as we recall your accent being a strange mix between your normal accent and someone from Nashville?

Sasha: Yes we'd been out there the entire summer! It's like being around these guys (The Cains, Loveless Effect) on this tour I’m morphing and I’m having to think "Stick to the British" *laughs out loud*

#TEAMw21: You came with an EP already under your belt - was that recorded out in the U.S.?"

Sasha: We recorded it in November 2012, and it was released in March 2013, that was actually quite old at that point. The new album was recorded in November 2014 and January of this year.

#TEAMw21: What would have been your influences at the time of that first record or even now - we suspect Zac Brown will feature highly?

Sasha: Zac Brown features a lot yes - I love them! I grew up with various different genres of music in the house, Mum was a huge Motown fan and Simon and Garfunkel, whereas Dad was the big Country fan, he had the Willie Nelson and Don Williams cassettes. He also liked The Beatles, which was how I got into Elvis Presley and then when I got into the more modern country sounds of Taylor Swift and Zac Brown,  all of those things combined to make my sound.

#TEAMw21: You said at Yeehaw that your parents had made lots of sacrifices to help start your career?

Sasha: Both of my parents are pensioners, currently we do not have any central heating in the house because we can't afford to get it fixed. My Dad's car broke down the other day and we can't afford to get that fixed. We only just got Mum's car fixed, her car failed the MOT, it was fifteen years old, so we had to scrap it and get a 10 year old Chevrolet. So when I do "Gas up the Chevvy" (Florida Georgia Line Lyric) I am indeed gassing up the Chevvy - so that's quite good! They've done a lot, both of them have sold all sorts of stuff that I would never have dreamed of asking them to sell, but they did and Mum comes to pretty much every show!

#TEAMw21: Isn't she the tour bus driver?

Sasha: She does the driving, washes the knickers!! *Bursts out laughing again* "she seems to enjoy it! We're like the "Thelma and Louise” of Country Music! It's amazing to have family support behind you and it drives you to want to achieve. It makes you work harder I think.

#TEAMw21: Last weekend saw you playing with Alan West, fellow BCMA nominee for Album of the Year - Are you looking forward to the awards?

Sasha: I am, I don't know if I’m actually going to be there yet, I really hope that I can be as I did not go last year as I was recording the album. I also missed the UK Country Radio Awards (where Sasha won "UK Female Country Singer of the Year”) as I had the show at The Little Rabbit Barn in Colchester. I really hope I get to go because there are going to be so many people there like a big reunion of all the British country people!

#TEAMw21: The fact that it has been nominated is superb, could you have had any idea when you were making out how good it would be?

Sasha: No ha ha!

#TEAMw21: It's not just a good record though, it's well packaged, and it shows a lot of thought went into it.

Sasha: Whenever you do something like this, something creative, you have a vision in your mind of what it is going to look like, even when I was a kid I always loved booklets in albums so I always knew no matter what, that I’d have a booklet, with photos, lyrics, and just generally fun! I never imagined it would get nominated for anything or that so many people would love it the way that they have. When we were recording it, it was funded through Kickstarter and we only actually had 45 minutes to record each track. I was only allowed to do one vocal take on each song because of the limited money. It was done very quickly but to the best that we could possibly do with the cash limitations. It turned out exactly as I hoped that it would. I wasn't trying to be commercial, I just wanted to record the songs as I had imagined them and just hoped that people would like it.

#TEAMw21: We thought you must have taken weeks over it!!

Sasha: I wish! - it would have been great to have had lots of time but no

#TEAMw21: Have you heard from any major record labels off the back of this record?

Sasha: There has been some stuff but I can't really say anything yet. It is very cool that some industry people have got interested. When I was in America, some of the radio people were interested and started playing it. The two markets are so different and when both are engaging and loving the same songs - that was very cool!

#TEAMw21: We're not sure if people realise that you don't have any record company backing?

Sasha: I wish…If I had an investor that would help a lot, I'd have t-shirts made and all sorts of cool stuff!

#TEAMw21: So people see there is a CD and a tour and assume you must be supported

Sasha: Of course, that's how I was before I started. Our thing has always been you need to go all out for it or not bother. I'm not interested in being on magazine covers and all that but I want to get to the level where I can perform wherever I want to go, and wherever the fans want me to go. To do that you have to put yourself out there and do these tours, you have to hire the venues, as that is the only way you can do it. Sometimes you end up in a financial crisis, other times you break even and that's great. If I didn't do that I’d just be stuck at home writing songs in my bedroom. So I have to ask "Would I rather being doing that or what we are currently doing?".

#TEAMw21: You must feel better about seeing the bigger crowds turning up?

Sasha: That's crazy, when that happens it's nuts! Even on this tour, Hereford was really close to selling out, the Little Rabbit Barn was sold out. As you start seeing that progression with more people... when I did the show in Vegas at the Brooklyn Bowl, I had my first headline show, there were 150 people there and I was thinking - How do 150 people in Vegas even know who I am?! Even when I come here people are singing, you sometimes have to do a double take, You think they are talking but they are actually singing!

#TEAMw21: We were there at The Horn in St Albans (2 tours previous)  where the audience was a tad limited

Sasha: Yes there were maybe 5 or 10 people!

#TEAMw21: There was a sign on the wall saying "No crowd surfing!"

Sasha: Yes, I don't think we had a problem with that on the night!

#TEAMw21: We came to that on the strength of the EP and the Yeehaw performance, and even though that was a quiet night we've continued to follow your fortunes.

Sasha: Thank you very much for your continued support.

#TEAMw21: You mentioned playing in the U.S. we saw that you've been asked to sing their National Anthem which seems a little odd?

Sasha: They always ask me to do it! -  It is wonderful, a huge honour!

#TEAMw21: It seems a risky thing to do, we've seen Beyoncé and Alesha Dixon vilified for their attempts

Sasha: You get crucified if you get it wrong and that has always been my biggest fear. The first time I did it was last year at Country Jam USA in Wisconsin, which was the most nerve wracking. Once you've done it once you kind of know what to expect. When I did it at Taste Of Country in New York there were 20,000 people in the audience and everyone was singing along and that had never happened before, So you start to think "oooh they are singing" and then "oh no must keep going otherwise they will be booing"! People come up to you afterwards and hug you and thank you for doing it - You can really touch people.

#TEAMw21: Your tour with Sonia Leigh seemed a great success - she was a hard act to follow each night?

Sasha:  It was amazing! That is what was great about that - it was my first proper tour and she had not done one in the UK. One of the things that was great, that we both hoped to get from it was the ability to do stuff like that again. As soon as that tour finished she went back and was then back in the UK for the Pride Festival and without the tour she would not have known there was a fan base and that her music was popular over here to make her feel that she could come back whenever.

#TEAMw21:  We caught the Culpeppers show on that tour, it was one of the early shows, on the night the band had only recently got together and I thought that there was a little room for improvement - not that it was bad, just that it would get better the more they got to play together.

Sasha: I know! Sonia hadn't even rehearsed with them at all - originally she was supposed to fly out and they were to have 2 days of rehearsals in Leeds - That did not happen! And then it was a case of when are they going to rehearse? They had 2 rehearsals at the Water Rats in London before we did the show that night. Then because the time had been spent on Sonia's stuff it was a case of what can we do for Sasha. It was the same band trying to learn two different sets - It was a lot to do!

#TEAMw21: It did seem on the night that they were more at ease with Sonia’s stuff than yours.

Sasha: I know, it was fun  though and we had a great time! There is a tour video that I have not yet posted!

#TEAMw21: It was also slightly off putting with you standing to the side with Harry Vernon (Fitzwallace bassist) standing centre stage drawing the eye towards him.

Sasha: Yes that stage set up was a bit odd!! Its sorted for tonight!!

#TEAMw21:  We heard a little bit of the sound check for tonight and it sounds amazing - things again not going to plan at the Little Rabbit Barn though with Chris Logan (The Rising) drafted in as guitarist.

