Ward Thomas are one of Britains most successful and best loved country acts. Twin sisters Lizzy and Catherine Ward Thomas have gone from strength to strength over the years. Last year saw their most successful year, being signed to Sony Music, their second album Cartwheels being number one in the all genre charts amongst other great achievements.
I caught up with the girls at C2C backstage at The Indigo O2 before their set. As always, the girls were a delight to talk to, chatty, witty and down to earth. I hope you enjoy our chat.
Hi girls how are you?
We are great, thanks. How are you?
Good thanks. What a year it’s been for you, I mean I am going to just jump straight to it: Cartwheels, number one? Wow!
Lizzy- It has been incredible. I can’t believe it’s already into year two since the whole Cartwheels album campaign, it’s going so fast. I remember getting to Christmas when we had a whole load of family over and I think that was the time when everything sunk in. Before then, we were so busy and we were doing so much that we didn’t have time to really think about what was going on, so we just had a big celebration with all our family over Christmas. It’s been crazy.
So, in a way, it probably never will completely sink in, I guess because, for Country music to be number one in this country is hard enough, but for a UK Country act is just, well, unbelievable. Deserved, don’t get me wrong, very deserved – but just unheard of!
Catherine – Yeah, I don’t think it will ever hit us. It’s one of those things where we think it’s actually another album chart that we forgot about. It’s been a weird and amazing year.
The song itself, Cartwheels, has been out for a while and is a fan favourite – and you actually got to play it in the 02 arena on the satellite stage, in front of thousands during C2C a couple of years ago.
Lizzy – Yeah, we recorded it long before we even released it.
Is that why you chose it as an album title, because it played such a pivotal part in your journey, from the success of From Where We Stand, to now?
Lizzy – I think that performance was actually the moment.
Catherine – It was definitely a good test for it because first of all, we had never played anything like that ever and playing Cartwheels in a moment where there was a state of silence – I remember thinking ‘Oh, my God, this song is actually connecting with these people’, because it was so silent in the arena . When we were talking about what to name the album it was just like: “Oh, Cartwheels.”
Lizzy – That was the moment we decided, that was the song which lead to all the other songs off the album. We were in Nashville for a three month string of writing and playing dates around town, which was amazing. We got to really live and breathe the whole atmosphere and that was the first song we wrote on that trip – it sort of just lead us to the rest.
Now, having Guilty Flowers on Radio One was quite an achievement, not just for yourselves, but for Country music as a whole, all over. To be one of the first Country acts – and the first UK Country act to get Radio One prime time coverage, must be insane. Were you prepared for this? Did you get warning? Where were you when the song was being played?
Lizzy – Oh, my God, that was weird!
Catherine – We got no warning. We were actually doing the radio show with Jools Holland and someone just texted us saying, ‘I just heard your single on Radio One’ and we replied, ‘You mean Radio 2?’ They then said ‘No, no, no – Radio One’. So we listened back to it and Scott Mills had played it in the afternoon -that was a very cool moment.
That’s prime time, too.
Catherine – Yeah, and the most amazing part of that is seeing the feedback from Radio One listeners. People were saying, ‘Finally, Country music is being played on Radio One’, which actually shows there are Country music fans who listen to Radio One.
They are all hiding!
Catherine – Yes, all hiding!
They just don’t realise that they can come out. It’s almost like a struggle, ‘Mum, dad -I’m a Country music fan.’
Catherine- It’s much less of a dirty word now. I think back to C2C four or five years ago when everyone would be wearing cowboy hats as if it was part of the gimmick, this cult of Country music. Now everyone is like, ‘You know what? I just go to enjoy the music’ – but it’s also great to see people still wearing them as people want to and should do. It has just grown and it’s funny, walking past the big Entrance stage today; before, it was the 02 Phone shop stage when we first played it – and each time since then, the stage has got a little bit higher with slightly bigger speakers and I can just tell that each stage gets more advanced every year.
I remember the first year really well and going there was just so obscure and wonderful and just seeing another Country fan was odd. I also remember before it happened people were asking if this festival was legit – and now look at it. You have been here since year one for C2C ; it must be amazing to see as a whole, not just the stages but to see how much it has grown, especially in terms of UK acts.
Do you think that C2C, yourselves and The Shires, have helped pave the way for UK artists to finally be heard because, before you two, I had never heard of one UK Country act and now I know of loads.
Lizzy – We didn’t know how the UK Country scene was. The first year, I remember me and Catherine being like ‘Doing Country music – and in the UK – is really risky, because no one over here really listens to it’. Well, we knew it was a cult genre, but when we walked into the C2C festival the first year, there were so many people and artists there, suddenly realising that each other existed. We all thought before that we were alone and all of a sudden it’s like ‘Oh, he likes Country music, too’; ‘Oh, they play Country music, too’. We discovered this whole community that we had no idea existed- especially out in Lancashire, where there is a huge Country music friendship group like Luke and Mel, Jess Roberts and Frankie Davies and everyone now knows each other and it’s like, ‘OK, cool, this is actually a thing’.
