FEATURE: WARD THOMAS
This article was first published on the February issue of LDN Magazine.
Since being hailed as Britain’s first country stars upon bagging an Official UK Chart No.1 album, Ward Thomas have dedicated the past two years to curating their third album, Restless Minds. Maria Galea chats to Catherineand Lizzy about social media, their upcoming release and dream collaborations.
The Ward Thomas twin sisters grew up in a musical household, always singing together and harmonising. When their Canadian cousin introduced them to country artists such as Dixie Chicks and Miranda Lambert, they started to find their sound. In 2016 they released sophomore albumCartwheels via Sony Music/WTW Music and became the first British country act to reach the top spot on the Official UK Albums Chart.
“We were the girls who absolutely loved Taylor Swift,” Catherine and Lizzy say of their early inspirations. However, as they grew older, they started to listen to a wider variety of genres, such as pop and classical.
They explain that in the last five years there has been a “big resurgence of country music” in the UK. Ward Thomas won the support of many fellow country stars, such as fellow British duo The Shires, whom they have worked with closely. WT mention the festival C2C: Country to Country - Europe’s biggest country music festival held in London, Glasgow and Dublin that keeps growing every year.
“People are exposed to a lot more,” says Lizzy. “I think people used to think country music was country and western, but the modern country is a lot more crossover.” And it’s true. The pop and hip-hop influence in country music nowadays is far more common.
WT started out releasing music independently via WTW Music before signing a joint venture deal with Sony prior to the release ofCartwheels. Signing a major label deal wasn’t a hard decision they say, but was a transition they had to get accustomed to, whilst also being a humbling one. They recall how weird they felt when walking into the label’s building and seeing people working on their artwork.
Catherine and Lizzy consider themselves incredibly lucky to have signed such a deal with the label. They have been given creative freedom, something that they do not take lightly, and admit that achieving No.1 status on the UK Albums Chart surpassed their expectations. WT made a point at that stage to stay grounded. In fact, they sometimes have to remind themselves that it actually happened. “Not that we sit and remind ourselves daily,” they joke, but see it as a triumph they can grow and develop from artistically.
A heavier pop influence is promised by the sisters for the upcoming album, Restless Minds. It was initially scheduled for 2018 release, however they’re glad it got delayed to the new year as they have a chance to cultivate it further. It’s clear how excited Catherine and Lizzy are for this project, and how dedicated they’ve been to it, too. The goal is not to make an album similar to its predecessor. In fact, this time around they’ve collaborated with a few pop songwriters, including Ed Drewett (One Direction, Olly Murs). The sisters laugh and joke about how they were quite intimidated about his fact before their first writing session, admitting they “had a lot of doubts” but soon felt at home once things began. These sessions also helped WT learn and understand the directionof Restless Minds. Collaborating with new people has not only enabled them to explore this new direction, but introduced a new form of expression for the writers. They point out how the most country songs were actually written with the pop writers.
As for their future dream collaborations, Sigrid, Alison Krauss, and Taylor Swift are a few from a long list. For the duo, collaborating with each other comes naturally as they’ve been performing together their whole lives. They embrace the harmonic part of their sound, and view it as part of their unique style. A revelation has been subconsciously getting to know each other even better during writing sessions. “We write about the same topic but from different perspectives, and it makes the songwriting process stronger,” explains Lizzy.
“OUR NEW ALBUM IS AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER - IT WAS A REAL GROWING EXPERIENCE WRITING IT.”
NEW ALBUM & TOUR
What can we expect from the new album? “It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” promises Catherine. The 24-year-olds are writing about current issues that resonate with young people, such as social media and the anxiety it can bring with it. The single ‘Lie Like Me’ is about the filtered life of social media and how we compare our lives to other people. “I think the album covers a lot of that and I think country music has a great aspect of being personal with your writing,” they disclose. “It was a real growing experience writing this album.”
Aside from the new record, WT are going on tour in February. “We treat tours the same as we treat our albums,” notes Catherine. “Every tour we go on we want people to see a step up, a development of our show.” At the time of talking, the twosome have just had meetings with the lighting team, and they’re so excited to share their new music live for the first time.
Album Restless Minds is out in 2019. The WardThomas tour stops in London at O2 Shepherd’sBush Empire on 3rd April.