Interview: Ward Thomas
In our latest issue, record-breaking British country musicians Catherine and Lizzy discuss their musical growth on new album ‘Restless Minds’
Ward Thomas are a home-grown country music duo consisting of 24-year-old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy. They grew up in a musical household in rural Hampshire before heading to Nashville aged 17 to record their debut album From Where We Stand. That record was released independently in 2014 and topped the UK Country Charts and quickly gained them the attention of major labels. Subsequently signed to Sony Music UK, their 2016 sophomore LP, Cartwheels, topped the Official UK Album Chart making them the first ever UK country act to score a No 1 album.
Now, several years on from that history-making moment, Ward Thomas are back with a brand new record Restless Minds. The LP was released on 1 February 2019 and proved to be a mix of genres as well as showcasing the duo’s musical growth, as evident on recent singles Lie Like Me, I Believe In You and Never Know.
Ahead of the new LP dropping and their 2019 tour we thought it would be a fantastic time to catch up with Catherine and Lizzy…
With Restless Minds, you touch on subjects such as mental health and women’s rights. Was that a conscious decision going into the writing room?
“When we go into the writing room we naturally write about things that are on our minds at the time. So yes it was a conscious decision. Being two women approaching our mid-20s we have both experienced ourselves or seen a friend or family member, go through difficult times mentally, whether it is anxiety, having confidence issues or just feeling low or, alternatively, feeling really happy and positive. That is why we named the album Restless Minds because there is a reference to a whole mixture of emotions going through the album.”
You also focus on social media throughout the LP. How big of an impact do you feel the filtered online world is having on the Millennial generation?
“We feel the topic of social media is very important to the millennial generation and also generations behind us and ahead of us. It affects everybody. We all tend to feel the need to make our lives and ourselves appear more impressive. Whether it is in a social situation or online. Social media is a great thing in many ways but we can sometimes use it in the wrong way. It has become a bragging station and a place where we can show a dishonest filtered version of our lives. We write about this in our songs because we are just as bad as anyone else and it is about being aware of how we are affecting each other. Social media can be a platform for honesty also and we want to express that more as millennials. So we think we have become a lot more aware about social media and how it is affecting us.”
Your single Lie Like Me points out some of those dangers. Do you feel musicians have a part to play in creating a safe space for users?
“Yes, we do. Many musicians are creating a safe space already and so are many more influencers, whether it is through music or just by talking honestly online.”
The subjects you are singing about on the new record are very much talked about at the moment. How do you feel your voices add to the conversions surrounding the issues?
“We think music speaks to people in a different way, so we hope the topics we cover on the new album will be relatable to many people. We both feel very much connected to, and affected by, current issues going on in the world as part of the millennial generation.”
Both Lie Like Me and I Believe In You give us a taste of what we can expect from Restless Minds. How are you finding the fans’ reaction to the new songs?
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction and glad to see that people are relating and accepting to the slightly new sound of this next record. Those two songs show two different sides of the album which includes bigger pop productions right through to a number of very stripped back intimate moments.”
You have performed a lot of tracks live off the album so far. How have audiences been responding?
“We feel really encouraged by the audience reaction and that is why we perform the new songs live – a little like an experiment. A lot of the songs like No Filter and One More Goodbye have gone down especially well.”
A lot of the LP in Nashville was written in Nashville. How would you describe the working styles of the UK and Nashville writers?
“We love writing in Nashville. It really is the ‘Music City’ everyone goes on about. The difference between writing in Nashville and London is that in Nashville they have about two or three sessions a day! They’re like writing machines! Whereas here in London we have one session a day and work into the nights a little more.”
But unlike your previous releases, you mastered Restless Minds in London and your native Hampshire. What was the reasoning behind that choice?
“We wanted this album to be a home-grown record – produced and recorded in the UK – to naturally have a more British take on the sound of the songs.”
Looking back on your previous record, how would you describe your musical growth on this album?
“We see every album as a portfolio of who we are at the time. And we are always wanting to grow and develop over time so we hope these three records show that. During the making of each album, we were different people in ourselves. So the topics we write about are different. We are always listening to different music so we get new influences to our sound and it naturally mixes in with what we have always been influenced by. So we guess our music is combining a few more genres and styles on every album, depending on what we are listening to.”
As you say, the new album features a mix of genres while keeping one foot in the country world. Did you make that a goal before writing the record or did it come naturally?
“We are always going to have that country style to our music as it comes most naturally to us. We love to experiment and learn more about other genres as it brings a new challenge. But it wasn’t consciously done as you can’t really take the country out of us.”
Sonically, how would you describe the overall vibe and style of Restless Minds?
“We would say it is a real mixture. Sonically it is pop at times but always goes back to our core songwriting passions of harmonies, lyrics and melody. It is a move on but if you liked Cartwheels we hope you will love Restless Minds.”
It features a lot of poignant lyrics such as, “Does the sun feel betrayed by the sky when it rains.” If you were to have a lyric tattooed, which would you choose and why?
“That’s funny you pick out that lyric as that is pretty much one of our favourite lyrics off the record. To us that describes our relationship with each other and the ups and downs of everything we have gone through together, but learning to accept the anxiety of separation and becoming independent adults. So that would be the tattoo we would have!”
Which song would you say was the most difficult to write?
“No Filter was the most difficult to write. We had that song written for months but we weren’t quite sold on it. We didn’t know what was wrong with it so we had to put it aside to give it space to then come back to it with a new perspective. Six months later, Rebekah Powell, Jessica Sharman and the two of us came back with a completely new meaning to the song so we wrote a completely new chorus. It used to be called I’m Not Going To Play, now it is No Filter and it is one of our favourite songs on the album.”
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