Here we are with another Wednesday interview, the seventh we have posted since the site began. As you may know from the site, as well as featuring solo female artists, we also take great delight in sharing the best male/female duos that country music has to offer and we were delighted to catch up with Raintown’s Paul and Claire for a chat last week.
Hi Guys. We first featured you on Belles and Gals after you posted the excellent video for ‘Forever Isn’t Long Enough’. The imagery in the video and the beautiful song makes for a perfect combination. Tell us about the song and how the video came about?
Thank you so much for the kind words we really appreciate that. ‘Forever’ is special for two reasons, it is the only track on the album which myself and Claire wrote by ourselves and it was an interesting departure for us in terms that it was written specifically for a new film called ‘Between Weathers.’
The title, or at least a variation of it – was given to us by the Director and we – with a number of well-known writers – got the opportunity to pitch our song. We were going through a third party at the time and the Director got to hear a very early sketch (a badly recorded demo) of the song – which at the time we were so embarrassed about – and he said he fell in love with it. Lucky us!
To make it work for us we had to make it personal and so wrote about a situation we were witnessing in a friends life and tied it in to the film with very specific imagery ie, how we are all get battered by the changing winds of time and no matter how long those special people are in your life, it is never long enough.
In terms of the video that was all Claire, I will let her tell you about it. I wanted to do something different for this video, we knew the track was never going to be a single release, as it will feature in the film and they may wish to do something with it. However, it was getting so much love from our Raintown family and new fans that I basically persuaded Paul to do something. I did not want us in the video and reached out to a talented videographer in The States and he put the project together. We were delighted with the results and of course the amazing reaction.
Your second album ‘Writing on the Wall’ came out last year. How exciting was it to head into the studio to record an album again?
LOVED it! It was so exciting to get back into the studio environment and spend time recording these songs that we had written. Also to do that in Parr Street Studios in Liverpool with all its history was a blast! We had been looking at various options for recording and in truth decided to try and record a high quality project in the UK that was inherently representing ‘UK’ Country. Just for the record, that does not mean we will not record in Nashville or elsewhere, but for this specific project – our first in 5 years – we felt it was right that we should try and represent. We feel that was achieved. However as we ‘ALWAYS’ say, it was not done in isolation. The final result was the synergy of a great team of people working on it, including the Producer (Justin Johnson), the engineer, all the musicians, the Nashville mixing, the song writers we worked with, the photographer, graphic artist and the management team. It is always a team effort.
The album came about after a Pledgemusic campaign. Knowing that your incredible fan base bought into the project and helped made it possible must be amazing? We have noticed that you have great interaction with your fans on social media?
We cannot begin to put in to words the gratitude we feel to each and every person who supports Raintown and our music. It is so far beyond humbling. It is something we never take for granted and we say ‘Thank you ‘often.
We honestly feel that these unbelievable supporters – who have taken to calling themselves ‘Townies’ which we LOVE – need to know how important and amazing they are. The fact that someone takes time out of their day to drop us a message, to comment or share our or posts, to buy our music, to come to a show or to Pledge to a project that is not even created, means so VERY much and the very least – and we mean this from the bottom if our hearts – the very least we can do is get back and say thank you.
In fact a good example is that Paul, stayed up until 3.45- 4am the morning after his birthday getting back to each and every comment, post, email, PM’s, Snaps and tweets from fans and people wishing him a ‘Happy Birthday.’ That was over a 1000 messages to get back to and the best part is he done it with gratitude and smile on his face!
It will always be our goal to be accessible to the people who support our music; Social Media makes that a reality. We will always make time for a selfie or a chat and always say if you see us and like what we do
come say hello, we would love to say thank you personally. We want to have a long term relationship with people and it truth give them as much added value as we can.
So ‘THANK YOU!’
Obviously there are two sides to social media and you tackle the darker side with ‘Shut the Front Door’? It’s a brilliant response to internet trolls and one that we can all agree with – did the song arise from personal experience?
As stated previously, we LOVE Social Media and the song really tackles something that is a small – but important – issue in percentage terms across the internet. At some point we are going to write a blog post or shoot a video blog about this topic. This track has had such an interesting response on the album and it is fast becoming a favourite live. The truth is it was a smorgasbord of experiences that came together in one song.
We have had – and continue to have – some trolls having a go. However let’s be clear here, we are not talking about people who don’t like Raintown or don’t get what we do. We acknowledge we are not everyone’s cup of tea and that is not a bad thing and entirely believe you are entitled to an opinion. We accept that is the game – only put your head above the parapet if you are willing to be shot at. We know the score.
However making up lies about an act, accusing them of ridiculous things, making salacious comments, trying to bait people with inflammatory posts, trying (but failing) to turn supporters against you and your music and all to promote your blog or being some ‘keyboard gangster’ – all the while trying to remain anonymous – is really just pathetic.
So that combined with the experience of some other friends in the industry who actually considered giving up their career based on this sort of nonsense and then watching a SKY News report on the subject – where a lady was revealed as ‘The Troll’ using an online alias and then under the glaring light of the camera, proceeded to admit she was wrong – we thought there was a song in there.
The phrase actually came about after the birth of our niece and we all agreed no swearing around the baby (not that we would do that anyways lol), so we had to use ‘Shut The Front Door.’ It just stuck in our heads and we wrote the track with Brian Hughes.
