“We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” – Oscar Wilde
Tonight I bring you an interview I did just a couple of weeks ago with some new friends of mine, Country duo, Stanford Road. I first met this duo at one of the Country nights I organised where they came and opened the show for us. Their songs are top class Country songs delivered by two beautiful voices that intertwine perfectly together. Their passion for the genre is clear, and the stories they tell are true. It was an honour to have them perform at our Country night and I hope we can have them back soon! Please read more about them and their music below and don’t forget to check out their music at the links below!
So tell me a bit about Stanford Road and what stage you’re at?
Rachael: Well we met, we were neighbours on Stanford Road, we used to live on a roundabout and he was my next door neighbour playing guitar. I was sitting in my garden one summer and we started writing together and started performing together then and that was in 2008. Then we got married.
Terry: Well not immediately haha.
Rachael: No not immediately. We wrote quite a lot in those early days together, at that point we were putting on acoustic showcases with bands and we ran a magazine that was promoting local music, well the whole art scene, music, photography theatre and we were writing as well. Then a couple of years ago, we have very different musical backgrounds, Terry’s from a metal background and I’m from a more traditional background. We were writing at the time for another band and Terry would say, “Its a bit Country, Love, its a bit Country” I was saying “I like Country” and you get to an age and you realise these are the songs that I want to be writing but no one was digging Country then so we thought we’ll just do it ourselves. So you write for different projects and then theres things that you just want to say and write yourself. And for me I wanted to write Country. You get to an age where you have this freedom to speak your mind and we did it through music, we consciously just off-loaded our lives a few years ago so we could focus on this. Stanford Road is a personal and writing partnership. We’re just recording an album at the moment which is really exciting because its everything we want to say and its special to be able to do that as independent artists. We’re fiercely independent as well, Terry was signed before to a label and I’ve written for other acts and your hands are tied so this album is just ours!
Terry: Yeah it brings in all of our influences and its very much from us.
How’s the album coming along? Do you have any idea when it will be released?
Rachael: Its going really well, we’ve worked with and met some great musicians over the years and we’re thrilled to be able to have guests on our album as well, because as a duo you can’t play all the instruments at the same time and as writers you hear little melodies and you think I need that but I can’t play it, so going into the studio was a great experience for just getting all of the things that you hear in your head come to life.
Terry: We’re working pretty tirelessly on this album.
Rachael: We get up everyday and we had a song that we really love and its a great song and its got a fantastic musical hook in it and I love the depth of it and it had this line in it that every time I sang it, it just didn’t sound right. So we sat with this song for a whole day and we’d try different things out and we found the magic line and your heart lifts and we’re high-fiving each other. Its a great thrill and we were buzzing the rest of the day. Some days you think, I’m never gonna get it, and then other days you get moments like this. Its hard to explain to people who don’t write songs like my sister when she asks what I’ve done today and you say “I’ve just found this mega line!” haha. People are just waiting for the live shows but for me its actually the moments when you’re writing the songs or you’ve written them. We’ve done a few gigs recently but we’ve not put any of the new stuff out there yet. It wont be out there until January I don’t think, its a long process.
Terry: The songs have evolved tremendously since we first started.
So you said you come from two different backgrounds musically, could you tell me what your influences were before and what you feel the duo’s influences are?
Terry: My parents were into their 60s stuff so thats what I always listened to at home, my parents were into pop as teenagers. So mainstream 60’s. My Dad’s a musician, always played guitar, he used to play in a military band and played saxophone so we had family singalongs as theres six of us in my family. One of my brothers is ten years older than me and he used to be a DJ back in the 80s so he used to come home with all his records and play them. So I got a lot of influence off him, the 80s pop and electronic music so that was good fun and when I was 11 years old I started growing up.
Rachael: You were grown up at 11?
Terry: Yeah I was big at 11. I started getting into rock music, guns and roses were my favourite. I was really feeling that, and started idolising them and Metallica and getting progressively heavier after that. I think every year it got heavier, I got into thrash and death metal. I started playing in bands from 12 years old, stadium rock mainly, and that got heavier too as I got older and when I was 18 I was in a new metal band that got signed and it was great, but I still kept the pop influence though, a little guilty pleasure when I’m rocking around with the hardcore guys. And I settled down when I got kids and began playing more acoustic sets. I did some electronica and trance music and thats when I bumped into Rachael. Then of course theres a line at which we met music wise, progressive rock, is where I feel our minds met musically.
Rachael: I feel we connected lyrically more than musically first, we’d both been in a bad place and we met after kind of surviving those dark places, and there was a big sadness in me at that point and a big frustration in Terry at that point but we were both very positive and brought that together in our first songs. They were very much our stories.
Terry: But what were your influences?