Sasha: It came about as one of the Loveless Effect, who are from Arizona, and have never travelled before and had to get passports. Everybody got theirs but Seth (guitarist) had delays getting his passport sorted, so we had to rearrange the flights but it meant we had two shows at the beginning of the tour with no band. The Cains were already flying out later so there were different support acts arranged for those dates, you don't necessarily think of ringing Chris as you associate him as being in The Rising, but I called and said are you free and he said yes I'm free all of September!

#TEAMw21: It was quite funny at the Little Rabbit Barn as he is obviously used to having an electric guitar and some volume but was still throwing the poses with his acoustic

Sasha: He did a great job learning the songs in about 5 days! He really pulled out all the stops and was such a nice guy.

#TEAMw21: Tonight you have The Cains and the very hard to find anything out about Loveless Effect

Sasha: They are a very very new band and tonight as well as support will also be my backing band -They've been friends since they were tiny!

#TEAMw21:  Listening on Soundcloud they are going to be slightly louder than people may be expecting?

Sasha: They are more of a soft rock band than country, but they definitely have country influences. Right now they are just trying to get themselves out there. They've come for the experience. It's a bit like with Sonia - Sonia had a different sound to me and it seemed to draw two different crowds who each got something out of it. Loveless Effect has more of a rock/blues influence.

#TEAMw21: Did you meet the Cains at Country2Country?

Sasha: Yes, I heard them do their set there and thought it was brilliant!

#TEAMw21: They had to do a Kickstarter campaign to get the money for the flight tickets for that show

Sasha: Yes people don't realise. It’s the sad thing about even doing these tours, I kept getting messages from people saying "Please come to Norwich" and as much as I’d love to the venue is going to cost £750 and I need to be sure I can get enough people so that I’m not in more debt than I already am. I'd love to go anywhere but alas I can't.

#TEAMw21: We saw you at The Borderline supporting Lindsay Ell and you said "Someone to Break My Heart" was a late addition and nearly did not make the album were their others that did not make it?

Sasha: Yes there were lots! I've been writing a lot lately as well and was so tempted to do a couple of new ones on this tour but then people are worried that they'll be filmed and will end up on YouTube, maybe I’ll do one at the end and say phones away everybody!

#TEAMw21: Like Kate Bush!!

Sasha: Yes - That was the hardest thing about the album though choosing what songs to use. It was my first time with the full band, we had all the songs from the acoustic EP and songs from age 14 to the time of recording so it was a case of narrowing them down, making sure that they all blended well. There's definitely some stuff left over.

#TEAMw21: In the vault for the 20 year anniversary deluxe edition

Sasha: Definitely!

#TEAMw21: You Only Live Once on the album is a sort of bucket list, how many of the things have you done? Hang-gliding, Surf board riding?

Sasha: I've drunk Napa wine!! Though I haven’t got a video of it which is so frustrating. When we were in America this time I did go skinny dipping in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I wrote it about Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and when I get there I’ll properly do it there - what they don't tell you about Lake Geneva in Wisconsin is that it is a complete tourist area and they have houses all around the lake, I literally did it super-fast and then 10 seconds later a boat load of people came past!

#TEAMw21: That song was a co-write with AJ Masters , (who passed away prior to recording) who since you have mentioned him we've noticed him appearing on lots of other songs Glenn Mitchell etc.

Sasha: He will do, AJ was an amazing writer - I don't really like co-writing, not because I have anything against the people I write with it's more a case of I prefer to write by myself, especially if I’ve started the song. If I've started I kind of want to finish it whereas if I’m with someone else I might have written something entirely different, Everyone has different takes on it, the plus point is that you get two different perspectives, AJ could just write with anyone, he'd write with 12 year old girls to folk he'd grown up with, He was one of the nicest people that you will ever meet, he did not have a bad bone in his body!

#TEAMw21: Was he purely a writer or did he sing as well?

Sasha: He was a singer and got an award from the ACMA for best country singer in the Seventies, if you google him he has a bunch of music videos! One of them has him with brown hair and a beard - It is a real seventies video with a girl in high waisted pants, in somewhere like Nevada. He put out some albums that are super expensive on Amazon. As he got older he concentrated on just being a songwriter.

#TEAMw21: We mentioned Glen Mitchell and SaraBeth - how did you find their tour?

Sasha: It was great, it was slightly weird as I had just sung with them in Nashville a few weeks earlier and now we were together again in Exeter!! SaraBeth is wonderful and Glen is an incredible guitarist, and his voice is great! You warm to him instantly and he is so funny - it is incredible what he has achieved in the States - He has great stories to tell. SaraBeth is also juggling the two things playing here and in the US - they are both super nice!

#TEAMw21: Not many people make 2 versions of the same song or at least not two good ones but you've achieved it with "No Strings Attached Romance"

Sasha: I always had a vision of how it would be as a full band production. I knew I wanted the crowd thing on the last "Stays in Vegas" - Greg Cole did a great job capturing the sound and it's good to play them both and listen to the differences.

#TEAMw21: Is it awkward singing the line "If my mama knew what we got up to" when she's in the audience most nights?

Sasha: She does know,  that's what so ironic about that line! I always feel like I need to do a disclaimer before I do it, "It's not as bad as the song makes out" my mum thinks it is hilarious and I can't even look at her when I sing that line, as she gives me the wink, I had to leave it in though as she finds it so funny..

#TEAMw21: "Hot Mess" is another of our favourites; it seems slightly out of place on the album but was it just to show you could do it?

Sasha: Yes I just wanted to showcase all the different things that I do and because I knew it would probably be a while before I released something else, I just wanted to show everything, the softer side, the rockier side, the blues side.

#TEAMw21: It's songs like "Hot Mess" and "No Strings Attached" that seem slightly at odds with your Disney loving alter ego.

Sasha: There are occasions where I’ll go off and do something nuts but I guess the Disney side is more me, it's once every six months I go wild and that's when those songs come out.

#TEAMw21: You've announced that this UK tour will be the last for a while?

Sasha: Basically what is going to happen is, these tours take up an enormous amount of time, sometimes you just can't get the dates together and it ends up taking longer than ideally you'd want it to. Essentially it is just three people organising the whole thing, there are not PR teams to get the message out in newspapers, so I ended up sending 500 messages on Twitter and Facebook telling everyone about the tour. It is the only way to get it out there, I always like to be honest with the fans, so I did not want it to be don't worry there'll be another tour coming along later next year, as our plans are for a European tour next February/March. December and January can be rubbish months either side of Christmas, summer will be America and Canada with possibly a UK Festival appearance or some select shows - maybe for those folk in Norwich rather than a full scale tour.

#TEAMw21: The other thing you have branched out into recently is cyber bullying…

Sasha: Yes, very unintentionally as well! It has snowballed into this big thing. People were messaging me on Facebook initially with little things like "They thought I was pretty" but then it evolved into “what do you do to keep your skin so clear and perfect and I’m all spotty" and it was hard to know what to say. I have acne it’s just covered in 10 layers of foundation at the moment and I had it as a kid and I could not believe that people thought I was a perfect image of what a 21 year old should be! I remember being 14 or 15, watching Hannah Montana or Selena Gomez on the Disney channel thinking they are so thin, with flat stomachs and their skin is so clear, I would even cry it was awful, so the last thing I wanted was people looking up to me feeling that same way and the best way to do that was to put it all out there.

#TEAMw21: Will you be apply to be a PopUp artist at Country2Country next year?

Sasha: I hope so, it depends if I can get the the band over, or I can get another band together for the show and how the dates fit around the European tour. It is very difficult to take everybody in though as you are always panicking you are missing Sam Hunt or Dexeter on another stage somewhere. It would be fun!

#TEAMw21: Are you going to Zac Brown?

Sasha: Of course!!!

Balsamo Deighton  |  Interview by: Fran & Chris

There can be few better places to conduct an interview than the Garden at the Little Rabbit Barn, with the sun shining and a wandering chicken in the garden, it is a lovely summer’s afternoon. Things however have not gone to plan; our planned interviewees Steve Balsamo and Rosalie Deighton have had a torturous journey from Wales and on top of that Rosalie is suffering from a cold that is in danger of ruining a show that has been three years in the construction waiting for available slots to coincide with artist availability. 

