‘Think Hillbilly meets Country Rock meets Rock n Roll meets Folk.…if we can get away with it we do it….don’t get hung up on genre. Pinning a label could kinda hurt ya head. We do what we do our way and love doing it. We’re told that that comes thru loud n clear when we play…gathered round a single mic (if we can) playing our own songs with some choice covers, played Crow style… influenced by Chatham County Line, Old Crow Medicine Show, Hank Williams, Old Timey Country , Blues n Bluegrass with a bit of Folk… 3 chords, our truths, our way.’
UK based Americana/Country band Shootin’ The Crow were part of this years C2C Festival and played two sets which drew in large audiences. I caught up with Shootin’ The Crow lead singer Mark Mulhern just before C2C to find out a little bit more about them.
I hope you enjoy the Interview.
Hello, how are you?
I am great thank you and you?
I am doing great. So tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and how Shootin’ The Crow formed? How long have you been a band and how would you describe the band sonically?
I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada then I moved to the UK in 97/98 as my parents are British born. I have been over here a long time now.
I have been in bands on and off now since I was about 13. Then I was working at Orange Telecoms and the guitarist Andy worked there too. We got to talking and he said “Oh, you play the guitar and sing a bit?“. I said “Yeah” and I showed him some of my stuff from previous bands and we decided to have a jam. We played together a lot on our lunch breaks and starting spinning some songs off each other. We started doing a couple of open mikes and people kept saying “Oh, you guys have got something going on there”, which was kind of nice for me, because a lot of my playing was not so much outside the Country, Americana sound but more Neil Young, as I listened to a lot of him. I was brought up listening to a lot of that and I remember hearing Old Man on the radio and thinking, ‘Wow, I really like that.’ There was a nice quirky banjo coming through and I thought that was kinda cool – and I was a fan of The Beatles and The Stones. So, Andy was into that and a lot of old time stuff as well – and Old Crow Medicine Show came up and we sort of found this common ground. We started going into the back catalogue of old time music, artists like Dylan and artists we may or may not have known and we starting playing on our lunch breaks. We then found a bass player and sort of went ‘This is kind of good’ and started writing the first batch of songs, then played our first gig after that. We then went from strength to strength – and it’s enjoyable, it’s fun and that comes across when we play.
So would you describe yourselves as Americana-Country?
Yeah, a bit of both, and a bit of Folk. We have been branded by our friends as Straw Shed Music.
Straw Shed Music? I like that!
Yeah! If you can imagine a barn and playing in there – that has kind of stuck, and I kind of like it. So we are kind of a bit of all those genres. We are never in the same kind of groove for too long, which I think is important for a live show.
You write all your own material. What do you usually come up with first – the melody or the lyrics?
It depends. I tend to be more of a melody driven person and spin some of Andy’s lyrics around. Our song Roadhouse which is more upbeat – I sat at the piano and wrote that. I don’t play piano, but one morning I was having breakfast with the kids and I came up with this idea, much like Roadhouse the movie, which is set in a seedy bar and once you go there, you never really leave; the band keeps playing, the people keep on drinking.
Our song Apple Tree is more of a factual story about a tree at the house where I used to live in Somerset. It’s kind of a love song; a song I would like to think my dad would write for my mum.
Angel is kind of our anthem and the song a lot of people want to hear. It’s Andy’s personal song about his wife and the things he should have said, but hadn’t said.
I would say most of the songs are personal from where Andy writes but, for me, with Apple Tree being the exception, I tend to write a story which wouldn’t necessarily be anything I have experienced.
Moonshine – is more factual, as where I used to live a lot of people had moonshine stills in their shed.
So, unless I have a story first, then it’s the melody I will start with.
You are playing at C2C next weekend. Tell us about applying.
Well the applications came up and I just thought, why not see if we can get to play. We aren’t completely Country, but let’s have someone else decide that. Then they said yes, we would love to have you – and can you play two sets? This was great, as it is such a great festival and a great platform, as well as networking there’s being around lots of other great bands and people. If something comes from it, then great – but we will go out and do what we do, just like we do in the local pubs, and fire it up and enjoy ourselves. We were very honoured to be accepted.
Another big thing for us, which happened in the same month as being accepted for C2C, was that we opened up for Chatham County Line, at Colston Hall, Bristol. They were kind of the weaving factors for Andy and me, we love their music. We met them about seven years ago, so to open up for them, that was a big thing for me, a real big thing. Some people come especially to see us, but it’s nice to see a new audience too.