Lizzy- I think The Shires and us have helped each other a lot over the whole campaign. I think it is so good to have two acts together and supporting each other.
You are playing a fair few festivals this year, Cornbury included – which is sadly on its last year. I saw you there a couple of years ago and it was amazing. Cornbury have also been huge supporters of Country music over the years. As you have played there before, it must be nice to be invited as part of the finale. It must be quite emotional?
Catherine – I know, I always found that Cornbury was such a great festival. Our cousins are coming over from Canada and there’s a few festivals that we are playing in the time that they are over. So we said, you have to come to Cornbury, because it’s so welcoming, it’s so lovely and it’s got so much diverse music that you’ll see everyone there
Lizzy – It’s sad that it’s the last one, because we filmed our video for Guest List there. I feel that we have an attachment with that festival because the way they support the genre and everything.
It’s one of those festivals where it’s a mix of genres with a nice atmosphere and great for families. I really wanted to take my son when he Is older, which is sadly not going to happen now.
Catherine –They might come back, take a break and come back as they’ll miss us!
You are having festival fever this year. I mean CMC Australia. That’s soon right? How excited are you? Ever been before?
Catherine – We have, as we have a lot of family out there, but have always been too young to appreciate it. This time we are going to remember everything.
Lizzy – We were sixteen last time we went, which was still young, so I remember the jet lag quite a lot. It’s our 23rd birthday whilst we are out there, too.
Catherine – We will turn 23 12 hours before we normally would!
It’s an amazing festival by the looks of it. Have you checked out any Australian Country yet (Keith Urban doesn’t count) and will you be seeing anyone during the festival?
Catherine – Well our uncle lives near Tamworth and he loves country music that comes out of Tamworth, but we are mostly excited for the Dixie Chicks’ headlining. We are their biggest fans.
Have you met them?
Both – No.
Oh, I hope that you do.
Lizzy – If we met them, we would be like the one band that I wouldn’t know what to say.
Will I see a photo with them – and you are both crying!
Lizzy – Haha! Probably, yes.
Check out Jasmine Rae and Tori Forsyth whilst you’re there. They are two amazing Australian artists – I highly recommend Tori in particular.
I have also just seen that you are supporting Miranda Lambert. This must be so exciting. When did you find out?
Catherine – I don’t really know how that happened!
Lizzy – We have always been massive fans of hers. Last year at C2C we got to go back stage and meet Miranda and she was so nice. Then we found out she was touring the UK, which was a big deal because it was a lot to get her over here for C2C.
Catherine – We just sent our stuff over and she had a listen and said ‘Yes!’
That’s so cool!
Lizzy – It was quite organic really, I have heard she is very good at supporting up and coming artists
She was one of the first to shout out about Maren. I am coming to three of those shows and am front row for two and, yes, I’m obsessed with Miranda – so just going to warn you now that I will be there smack in the middle!
Catherine – It will make us less nervous, haha! Miranda is definitely one of the most authentic artists out there. Her new double album is amazing and we have listened to it to death in our car and it is still not going anywhere. We know all the words, haha!
So you have been doing a lot of writing lately, who have you been writing with and have you got a lot of good ones for a potential third album in the future?
Lizzy – Mostly with two of our friends, who we wrote most of Cartwheels with, Jessica Sharman and Rebekah Powell. We have just spent the last two weeks full on writing with those two and then we have got, after Australia, a couple of weeks of writing with all sorts of people.
Tell me about the BMG publishing deal that you have just landed – congrats by the way! Is that writing for other artists, potentially?
Catherine – Yeah, potentially for other artists – and also writing with other cool artists. It’s great to be on the same roster as artists that we really look up to like Dan Wilson, who wrote for Dixie Chicks – and then they have George Ezra, amongst others.
Sounds amazing, I am excited for you. You are on tour in May. What can we expect from your set? Will we have a mix of old and new? Any exciting covers you have a desire to play – and, most importantly, will Dan Gordon be smiling?
Catherine – Haha, I don’t think that we can ever make Dan Gordon not smile!
Haha – will he be fired if he doesn’t?
Catherine – Haha! At shows, I would turn around even during really, really sad songs and now I try not to turn around and look at Dan, because he would smile and I can’t giggle in a deep song. He will always be smiling.
Lizzy- We will play old, new and covers. We have got a few covers in the works at the moment and lots of new songs. We have a slot in the set where we will try and put some new songs in or something.
Well, I cannot wait. Thanks again for chatting with me today and enjoy the rest of the weekend and Australia.
Thanks, it’s been lovely catching up with you, too.
Ward Thomas are on tour in April/May and their shows are more than worth it so please try and catch a show somewhere
You can download Cartwheels here
Cartwheels by Ward Thomas
Ward Thomas have also released a covers Ep called A Shorter Story which is available here
A Shorter Story – EP by Ward Thomas