Balsamo Deighton have just polished off the mastering of their Pledge funded album "Unfolding" at Abbey Road and have found time to squeeze in a quick chat with #TEAMw21 prior to tonight’s performance. Steve looking pretty much as he must have done in his days in Jesus Christ Superstar. 

#TEAMw21: Do we call you Dr Steve now?  We see that you are now an Honorary Fellow. 

Steve: "I was very honoured to be given a fellowship from University of Wales Trinity Saint David for my services to music. It was wonderful but I had to make a speech which was very nerve-wracking. It went down well, I tested it on Rosalie..... 

Rosalie: "I cried ..." while simultaneously bursting into a fit of laughter!

Steve: We like a good cry ...  I was very honoured, and I’m contemplating doing something, a Masters maybe, some education to take it a bit further. I have been toying with it for years I’m very interested in psychology. 

#TEAMw21: Doing our research for this we were aware of your time with the Storys but the theatrical background was a surprise.

Steve: Yes, I looked like this and wore a nappy - I've done a few things theatre wise which was fun and exciting 

#TEAMw21: Is that a different skillset you need? 

Steve: Yes It's a very physically and vocally demanding world to be in. You've got to stay tip top no boozing, no smoking, stay in good shape generally. It is a very different world and as much as I loved it and really appreciate the things that it brought me and the people I got to meet, what I learnt most of all, is that my heart is writing songs and doing what we are doing now. 

#TEAMw21: As we were driving up we were listening to The Storys. Listening to it years later it seems that everything should have gone fantastically, you were playing huge shows and had Elton John saying kind things. 

Rosalie: " I joined the band" once again bursts into laughter 

Steve: Yes that's it… Rosalie joined - we broke up! “laughs" What happened was this, We made the record in a very old fashioned romantic way, I came off a big solo contract with Sony, one of the other members Dai Smith had a similar thing. We'd both been through that sausage factory, I got back to Wales with Dai, Rob Thompson and Andy Collins, four singer/songwriters who just wanted to write songs do it in an old fashioned way. We went up a mountain, made a record in an old converted cinema very romantically, then the record became this thing, it was a great record, and the people like Elton heard it and Bob Harris and it started getting attention, we then signed with Warner Brothers. We had a deal in America but like so many stories of bands, the guy form the record company left, we got dropped, it's the same old story - unless you do what Adele or Sam Smith have done and really crack America or the ginger fellow (Ed Sheeran) and sell tens of millions anything else is going to be a fight for survival. We had a great run and made three really strong records, that we are all very proud of, and we toured the world several times over with some amazing people, we learnt so much and saw so much! 

#TEAMw21: It sounds so fresh do you imagine if it was released today it would do quite well? 

Steve: That's what we tried to do, we tried to make it timeless, same as with this record, we've tried to make it out of time so that if you put it on in ten years’ time it will still sound the same. It is of that Tom Petty, Springsteen, Eagles world and that's what we've tried to do with this record. 

#TEAMw21: The tail end of the Storys is where Rosalie comes in… 

Rosalie: And just ruin it all “laughs again" as Jenny Eclair says “I'm the Yoko Ono" 

Steve: Not at all!

#TEAMw21: Performance has been in your blood from day one almost? 

Rosalie: Yes… I did my first gig when I was three, signed my first record deal when I was eight, released my first record when I was ten and toured the world.

Steve: It's funny we've found a video of them today on a TV show, when Rosie was about ten, and your sister was about two.. It is amazing!

Rosalie: When I was eighteen I got a record deal with EMI, moved to London at about the same time as Steve was doing his Jesus Christ role, and learned my song writing craft while I was at EMI/Chrysalis/Indipendiente which I suppose led to this. I made three solo records, joined The Storys and then we have made this record. 

#TEAMw21: What was behind the decision to get together?

Rosalie: Well it was just a kind of natural thing. It wasn't a decision, we like each other, I think still…. “laughs again” 

Steve: Rosalie has been nursing me, I was ill the other week on Rosalie's birthday, I had to go to hospital dehydrated from a terrible stomach bug, so Rosie has seen every conceivable end and we're still together amazingly 

Rosalie: Musically “both laugh" Can I just add that!! 

Steve: We met, there's a guy called Martin Toureff? a Swedish Producer, and Songwriter, since we met him 10 or 15 years ago, he has gone on and produced Train and Jason Mraz., he won a Grammy for his work with Train. We met at his studio and we have loads of mutual friends, but we never got together then and when The Storys were touring, Rosie via a friend called Ash called and said "Could I tour with you?" and we said "Yes". Then when Dai left the band, he was so irreplaceable and bonkers we thought that we couldn't replace him with a guy because it would take a lot of man to fill the shoes that he never used to wear, so Rosie we thought… 

Rosie: I was just as mad! “both laugh” 

Steve: So the dynamic shifted, but the steam had run out of the band so at that point we started writing a couple of ideas and gently started to get together 

#TEAMw21: So you've successfully run the Pledge campaign - does making that target give you confidence that there is demand out there for this record? 

Steve: Yes, Pledge is amazing, because we've seen the major record label route and we've been there. I’ve seen them spend £50,000 on a photo session, in Ireland once for me, it was brilliant,  that doesn't happen anymore as they've run out of money for that very reason but as the whole landscape has changed, bands and musicians have to find another way to get to market and Pledge is one of the brilliant ideas that  has been born out of necessity really. 

#TEAMw21: As a campaign it did have some unusual items in it… the Ghost hunt, The Tarot reading and the cake, did anyone take up the Tarot reading? 

Steve: Yes I’ve got a few to do, I read Tarot, I've been studying it for about 15 years, people think it is a kind of end of pier amusement, and it can be… but it is also a very interesting psychological inquiry, into ourselves and our life path. The psycho analyst Jung used to use tarot, and I Ching, the Chinese form of divination, in his surgery every day. When he used to treat people, he would draw cards and use that as a legitimate part of his therapeutic work. 

#TEAMw21: You only ever seem to see it in films with someone turning over the death card 

Steve: The Death card is about renewal, rejuvenation, and rebirth it could be coming out of a relationship… It is not necessarily death. 

#TEAMw21: …and Rosalie you are chipping in with the cake?

Rosalie: I make a lot of cakes, I like to bake and I like to eat it along the way. I've not made a cake as I’ve been at your house "looks at Steve" Looking after you... we're foodies anyway we love food!

Steve: My Dad was a chef, taught me how to cook… so were both love to cook and we're both good at it! 

#TEAMw21: Does being a male/female duo affect how you approach song writing, do you need to find parts for each other on each song? 

Steve: Well I sing like a girl most of the time “laughs” 

Rosalie: …and I sing like a man! “laughs even louder”

Steve: So it kind of works - What we've done with this record, it came very organically, very simply, we brought in a couple of songwriter friends, Andy from The Storys, a guy called Julian Wilson from Grand Drive, a really classy songwriter, and they bring with them angles that we maybe would not have thought of. So we had about 30 songs! 

Rosalie: even two weeks before mastering the album we had new songs! 

Steve: Exactly a couple of real late bloomers that turned up on the record. A lot of the songs are about love, a couple are about things we've experienced along the way, there's a couple of interesting songs about war, the main song "Unfolding" for example, was inspired from a time when the Storys were touring, we had some fans, a father and son, they came to see us quite a few times, and then the Dad came to see us and told us that his son had been killed in Afghanistan. They took one of Dais songs "God Take Care Of The One I Love" and played it at the funeral. As musicians, we have a view on things, we write some songs and we go and sing them. This kid went out and got killed for protecting the country - it's a big old thing - so "Unfolding" was our response to that situation. Last night my wife and I watched "American Sniper", it's a very heavy film but it gave us a different spin on the whole thing. So that has filtered on to the album, since the last albums there have been births and deaths in the famil. At the age we are ...."both start laughing" …At the age I am we've seen some things, we've seen happiness and sadness and we've tried to put all that into the record!

#TEAMw21: Do you bring common influences to the record? 

