Twin Sister Duo Ward Thomas Represent British Country Movement
Ask sister country duo Ward Thomas who the "Garth Brooks of the United Kingdom" is today, and they'll politely tell you that it's Garth Brooks. But the door is open for a local act to supplant him.
American country music is growing quickly in popularity in England and neighboring countries, but the local scene is still just simmering. No home-grown acts headlined the 2018 or any previous C2C Festivals across the United Kingdom. In fact, until recently, "country music" was defined by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and a few contemporaries.
“The Nashville TV show came out and everyone saw how cool Nashville was and wanted to come here,” Catherine Ward Thomas tells Taste of Country.
Lucie Silvas, Sasha McVeigh and Fiona Culley are three British solo artists who've started to inch into the American market. Themes of country music are so universal that it's surprising there aren't more, but an issue of semantics may be an obstacle. Radio stations in England are not divided like American radio stations. You may hear the Beatles followed by Lady Gaga followed by Taylor Swift. Ward Thomas aren't quick to distance themselves from this more inclusive way of thinking.
"Essentially we’re trying to be a British act that’s influenced by country music," Catherine says, with her twin sister Lizzy sitting nearby. "And create our own version of music—and not necessarily defined by country. But we’re very influenced by that."
"Shine," a song from their 2017 EP A Shorter Story and one of four with over one million Spotify spins, fits in both pop and modern country genres. If you need a comparison, think the Wreckers or a female Dan + Shay with softer production. Strong melodies shape personal, universal stories penned by two 20-something women that are past just trying to find themselves. As twins they've been crafting songs for years, and together shaped a collective identity.
“We experience a lot of things together but we have a very different outlook on it,” Lizzy Ward Thomas says. “So when we get in the writing room…we offer something different.”
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Frequent songwriting trips to Nashville help the duo sharpen their skills and diversify."They (Nashville writers) have like two or three sessions a day," Catherine says, marveling. "In London we’ll start at 11 and take a long lunch break and work until 7 or 8 in the evening."
And they need the essentials.
“Having a cup of tea is very important in the writing room,” Lizzy says.
That's hot English breakfast tea, not American sweet tea. The latter may (ironically) burn their lips. At minimum it's not preferred.
"I remember the first time we came to the U.S.," Catherine begins, "And I was really thirsty and it was really hot so we went to [the restaurant] Puckett's."
"We got out of our car, and there was someone driving down the middle of the road in a lawn mower," she continues, alluding to something akin to culture shock. "I poured this iced tea thinking 'Oh my God,' and it was this huge cup, and I took a sip and spat it out with disgust."
“I really like it as long as it’s got a lot of sugar and lemon in it," Lizzy adds. "But I can't just drink cold tea."
Expect Ward Thomas to continue to split time between England and America. They've played CMA Fest in the past, as well as C2C. The twin sisters with sweet harmonies see no reason they can't win over both audiences.
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