I’ve read that you guys are prolific songwriters. How difficult is it to choose songs for the album if you have such a catalogue? It must be a wrench to leave songs out at times?
We write a lot – we liken it to any endeavour you want to improve. Do it often, improve and learn from those people you work with and admire. You only ever get better by executing on your dreams! However to answer the question, the truth is not everything we write is good enough. It is just a fact. There are songs we write and at the time we think, yes this is killer. Then in the cold light of day, it just does not measure up. There are other ideas that don’t quite make it or hit home. Notable example from us are ‘Walking in my Footsteps’ and ‘Gone Like that’ both of which we thought were certs for the album, but just did not make it.
Then the opposite can happen like ‘Living the Same Old Song’ from the new album, it only really came alive when we got in to the studio and remains one of our personal favs from ‘Writing on the Wall.’ When it comes to songs you become attached to them and sometimes it is hard to say, it’s just not working. We have a song called ‘Better Days’ we have had the idea for so long, but it has never really found the right voice yet. Maybe someday!
Being a married man myself, I wondered what it must be like working together as a married couple? My guess is that there are both positives and negatives?
It’s great – always! LOL!
For us it works, we found our cadence pretty quickly and have really good communication – most of the time. We also both accept and knew from the outset that we have very strong ideas about how Raintown should be, what it should stand for and what we were just not willing to get in to. So from the earliest inception we had a north star, a vision for what we wanted to achieve. That keeps everything else centred.
However, we are still a – relatively newly – married couple and we don’t always agree on things. That can be difficult if we don’t see eye to eye on some strategy or idea. Here is the reality if one of us is in bad
mood – Claire LOL – the decision has to be made by the other one – Paul – to ask and try and help or just let things blow over. Yeah all the married folks are saying let it blow over – I know I am learning 😉
Fundamentally though – we LOVE what we do, we get to do it together and will always relish the challenge of pushing boundaries and not staying in any one comfort zone. That is not always easy as independent artists – however we believe to our core that we offer something different and that our success will come from the synergy of our efforts. We have a constant desire to improve what we do – in all areas – and raise our standards. We still watch back every performance we can to analyse it for areas of improvement and let’s face it there is ALWAYS things to improve. We are totally honest with each other, ego is parked outside if something needs said and we will always be a united front – we have each other’s back in every scenario and that creates real strength to push on through.
It’s a pretty exciting time for country music in the UK at the moment; I know I’ve never been more excited. How does it feel to be at the center of it?
We were just saying this morning in a conversation – in fact we tweeted about it – how far things have come and how many more opportunities we are getting from even 12 months ago.
We love being part of this community and representing UK Country Music. We were offered so many options to go down different routes when we started out, we were ridiculed by some for the path we chose and we certainly missed out on some support because people could just not see far enough down the road. However, we believed that we would rather fall by the wayside doing what we loved, than trying to be something we were not. We have always said that Country Music inadvertently chose us – we grew up with it in our homes, we listened to it by choice and we sang it because of the amazing stories that the songs told. There was only ever going to be one genre for us.
It’s great to see so many UK Country fans giving ‘UK acts’ an opportunity, by buying the music and coming out to shows – they are amazing. There is the start of a infrastructure that can lead to long term growth for UK Country Music, with great acts, magazines, radio stations, DJ’s, blogs, festivals, promoters, more TV coming down the line and of course record label interest in this burgeoning scene.
However, we think there is still a ways to go. We need to keep working hard and doing our bit to help grow this scene. We still need to persuade more Country Music fans – and music fans in general – to come out and support the UK artists. However we are under no illusion that is up to us – the acts – to give them reason to get behind us. Ah exciting times ahead!
So what made you both make the move into music in the first place? And can you name any particular influences when it comes to your songwriting?
This is an easy answer – it is just who we are. We honestly believe that it is in our DNA. Both sets of parents talk about us singing non-stop from being young children. There has always been a need, an outlet if you like for emotions; lyrics and singing was that thing for us both. A cool analogy is that, for some people looking at an amazing painting they see the technical strokes of genius, some are captivated by the colours and the image, others see a nice frame. For us we start imagining the story, the motivation or the emotion that is conveyed, by the person who picked up the brush.
Time for the fun question! Everyone has an embarrassing first album or single purchase. What were yours?
Paul – certainly not my first, but MC Hammer was the first one that sprung to mind there. So I will go with that! Doh!
Claire – Nsync – I had to hide their CD from my brother, because we loved Eminem and you just could not like them both.
And a quick game of Desert Island Discs! You can take only take one album each – which albums do you take?!
Oh we hate this one – if it was only one;
Paul – Don Williams – Greatest Hits – reminds me of my family.
Claire – Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces.
To finish, tell us what is coming up for Raintown in the coming weeks and for the rest of 2016?
We have so much news coming down the line, which includes a new single coming out soon – Nineteen Again – written by our good friend and co-writer Brian Hughes. We also have some exciting live dates including,
10th June – Glasgow – King Tuts – Tickets >>
24th June – Stockport – Buckle & Boots Festival – Tickets >>
28th August – Cottingham Folk Festival – Tickets >>
There are some other things still to be announced but we are excited for the future.
Interview conducted by Nick Cantwell
Photography by Tomodo Photography and Michael Leckie.