Steve: Rosie doesn't like The Beatles, but that is another story, but we love Marie McKee, Emmylou Harris, a load of country stuff that we like - we like good music!

#TEAMw21: From the bits of the album we have heard from the live shows, "The Ghost of Me and You" and "Blue" both sound like they will be exceptional. "Blue" being the most cheerful song about a nervous breakdown 

Steve: The fall out of The Storys, was quite severe, a couple of heads including my own fell off, but it is good to say they are back on and everyone is doing well and survived. It's a hard thing… it's not only the expectation that was coming with the band, but by the end it was so tightly wound and you are in the back of a van for seven years together, you've worked through everybody's neuroses you knew their foibles and everything else so when it came to an end there was an obvious fall out period, and I can really appreciate now when bands fall out. Sometimes enough is enough, it is a bit like being married. 

#TEAMw21: You have some celebrity drumming on the album 

Steve: Yes I toured with Jon Lord, who was the keyboard player with Deep Purple, one of the most gentlemanly, lovely human beings I've ever met and an incredible musician. He died a couple of years ago from pancreatic cancer, I speak to his widow Vicky a lot, and I had a dream about Jon, I called to tell her I had a dream about Jon and she said that she had too. So we had a lovely conversation and it gets emotional and we have a good cry and when we were writing a new song "The Dream Song" we angled the lyric about Jon encouraging us from the other side. I'm a big believer in the continuity of life after death or certainly consciousness after death, so we talked about it and channelled it into this great song. We sent it to Vicky's whose twin sister is Ian Paice's wife, they organise the Sunflower Jam, a charity event that raises money for alternative cancer care. So they heard it and then Paicey called and said I’d love to play on this as it is about Jon - so we popped over to his rock and roll palatial - he's such a lovely guy. 

#TEAMw21: In your live shows you make reference to the fact that all your songs are very sad… Is there something that leads you in that direction?

Rosalie: My love life! “laughs"…what can I say! 

Steve: I'd leave it there! 

#TEAMw21: Coming on to that if we may - one of the highlights of the live shows has been the audience participation to your song "If I Had A Gun". On the recorded version it does not sound quite as menacing

Rosalie: I think Dermot said it was quite menacing as I sing it quite sweetly 

#TEAMw21: At The Green Note for instance we were almost shaking in our chairs such was the menace in it - we thought we don't want to get on the wrong side of you!! 

Rosalie: “laughs out loud" That was a nice night actually and no you shouldn't and that's a message to every man out there! 

#TEAMw21: We wondered if you fancied another crack it 

Rosalie: Well maybe, for the moment we've plenty of songs in the same vein “laughs again” 

Steve: I saw Rosie play when she supported Boo Hewerdine, and I said you've got to put a singalong in that song because I thought it was so funny 

Rosalie: The guy doesn't think it’s that funny “laughs again” 

#TEAMw21: We've been following you since the show at 229 in London, across Country2Country, The Green Note and Folkfest - each time the line up slightly grows is there a definitive end line up? 

Steve: Not yet - we've got to get a drummer, and we will make it electric as some of the record is electric…So it will change. 

#TEAMw21: When we saw you at Country2Country with a scarf we thought it was a showbiz affectation but it was slightly more than that wasn't it? 

Steve: Yes I had pneumonia. At the beginning of the year there was this terrible cold thing going around and I had it for about 16 weeks, I’d get better then it would get worse again and I hardly ever get ill. After that gig I had some x-rays and we were on the road to do the first gig with Callaghan, and the Doctor said "Could you come in you've had pneumonia and you've got to come back for another x-ray”

#TEAMw21: You drew the early slot on the Sunday - did you enjoy yourself despite all that? 

Steve: It was good to see how big that whole thing is getting and the re-emergence of country music in the UK! 

#TEAMw21: You mentioned Callaghan - that seemed like a great tour! 

Steve: They were so sweet, they were lovely - We couldn't get her songs out of our heads for months!

#TEAMw21: You've got a hectic bunch of dates yourselves for the new record! 

Steve: With The Storys we released the record and then we got a couple of big support slots, Elton, Santana and a Celine Dion show, so hopefully we'll get a nice support with someone and start doing it a similar way that is our plan really. Start playing our own shows and then get out there and support some bigger artists, and reach out to more fans! 

#TEAMw21: We were going to end by saying going on tour won't be a problem because of your extensive fitness… In healthier times Rosalie has done the London marathon 

Rosalie: Yes I’ve only been out running once this week I’ve been feeling so ropey. I normally do a good 10 miles a day. 

Needless to say Balsamo Deighton went on to play a fantastic night at the Little Rabbit Barn, and did add "If I Had A Gun" into the set as an encore, it went down a storm!

Ward Thomas  |  Interview by: Fran & Chris

Few people to this website can be unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is Ward Thomas. The twins from Petersfield, have had a meteoric rise from playing at the O2 Phone Shop in front of a modest crowd at the 2014 C2C festival at the O2 to performing inside the Arena itself at this year’s festival. A quartet of singles have all been play listed by Radio 2, and they managed 2 national tours, as well as a host of festival appearances and a spell touring in the United States.

The previous night had seen them play their largest show as headliners so far, at the 800 capacity Islington Assembly Halls, where the crowd including the likes of Amazing Radio’s Baylen Leonard and Paul Carella had seen the band put in a fantastic performance.

#TEAMw21 caught up with the Catherine and Lizzy just prior to sound check at The Bowery Reading to reflect on their success and progress over the last 12 months and to get a glimpse of what may lay ahead in the future. Ushered into the dressing room which part resembled a library with bookshelves covering one side of the room, we find the band in relaxed mode with Taylor Swift playing on the hi-fi.

The band were duly dispatched to commence the sound check.  Catherine made herself comfortable on the floor wearing her trademark knitted hat, while Lizzy rested on the back of a leather armchair. 

The obvious place to start was recalling the 2015 C2C Festival, where they had played 3 sets, first at the Brooklyn Bowl, then a more acoustic affair in the Saloon Bar as part of Bob Harris’s Under The Apple Tree sessions before moving on to that final slot on the Satellite Stage inside the 17,000 O2 Arena itself.

#TEAMw21: So how was C2C for you this year?

Catherine / Lizzy “Absolute insane… surreal!  The whole weekend was completely amazing. It went so fast and we were so tired by the end of it that we were driving home to Hampshire turning off the M25 on to the A3 but finding ourselves back in London!! So it was one of those weekends where our heads haven’t settled yet.

#TEAMw21: Was the 10 minute slot long enough?

Catherine:  “It seemed so quick but at the same time because it was so quick we got to give it our all and then when we came offstage said “I can’t believe we just did that”

#TEAMw21: Did you get the lights to come up so that you could see the people?

Catherine: Yes, we said “We’d Love to take a picture could we have the house lights up” and then suddenly the lights came up and both me and Lizzy went - Both faces suddenly drop jaws in amazement 

#TEAMw21: Did you get to see any of the main acts?

Lizzy: Yes we got to meet Lady A, and that was just amazing they came right up to us and said (affects American accent) “Hey Girrrllls” they were so friendly.

Catherine: They come and shook our hands and it was so nice – they didn’t need to

Lizzy:  and of course Sam Palladio…..

#TEAMw21: Did you see any of the Pop up artists?

Catherine/Lizzy: Yes we got to see Laura Oakes who we think is beautifully amazing, Striking Matches in the Brooklyn Bowl they were great as always, and The Shires in the Town Square, we got to wander round and catch quite a few people

#TEAMw21: Did you manage to catch any of Kimmie Rhodes set as you were coming in as she was playing?

Catherine: We got to see 3 or 4 of her songs and it was so cool, as it was like coming into the Saloon as if we were in Nashville. The way she was set up with a stool and a little guitar was so Nashville. He (Bob Harris) recreated Nashville in the middle of Greenwich.

#TEAMw21: It was C2C 2014 where we first saw you on what is now the Big Entrance Stage

Catherine: I can’t believe how much has happened in a year it has been so insane. It was the O2 Phone Shop stage when we played it. It just keeps growing every year. I can’t wait for next year!