Rachael: Haha, well my Mother loved ABBA harmonies. My sister and I would lie in bed and sing harmonies, I’m one of five children. We’d be in the bunk beds singing in harmony and making songs up. And I think thats why I’m drawn to Country music as its storytelling and I relate to a lot of the traditional country music. I absolutely love Lee Ann Womack, Zac Brown Band, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Sheryl Crow, Eric Church, theres a whole load of bluegrass that I don’t even know who plays it but its just brilliant. So they’ll be Country lyrics, and a mix of Bluegrass and Americana musically and one of the songs even has a gospel feel to it.
Tell me about your songwriting process?
Rachael: This is where we’re complete opposites, I will come at it lyrically with a theme and Terry will come at it musically. We’ve both written separately so its been a big learning curve for us. About four years ago Terry refused to work with me anymore, he said I can’t write with you anymore because it was difficult for him to interpret what I was trying to say, I’d hear something that was so set in stone in my head, a melody, a rhythm, the lyrics and I’d say oh can you play this and he’d try something and I’d say no its not like that!
Terry: I’m a self taught musician as well and I’ll play anything, if it makes a noise I’ll make a tune out of it so its largely down to vibe for me, whatever comes out comes out! Rachael’s a bit of a visionary she comes at it, she has a whole band in her head and they’re all playing and she can hear the most epic, awesome song ever but of course, translating that to a self taught musician isn’t always easy. Sometimes theres an idea or theme and we’ll write it together, I’ll come along with a chord progression and Rachael will say oh hey heres a melody, she’s the Queen of melody or sometimes we’ll write a song separately and we’ll come together and develop it together.
Rachael: Yeah, I mean we say we’re songwriters and people wonder what that means and what we do but for me its a craft, crafting a song, re-working it over and over. In the past I sat down for ten minutes and at the end would be like woo, I’ve written a song, call my mum, get my sister round and looking back now I think oh my goodness what were we singing. Now we have a process of crafting it. We’ve worked with the Nashville Songwriters Association and their evaluation process and we’ve learned lots of techniques of how we can critique our own work and be harsh with it. Making sure it stands out.
Terry: Yeah its not the finished process its the process of writing the song that we really love, the varying stages and forms. Sometimes it happens in ten minutes and other times its re-writing and re-writing and we write our songs like we live our lives, loving it, every second of it. People don’t get it, they think we should get a proper job but no this is our life.
Whats the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?
Rachael: Haha, a pair of breasts! Its called 42 inch chest, its funny, I don’t know why I wrote it.
Terry: Its a good song though.
Rachael: It does get requested a lot, its about two sisters, one of them’s cute and young and attractive and the other one is off to get married and the young, cute, attractive one is kind of flaunting her chest because she wants all the attention and she can’t believe her sister’s got the man. Its a real comedy song, it stays in peoples mind.
Terry: Its not going to make the album though.
What are your mid-gig thoughts?
Terry: We were talking about this a few weeks ago actually, we were playing a festival and it never fails to amaze me how many things you can think of in one go like I’m thinking oh I didn’t quite hit the note there, I wonder if anyone heard that, its fine, it actually sounded better. I don’t know sometimes I think I wonder if I can get another beer in before we go or what can we eat.
Rachael: I talk a lot so if I start a conversation with someone in the audience I want to carry on that theme because people are so interesting. Sometimes I sing a song and its eyes closed all the way through because I’m living the song, the feelings. I go into the zone.
Terry: Some of the deep songs we do are automatic, we go into the zone without thinking. Its almost a film in your head. I’m all about the random thoughts though as well but Rachael tends to hyper focus.
Rachael: Yeah I concentrate on one thing and you can’t shift me from it until I’m done thinking about it whereas Terry’s the opposite. We recently started going to the gym a lot because we sit around and eat cakes all day most of the time so we’ve been going to the gym to get match fit and our personal trainer said right you’ve got to do half an hour of cardio, so I go an do twenty minutes on the rowing machine and Terry’s like 3 minutes on the rower, I’ll have a go on the cross trainer oh I’ll go on the treadmill, oh I’ll go have a cup of tea.
Terry: I tried five minutes on each but I’ve realised 3 and a half minutes is my optimum concentration span!
So there you have it folks! Stanford Road. You can check them out at the following links:
I think the best thing about writing this blog is meeting people like Rachael and Terry. They’re lovely people who are extremely talented musicians and are passionate about music, especially British Country music. We’ll be keeping you up to date with their progress on the album and will be sure to bring you a review of it when it comes out!
I’d also just like to quickly mention that last night The Shires made their Opry Debut in Nashville and Ward Thomas were performing at The Bluebird Cafe, we want to say a huge well done to both groups for their achievements and paving the way for the UK Country take over!