We also got announced as part of the Boomtown line up, which is massive, and we are looking forward to that. It has been a great start to 2017 and we want to keep that momentum going, which we hope we can do when we get to C2C.
Are you attending the main arena show?
Yeah, my good lady is a Country fan anyway, so we were looking to go before we got asked to play, so we managed to get some Friday tickets. We will obviously be there on Saturday as we are playing, but then we have a gig elsewhere on the Sunday.
Do you think C2C has had a huge part in the growth of Country Music in the UK in terms of fans, or do you think the fanbase was always there, but in a way hiding – as before C2C, a lot of Country fans were unaware of other fans in the UK.
Well, I think it’s probably a bit of both really. Having bigger things to expose it and let people go and see these big stars in one place is a great idea, because I think there has always been a huge fan base. I don’t think people just woke up and thought “Hey, Country’s cool today” -they always kind of did like it but, for whatever reason, it’s not been something you hear about often. I know they had Chris Stapleton last year, and he is like the best vocalist since sliced bread. I know a lot of people who follow our music are excited that they got tickets or angry that they hadn’t. I like what they are doing in respecting smaller acts and letting them showcase their stuff, sell their CDs and T-shirts and meet some people.
UK Country and Americana seem to be getting a lot more exposure now and a larger audience, whereas Folk has always had a niche market. Do you feel there are a lot more opportunities for UK artists now since The Shires and Ward Thomas were signed – not just opportunities but do you think it has given artists a lot more confidence to showcase their music and go out there and try and be heard? Do you think that a lot more labels will open their minds and doors to a lot more of the UK Country sound?
Yeah, for sure. Things like C2C and Buckle and Boots certainly help and places like up north do Country nights and a lot of stuff has started popping up. I think the interest has always been there. It’s just been the lack of availability of a lot of bands – and one artist who is even moderately big, wouldn’t probably sell enough. So they have been sticking two or three bands together to fill the bill out and get more people to come. It’s growing for sure more people are coming out of the woodwork and realising that it is there now.
You have just released a new music video for your song Cryin’ In The Rain – tell me a little bit about the song and shooting the video. From what I can gather it was shot in a recording studio – where was that?
Yeah, we were doing some recording in the studio and were in the process of finishing some of that up. We did a release a couple of years ago in Nashville which is around and we will probably have copies of that on the day at C2C. We weren’t completely happy with it, so we decided to go back in and we looked at recording it as a live album, because we thought, ‘Well, damn! We’re a good live band.’ A lot of people say that it’s a great show and we tried to capture that in the studio. It was hard because of the techniques to try and do that, to keep that live feel, so we tried to take a different attack on it. So basically, for Cryin’ In The Rain, we recorded the track and said let’s put some cameras on us and we can use that as a starter for a video. In terms of the song, I don’t know, they’re Andy’s lyrics and he’s a married man so I tend not to ask in case it’s about an old love. We are working on another proper video which we have kind of finished; we just have to do a bit of editing. Then it will be released, when we have finished recording, as part of a single.
What can we expect from the EP/album? Will it be a mix of songs available and new ones?
Yeah, it’s about half and half. We’ve got some new stuff that is ready to rock and we have some other ones in the barrel, so to speak – and then we want to re do a few, as we weren’t happy with them. When you’re not happy with something, you have to live with it forever – once it’s on a CD, it’s forever and people use that as a reference point which we kind of wanted to change slightly. We’ve got some good songs we want to get on there, but It is time consuming, because we all have jobs in the daytime.
I have been looking at your tour dates and you seem to travel quite far and wide across the UK but you also seem to return to the same places, such as Gloucestershire, which is great to keep getting rebooked for the same venues and which must be nice?
Yes, Gloucestershire – and that has been good. It’s driving itself, honestly we haven’t really dug a lot for gigs this year – it has been a lot of places we have played before asking us back and we have been fortunate to play C2C, obviously, and other shows. It’s cliché but I like to think that if you keep working hard enough then the luck starts coming in. It’s hard work putting all the drive behind it without a label’s backing who would be better at finding gigs, sorting logistics etc. We know we aren’t going to be famous and we aren’t going to make loads of money, but it would be nice to have a small label’s backing to enjoy the experience a bit more and having someone do all those things for you – and do it much better than we are doing it. It’s being in the right places at the right time, I suppose – and maybe C2C will springboard some of that, but if not we ain’t going to change our tack. We will still be doing what we do, until they put us in a box in the ground. That’s how we look at things – day to day, just do what we do.
Well I hope to catch a show soon and will see you at C2C, thank so much for talking to me today.
Thank you, see you at C2C.