#TEAMw21: What have been the highlights of the year in between?

Lizzy: Hyde Park definitely (the girls were the headliners of the BBC Introducing Stage at Radio ‘s “Festival in A Day”)

Catherine: Our trip to Nashville of course.

Lizzy: Last night was a big highlight in London at the Assembly Halls! 

#TEAMw21: It’s a nice venue with a high stage

Lizzy: Yes apparently I was told yesterday that this is the highest stage in rock ‘n ‘ roll.

#TEAMw21: Many people think of that first C2C as being your debut as it tied in with your first single release but you had been gigging since 2012 and there was an earlier incarnation of the band including maracas and backup singers?

Catherine/Lizzy: Ah yes we used to perform with the people we wrote the songs with ( Matt Greaves) they were pit players in the West End so a lot of his friends came along and joined us.

Lizzy: It was very very different back then.

Catherine We’ve been writing and performing for ages but now (with the current band) we’ve finally found our sound.

#TEAMw21: This is your third national tour in less than a year – What is going to be different this time round?

Lizzy: Well this is our first ever headline tour

Catherine: I think the coolest thing in the world is when you come out on stage and see people that have actually paid for tickets especially in places like Aberdeen where we’ve never even been before.

Lizzy: Even last night just coming out on stage, I don’t know if you noticed but I was so overwhelmed, I forgot the lyrics to the first verse of Way Back When. It was like Oh my gosh all these people have come to see us. The vibe is so much more relaxed we just love touring.

#TEAMw21: We see that you are playing your first show in Holland – are there other European dates coming?

Catherine: Hopefully - We’ve just started planning stuff but nothings confirmed apart from that one 

#TEAMw21: Have you done any European TV shows yet?

Catherine: In Dublin we went on the Saturday Night Show Sessions, 

Lizzy: We got to perform “Push For The Stride” and “Town Called Ugley”, and on Two Tube we got to do “Push For The Stride”

#TEAMw21: Is there any chance of you going on Jools Holland?

Catherine: Oh my God – 

Lizzy: Fingers crossed

#TEAMw21: There’s a Vintage TV special coming?

Lizzy: That’s coming out in a couple of weeks – there’s a trailer on Youtube

Catherine: It is us in a studio playing a set and talking about some of the songs 

#TEAMw21: You have got some Festivals coming up (Weyfest, Cornbury, and Nibley) do you approach these differently?

Catherine/Lizzy: Well the audience is always a bit different, and as there are multiple acts, you may have quite a lot of people who are unfamiliar with your songs or who you are, so maybe we’re a little more relaxed whereas when it’s a home gig it’s a little more polished. At festivals we’re allowed to be a little bit silly.

Lizzy: It’s outside and everyone has got a beer, so you can just run around on stage

#TEAMw21: Unless it’s Yeehaw 2014 in the pouring rain (torrential downpour occurred during the WT set)

Catherine Oh yes I remembering hearing it hammering down on our little roof

#TEAMw21: We recently had a long conversation with Alan West and he’d said that you were a group that both he and his daughters could listen to. Have you noticed that in your audience?

Catherine/Lizzy: Sadly a lot of our gigs have been 14+ and lots of people at the end of the show will say that their daughter or son would have loved to have come. We have had families coming along with their children which is comforting for us because some groups have a target audience in terms of age. At Norwich we had 3 generations of the same family!

#TEAMw21: Have you noticed that you have a very polite audience – Last night’s encore of Caledonia saw the Assembly Halls absolutely silent while you were playing

Catherine: I know! (laughs) I felt such pressure as if I make a massive mistake everyone will know

Lizzy: It was like singing the Scottish anthem and I was thinking this is such pressure and that I’ll forget the words – I never do but it’s just something you think when you are nervous.

#TEAMw21: You have done a number of videos, do you like or loathe doing them?

Catherine: If it involves us acting I do not like them – Lizzy is so bad

Lizzy: I’m awful! The director kept saying “Tone it down a little”

Catherine When it comes to the singing performing part it’s fun to do it over and over. I always look forward to seeing the finished article.

#TEAMw21: Is that why you went cartoon style for Town Called Ugley?

Lizzy: We went cartoon, because we thought it would be funny, mocking ourselves, the song is a funny silly song

Catherine: We wanted to show our sense of humour and some of the others were more serious (thinks then reconsiders) well we went back in time in one and stole a car in the other!!

#TEAMw21: Did it take months to do?

Catherine: Basically just before Christmas we had our pictures done in front of a green screen, as well as our dogs and then it was worked on all through Christmas and was ready by the end of January.

Lizzy: The dogs were a late addition, we were at home and put up some green paper and held up chicken in the air and then sent the pictures off to the animators.

#TEAMw21: You’ve been great supporters of UK Country acts giving slots away to local performers, are there any that you’d recommend that we may not have seen yet?

Lizzy: A lovely girl called Stephanie Manns, opened for us in Glasgow – she’s great!

#TEAMw21: Yes we enjoyed her early morning set at C2C on the Big Entrance stage

Lizzy/Catherine: Laura Oakes is definitely worth seeing – she’s so talented, a multi-instrumentalist

Catherine: We love having Dexeter, they are the loveliest people in the world, to have them around is such a calming influence.

Lizzy: Kerri Watt is really good – did you see her at Islington? She’s very cool.

#TEAMw21: We did and will be there for her EP launch next month.

Catherine: We’ve had Jessica Ridley from Nashville for this tour – ah there’s so many

#TEAMw21: We look to see who you have in the early slots to see who may be up and coming

Catherine: We’ve got Laura Oakes in Sheffield and Emily Kane in Hull she’s from Nashville – she’s back after living there for 4 years and she’s now discovering that there is a scene over here.

#TEAMw21: The tour means a lot of travelling – do you have a playlist for the car or is it Radio 2?

Catherine/Lizzy: We are loving Taylor Swift’s new album. When there is nine of us on the bus, we have playlists. We love Country music, Dan (guitarist) loves Pop/Punk which is very different, Linus (Bass player) loves Jazz, while Dave (Drummer) loves Metal music, so we made a deal where we’d have an hour each and then after Dans 4th or 5th song (pulls sad face) we were saying “Can we have some Country music back on?”

Lizzy: We love Pop Master on Ken Bruce though I get about one right, it gets us screaming in the van, we’ve also been listening to James Bay and George Ezra

#TEAMw21: Along with the tour we have the deluxe version of From Where We Stand with additional studio and live tracks. Why did “Who We Are” (the deeply personal tribute to their mother) not make the original release?

Catherine/Lizzy simultaneously We really really wanted it on the album

Catherine: We wanted to release it apart from the other songs as we felt it had a niche meaning to it more than the others. We already had our singles but by including it on the deluxe version we could push it out as a separate song. There’s only so many singles you can push from one album,

Lizzy: Plus we wanted to release it on Mother’s Day

#TEAMw21: There’s live versions from 3 or 4 different shows do you record all your shows?

Catherine: We recorded every show from Pocklington onwards on our last tour with The Shires. The energy was so different on the live tracks to the studio versions

#TEAMw21: Is there anything left in the vaults?

Catherine: Ah there’s so much and we have plans to release a whole host of stuff but we are writing and writing and we’ve got songs like Cartwheels to record.

Lizzy: It’s working out the right time – timing is everything

#TEAMw21: Are there any plans to do a release on vinyl?

Catherine: Oh my goodness – that would be cool. I had a record player at boarding school and me and my roommate would listen to records every morning. We’ll ask Management about it.

Lizzy: Jimmy our fiddle player who is Carrie Underwood’s fiddle player takes his record player and vinyl out on tour with him which is quite a commitment!

#TEAMw21: You mentioned Cartwheels how do you resist the temptation to rush off and record it?

Catherine/Lizzy: We have a demo so we have it down but we have to find the right producer and the perfect sound for that song – it’s really special to us, it’s our baby.

Lizzy: It’s another question of timing again, it’s not a different sound, just different from “From Where We Stand” so we want to put it with some others , “Almost Easy” goes well with it and “Carry You Home”

#TEAMw21: We see Cartwheels as a kind of “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles that could cross over and go mega

Catherine/Lizzy: That would be amazing

#TEAMw21: Cartwheels you wrote with Rebecca Powell, Almost Easy and Carry You Home with Jessica Sharman how does the co-write thing work for you?

Catherine/Lizzy: It’s different every single time, we write a lot with Rebecca and Jess, the four of us, I think with 4 girls in a room things get so big and emotional and having an American in the room helps as though we speak the same language we come from very different cultures and it is good to put them together and get different angles and viewpoints

Lizzy: it is a complete collaborative thing, I may come up with a melody or for instance Catherine had the line “Push For The Stride” for ages, and then we got the line “Pick yourself up when you are down” and then created the song around that one line.

Catherine: We always bring something to the writing session and then you just feed off each other, it can takes thing off on a tangent which is what makes the co-writing experience so good. Someone can have a totally different way of looking at things that can make the song so rounded

#TEAMw21: Could they go on and record the song themselves?

Catherine: It depends, sometimes we write with other artists that really want to cut their own songs as well. Jess Sharman is a songwriter whose dream is to see other people singing her songs, so I think it depends on the person.

#TEAMw21: So first you, then The Shires, who do you think is next best placed to break through?

Catherine: Ah that’s a tough one – Callahan, have you heard Callahan she’s doing quite well, Sasha McVeigh as well

#TEAMw21: You mentioned earlier about a return to Nashville – do you think you’ll record the next album in Nashville

Catherine/Lizzy: We Love the Nashville sound and it would be great to record over there, but we’d also like to explore our options over here. We want to find the sound that we want to make, when we recorded “From Where We Stand” we had the Nashville sound with the English influence, now we don’t know if we want record it over here with a “Made in Britain” sound or if we want to go over there again. We’re exploring options at the moment anyway.

#TEAMw21: You’ve covered Budapest, Shake It Off and now Hozier’s Take Me To Church how do you decide what cover to do next?

Catherine: Normally it is when we’re singing in the car, 

Lizzy: We love to sing country songs but then we also like to make songs that are not country - country. Something completely different like Man In The Mirror, we try and put a different spin on it because it is more interesting when you do something like that.

#TEAMw21: On similar lines how do decide who should sing which line, or which verse, as history is full of family units that have split up from The Gallaghers in Oasis to even the Knopflers in Dire Straits.

Catherine/Lizzy: Really quickly normally, we say you do that and I’ll do this and it’s agreed. We just know when we write a song and Lizzy will say I’d like to sing this verse or sometimes it’s the other way round.

Lizzy: I always try to get Catherine to sing the high bits as well because she can, but does not always want to.

It was then time to let the girls perform their part of the sound check but not before Catherine revealed her latest toy – a Polaroid camera and so we headed off for a quick picture in the actual venue and then after taking a picture of the Polaroid Catherine gave us it as memento to seal what had been a great afternoon.

The evening’s performance was their first in Reading and true to form they changed the set slightly to keep things fresh and also to fit in a request from 

#TEAMw21 for “Almost Easy”. Closing the show with a cover of “Sweet Caroline” a tribute to their keyboard players (Tom Jones) mum who was in the audience.

The next day was scheduled to be a day off which was as well as it was their 21st birthday!

So will 2015 see Ward Thomas continue to hit new heights?

With a sell-out tour, already part complete a host of festival appearances lined up and most importantly an impressive batch of songs already written for the next prospective release, we definitely think so.

Brooke Eden  |  Interview by: Fran & Chris

When the offer came in to interview Brooke Eden we could hardly believe our luck, her iTunes EP has been a #TEAMw21 favourite in the run up to Country2Country 2016. 

As luck would have it we got an early glimpse of Brooke at the NyLon sessions, and we knew we were going to be rewarded. The short three song set with just a guitarist had really let us get a glimpse of how she sounded stripped back with just minimal accompaniment - it was fantastic! A last minute change of venue for the interview saw us guiding Brooke and her team into the Indigo, past Charles Esten who was finishing off a signing session and then backstage at the Indigo, past the dressing rooms for Charles, David Nail et al. Allowing Brooke a few moments to freshen up after her performance (one of three that she'd be doing on the Saturday) allowed us a slightly surreal conversation with Charles Esten and a chance to briefly meet Lauren Alaina.   

The NyLon sessions had an unfortunate habit of asking questions at the end of each set, this would not normally be a problem but it did mean us starting the interview with questions that we'd already heard her answer once, but ever the professional she took it in good grace and answered everything as if it was the first time she'd ever been asked. 

#TEAMw21: You've just come off stage from your first show at this year’s Country2Country at the NyLon sessions - How did it go for you? 

Brooke: It was really cool, I liked it because it was really small and intimate, and everybody was there with their listening ears on! 

#TEAMw21: It was great to hear you singing, if anything even better than on the EP

Brooke: Oh wow thank you, and a sneaky peak at two new tracks! 

#TEAMw21: So how did a girl from Florida end up in Nashville? 

Brooke: I started singing when I was four years old, when I was five my Dad asked if I wanted to come along and sing with his band at the weekends! I did that for what seemed forever and then when I was 12 I got the chance to open up for Alan Jackson after my dad's band were asked but were already booked. I learned a bunch of songs and they ended up having me do openings for the likes of Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Trick Pony. I always knew I wanted to go to Nashville, it was just a case of when and how! So I graduated from college and went to the University of Florida, and graduated from there and right after that, started saving up money to move to Nashville. So I moved there about four years ago. 

#TEAMw21: The EP you announced yourself with has such a fully formed sound - it is not a quiet introspective affair? 

Brooke: That was an EP I put out a couple of years ago when I did not have a label. I was doing a lot of shows spending 2 weeks in Nashville, writing and networking, and then I’d fly back to my home town in Florida, and spend 2 weeks down there performing. I was doing all these shows and wanted to be able to give some music to my fans, so that was basically for them and for iTunes. For me music is powerful and empowering, living in Nashville you have access to great players and writers! 

#TEAMw21: Those songs are more than just country aren't they, there is a real fusion of styles. 

Brooke: When I came to Nashville I wanted to be a mix between Jason Aldean, and Adele. I hope that is what you get to see when you come to one of my shows. 

#TEAMw21: There's a lot of heartbreak on that EP? 

Brooke:  *smiles* I've had a lot of different types of heartbreaks and I’ve had to break hearts sometimes - it’s tough but it is life and you know those are the things that make you who you are!

#TEAMw21: Do the people you date know they may end up in a song? 

Brooke: Probably not at the time! The good thing is that I won't ever say their name - so that's good for them!! 

#TEAMw21: We've been following your exploits in London since you landed on Snapchat

Brooke: We had so much fun yesterday, this is my first time in London and I’ve had a lot of friends who have come over and fell in love with it, and I thought I have just got to see this place! My guitar player and I and one of my friends, went down to London proper and oh my gosh there are so many amazing buildings, awesome people and great food - I love how healthy everything is!

#TEAMw21: You've got a busy schedule today - are you hoping to catch anyone else while you are at the festival? 

Brooke: Chris Stapleton, yeah, I'm not sure when he's playing we need to figure that out!

#TEAMw21: He's second on tomorrow about 19:00 

Brooke: Oh we'll be there for that!! I saw him one time at the Grand Old Opry, before any of his singles came out, and I did not know who he was, and I literally was crying saying "Why does this man not have a record deal? What is happening? Who is this?" and now here he is, he made a huge explosion in the past year! 

#TEAMw21: You've done some co-writing with one of our #TEAMw21 favourites Sonia Leigh? 

Brooke: (positively beams!!) Oh my gosh yes, Sonia is not only a co-writer but one of my best friends! She kind of took me under her wing; I met her maybe a year after moving to Nashville. She would say "I know it is tough out there why don't you come and open for me at a show?" or she'd introduce me to her friends and the wider community, and that gets you people to write with and people to get support from. She has been the greatest friend and a great person to check with if things that happen in the industry are normal - I’d say should I sign this and she'd say nah that ain't right. Not so much now as I have a manager and lawyer but it was great to have someone then. Her music is so great!! 

#TEAMw21: She's built up a massive fan base in London - we did a show with her on Tuesday and her 2 songs were one of the highlights! 

Brooke: Oh that's great!

#TEAMw21: Daddy’s Money - we absolutely love - being a father daughter team (Fran chips in at this point not agreeing with the sentiment of not taking Daddy's Money!) 

Brooke: Oh that's awesome! My Dad always helps me out, it was more when we got to Nashville,  there were a lot of artists who were coming into town with their Daddy's money saying  "I have a million dollars make my daughter a superstar" and my Dad would say "Sorry, I’m washing my hands clean of this,  you are going to have to make it on your own" He would say "You might have to work a little bit harder and do a lot more persevering, but in the end you'll be doing it on your own because you were strong enough to do the work and put the time in. 

#TEAMw21: You also pop-up on label mate Grainger Smith's album on a great track "Crazy As Me” - how did that come about? 

Brooke: As you say, we're on the same family of labels, we have this huge party in Nashville during CMA week; it's at the Hard Rock in Nashville and everybody gets up and sings three or four songs. I got up and did mine and a little bit later Grainger got up and did his and I was like "Wow This guy is great" and then in the green room at the end of the night he came up and said “It's the first time I’ve seen you and I loved your set, would you come and sing on a track as I need a female voice, I was thinking Yes, send me the song! When can we start this!? 

#TEAMw21: So we've seen a couple of new songs - when are they likely to materialise? 

Brooke: We're working on hopefully getting an EP out by summer if not sooner, and then a full album in the fall! 

#TEAMw21: And are there any plans to come back to the UK? 

Brooke: I totally love this place, so I hope to come back soon! It's not in the official plans right now, but hopefully after this weekend there might be!! 

We leave Brooke to prepare for her show on the Town Square stage where she also reveals her skills on the keyboard, as well as previewing some more new songs. As if to prove you can't get enough Brooke we also took up a space in the front row after the main show to watch her in the Indigo at the Sounds Like Nashville After-Party. She has an extreme confidence on stage that has obviously comes from having performed from such a young age. She was an absolute delight to spend even a small amount of time with, and we wish her well with the new EP though having heard the songs going on it, luck is something she will not be needing - this is a star in the making! 

Old Dominion | Interview by: Fran & Chris

While late to the party on the Old Dominion front, the run up to Country2Country 2016 saw their "Meat & Candy" CD on almost permanent rotation; with it’s batch of relentlessly catchy tunes and witty lyrics fused to a modern yet faithful take on Country music, there was precious little else that could shift it. The chance for a quick interview with the makers of this mini masterpiece was therefore too good to pass up. So #TEAMw21 were the first interviewers of the weekend on what promised to be a long day for the Old Dominion boys, culminating with a show at the Brooklyn Bowl at the Official AfterShow party. So hidden away in a little interview room in the NyLon building we got to meet the team behind this great record. 

#TEAMw21: So there's really only one way we can start the interview - Is your glass half full or is it half empty? 

*Big smiles and laughs all round as they instantly recognise the lyric from their song "Half Empty" being quoted to them*

Old Dominion: It's about to get full - in fact it's getting fuller by the moment! 

#TEAMw21: What time did you guys arrive? 

Old Dominion: We flew in at 10 O’clock last night 

#TEAMw21: So you've obviously not had a chance to see anything of London yet? 

Old Dominion: We went out last night to Covent Garden - and had a couple of drinks! 

#TEAMw21: We have had to listen to a lot of albums as reviewers - yours was the first in a long time where we just let it play on - it was that good!

Old Dominion: Awesome! 

#TEAMw21: Was it just a case of picking you best 11 songs? 

Old Dominion: We write a lot, that's how we started as songwriters, we had a lot of songs to go through, and that's how we ended up with the name of the album, "Meat and Candy", because the first group of songs we picked were singalong, ear candy songs. When we were looking at that list, we realised we needed to go back and put some more substantial things on their too! We needed some meat in there!  It is funny because it is a collection of the best songs that represent us, there's a lot of songs we love that just don't sound like us - So it's a collection of the best songs that also sound like us!

#TEAMw21: The thing we love about the album is that it is not afraid to be quiet at times with minimal instrumentation

Old Dominion: It's not all hammering you over the head, the dynamics are important to keep it interesting - we're always trying to find a way to keep the song interesting at every point so that there is always a new sound or a new section that changes - the hooks!  Sometimes the hook is the quietness!

#TEAMw21: Even on the bigger sounding songs there's still a simplicity with each of the instruments being played clearly audible 

Old Dominion: That's probably a testament to Ryan Gore, he mixed the album   ...and Shane McAnally - he does a great job of picking out the real signature parts and working with Ryan to make sure that they stand out! 

#TEAMw21: We saw Shane at the songwriters evening on Thursday - what did he bring to the album? He seems a very entertaining guy to be around? 

Old Dominion: He's a riot! You should have seen him last night! 

He brings a lot, we've been friends with Shane for a real long time before any of us had any success. He was friends with us so we've got to see his success happen, he's just another friend of ours that has such a creative mind, he can bring that energy to us and help us!

He can really steer it - if there's a part where we're not sure he'll say "that's cool" or "That's not cool - never do that again!!”  Those are the best moments when he says "Never do that!!"  He has no filter, it is just he knows what he likes and he makes decisions - it really helps you steer the ship! 

#TEAMw21: and with that track record ...of course you guys have written many great songs yourselves already including some on Nashville the TV series? 

Old Dominion: Oh yes we've had a couple! 

#TEAMw21: Which ones - as we have our "Nashville" aficionado as part of  the interviewing team (Fran!) 

Old Dominion (Trevor): I wrote one called "Fade Into You" (as sung by Scarlett and Gunnar)

#TEAMw21: Oooh! - A noise that instantly sends the whole team into fits of laughter 

Old Dominion (Brad): I wrote one called "Sideshow” - it was in the first series! 

#TEAMw21: Oooh yeah! (In a high pitched squeal) - Once again sending the Old Dominion team into fits of laughter! 

Old Dominion (Brad): I had another one called "If I Drink This Beer" 

#TEAMw21: Nooooo oh God!!! (Positively open mouthed!) 

#TEAMw21: So when it comes to writing songs now do you think “This is an Old Dominion song” or that maybe you should be saving it for someone else? 

Old Dominion: Nowadays we might think hang on, but back when we started having hits we weren't in a position to hold on to them, there was no Old Dominion thing, we had the band but it wasn't taking off - we were just trying to make a living as songwriters. Nowadays if we write a great one that sounds like us we definitely hang on to it! 

#TEAMw21: It must be hard sometimes giving a song away? 

Old Dominion: It is a hard switch to flip off, we spent so long trying to write songs for other people, it is hard to switch that off and say we're one of the other people! Although we write a lot of songs you only get so many truly great ones! 

#TEAMw21: Your sound is pretty unique - it's very hard to tell what, if any, your influences are?

Old Dominion: We've never listened to any other music before!!  (laughs all round) We should come up with one artist and say that's our only influence!  Kenny G - he always said he never listens to anybody else’s music!!!

Our sound probably comes from the fact that we did listen to everything. I grew up in an area where we had a lot of Mo town, a lot of Rock, Hip hop. I’ve always been drawn to the songs, artists with songs with hooks, and ear candy melodies.  We've all listened to everything and played in all different types of bands, rock bands, punk bands… 

#TEAMw21: I think that comes through in the record - it also has a great sense of humour

Old Dominion: Lots of the songs that we write are just products of trying to make each other laugh, and it is that that is coming through 

#TEAMw21: “Said Nobody" is a great example of that - you cannot listen to it and not smile! 

Old Dominion: Yeah, that song started because Trevor made a joke, we were in a van at that point travelling around the country, we had a little guitar in there so that we could write while we were on the move, to kill time, Trevor just said something and added "Said Nobody" - we all laughed and then said "that's kind of cool"!

#TEAMw21: Seeing as you mentioned travelling, you mentioned in the sleeve notes the time being away from the family - that being the big difference between being a performer and a songwriter where I guess you could more or less stay at home 

Old Dominion: People read those!!  That's been the big change, we played 186 shows which means we were travelling for 200 days and that's a lot of time away from home, whereas before this happened we were not on the road that much so that's a huge adjustment - also doing this!! 

#TEAMw21: Your over here for a couple of Country2Country shows including tonight’s AfterShow Party at the Brooklyn Bowl - do you have any future plans to come back to the UK?

Old Dominion: We have no idea what to expect - if they clap maybe we'll come back! 

#TEAMw21: Another thing from the songwriter’s evening and I guess this is something that you guys will appreciate Lori McKenna at the very end when it came to "Girl Crush" was visibly in tears.

Old Dominion: Yes it the biggest thing when we get to play these shows and see the audience singing the words back to us, and it is such a rush and you just feed off of that. You write songs in an office, or in a room, or you write them behind closed doors, and you know what you feel about the song but when you actually get out there and see the way it affects people and see that response - it's really what it's all about! 

Just to know that they've listened to it, and it has become part of their life that you do not even know about is great! 

We end on that point, and we can honestly say that they were charming company and deserve all of the continued success they will no doubt continue to having! 

Sarah Darling | Interview by: Fran & Chris

The interview with Sarah Darling was to take place in a side room at the Winemakers, the venue for the opening night of the “Nashville In The Round” tour. Having heard a sneaky preview of the forthcoming “Dream Country” release, and having seen her at one of her post Country2Country shows this was always going to be an absolute pleasure!

With the sound of Kyshona Armstrong and Jenn Bostic in the background doing their sound check #TEAMw21 settled around a big oak table to discuss how things were going.

#TEAMw21: The Shine EP (a limited edition run of 300 sold at Country2Country and subsequent shows)  is one of our favourite EP’s of 2016 and having lived with “Dream Country” for about a week it seems set to be one of our favourite albums of 2017

SD:  Awesome – I’m glad you liked it – it makes me so happy – the “Shine” was like the perfect preview and now you get the whole thing including “Starry Eyes”!

#TEAMw21: There’s such a range of styles – was that the intention when you started recording?

SD: It was, this was me having free rein to make the record that I have always wanted too and I had parted ways with the company I was with for a long time, and I had a lot of these songs written so I said “I’m going to make the record I’ve always dreamed of making”. I have so many influences from Stevie Nicks to Patsy Cline to The Eagles,  so I just thought put it all in there!

#TEAMw21:  It starts with the dance rhythms of “Wandering Star” which we’ve been whistling around the house incessantly, through to the old time jazz of “You Take Me All The Way”

SD:  Definitely, that track has a definite jazz vibe

#TEAMw21: Some of the songs are so beautiful and delicate like “Montmartre” which we know is a special song for you

SD: It really is a special song, that is probably one of my favourites that I’ve written, just from the standpoint that it does not have a genre attached to it – it’s just a classic beautiful song which I‘m so excited to be putting out to the world! I’m shooting a music video for it right after this tour – a lot of people don’t know that!! People will get to fall in love with Paris with me.

#TEAMw21: There is also the rocker in the shape of “Tell That Devil”

SD: It’s an up-tempo in your face kind of song, I wanted that sort of style on there, I did not write that one, a girl I know in Nashville Jill Andrews co-wrote that and the first moment I heard it I thought I’m cutting that song for my record!

#TEAMw21: It sounds like it should be in the TV show “Nashville”, like something Hayden would sing

SD:  You’re good! – it was actually in Nashville, I’m going to be playing it tonight!

#TEAMw21: There’s an undeniable Astronomical feel running through the album from “Wandering Star”, “Starry Eyed”, “Halley’s Comet” and “Stargazer” for instance -  is that important to you?

SD: I find a connection with the stars, ever since I was a kid in the mid West, and I used to dream about doing something wonderful with my life, I’ve always been a stargazer and a dreamer and I wanted to capture that in the album so that people could understand where I come from and how I connect with something greater than myself.

#TEAMw21: You must get lovely clear skies at home without the light pollution?

SD: The first thing when I get home is tell my parents how much I miss that view. You get such clear skies, you can just sit outside (she pauses for a moment and almost drifts away to her back patio to look skywards before returning) it is wonderful.

#TEAMw21: You’ve chosen to do an unusual cover for a Country artist in the shape of a Smiths song “Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, were you familiar with the original?

SD:  Yes, I heard it and really wanted to record it because of the lyrics – as they really captivated me. At that time of my life I had just left a label, and this song had everything that I had always wanted to say to other artists. As an artist we’re out there and it is a pleading song!

#TEAMw21: You’ve covered U2, Elton John etc have you had any feedback?

SD: “With or Without You” got a lot of feedback – that was a really good song!

#TEAMw21: and your cover of Blackbird ended up on the 200th episode of Criminal Minds!

SD: It did – (she smiles and laughs at the thought of it) There’s been a really dark scene and then it cut to my song. It’s always a little nerve wracking covering someone else’s song. I always think you need to do it a little differently, not try to do it exactly the same.

#TEAMw21: Did you know how they were going to use it? Whether it was going to appear over a gruesome murder?

SD: No – I was just honoured to have it on the show - it was the end scene and everything was good!

#TEAMw21: You’ve always taken close control of your image, (Sarah normally appears with a little sparkling star over her left eye) Have you anything special planned for “Dream Country”

SD: I do (smiles broadly) I’ve put so much love into the album, and the artwork. When the album comes out next year there is actually a full on star chart inside of everyone who has been a part of my life! The whole journey good and bad. The dream theme is throughout the artwork and matches the songs, I’m doing it in vinyl as well and there will be glow in the dark bits! I went a little crazy adding a lot of these bells and whistles but you only get to do it once!

#TEAMw21: This year also saw your first appearance at Country2Country

SD: I think C2C is the reason why I am back here now, I loved coming over here and the reaction. People were so warm and loving, I felt loved and so wanted to come back, to share the project and go to other places as well!

#TEAMw21: You’ve left Cheyenne (Medders – Band leader and co-writer of two songs on Ward Thomas’s Cartwheels) behind this time?

SD: Yes I’m actually playing guitar – and the other girls will be playing as well so you kind of hear us as a trio!

#TEAMw21:  One of our favourite songs and former Fran’s Pick of the Week is “Little Umbrellas”- That video looked so much fun to make!

SD: It was so much fun - that backyard was a friend of ours! It is literally the most amazing backyard you have ever seen – it is like a lagoon with slides I think he builds pools for a living!

#TEAMw21: It looks kind of expensive and cheap at the same time, the cast look like they were friends!

SD: I have a lot of friends who were in that video it was a good time! That was a fun one!

#TEAMw21: Your not just a musician though are you - you have other business interests – arrange of Boots and a Patisserie?

SD: I know it is crazy! I love fashion and I love food (she would be pictured subsequently outside the Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray before the Maidenhead show), I love cooking I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan! The boot thing came about five years ago. I was working with Durango, modelling cowboy boots and they were trying to make other sorts of boots, ones more versatile, so I got to pick the designs and choose the leathers. For the macaroons, that was me, it was the story of “Montmartre”, go to Paris, fall in love with macaroons, and my husband!! There is something about being able to take that experience, people go online and read our story and say “That was so sweet” and so it bridges that and music - for me it is all the same. That is why Paris is so dear to me and I try to give it some love whenever I can!

#TEAMw21: Having a UK husband does that make things slightly easier for you over here? We noticed you’ve picked up the word cheekiness!

SD: That’s my favourite – its so funny! - we laugh constantly, I am from the furthest place from him, he comes from London while I am from the Mid West – the way we grew up could not be more different! When we are at home and we are talking he says something random and I have to say “What does that mean?” and we have our discussions about Herbs and ‘erbs – but it keeps life interesting!!

Sarah Darling’s excellent new album “Dream Country” will be available January 2017 though for those lucky enough to get tickets for the “Nashville In the Round Tour” advance copies were available.

She will also be joining the Ward Thomas tour on selected dates Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Manchester, Leamington Spa and  Exeter

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