Following their return from the US, we sat down with the lovely Laura Coates from the Americana-inspired duo, The Weeping Willows to discuss recording, roots and everything in between.
For those who are out of the loop, how did The Weeping Willows come to fruition?
The Weeping Willows formed out of what was a side-project to the first band we performed in together, Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes. Andy was looking for an outlet to write his own songs and for both of us, a chance to sing in harmony together. Since then, The Weeping Willows has become our main musical focus.
You recently traveled to America to record your sophomore album after a successful Pozible campaign. What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
We honestly had the most wonderful time in the studio with engineer, Ryan Freeland. The studio itself was amazing, with the most impressive gear we’ve ever seen, but it was Ryan who really made the experience. He was so welcoming, friendly, positive, interested, patient and funny as well as extremely professional and highly skilled at what he does. Because of that (and the incredible equipment!) we felt really comfortable throughout the whole process, which enabled us to perform at our best, which was intensely rewarding.
Why did you choose to travel internationally to record? Why America?
So many reasons, really. For starters, Andy has been travelling to America to perform since he was a teenager. It was always his dream to record in the US. Secondly, the music we aspire to and admire is predominately American, thus we generally categorise ourselves as ‘Americana’. Our favourite duos: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, Mandolin Orange, Shovels & Rope and The Milk Carton Kids, all recorded in the States. It’s really the latter that led us to Ryan. Ryan recorded The Milk Carton Kids ‘The Ash & Clay’, which to us is one of the most beautiful sounding recordings we’ve ever heard. So we tracked him down and made contact. Ryan is well known as an Americana specialist, having worked with Bonnie Raitt, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ray LaMontagne and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (and more). He won a Grammy for Best Engineering/Mixing due to his work with all four artists. Last but not least, it was an adventure!
“We are drawn to songs that could have been written 100 years ago or yesterday. With that also comes a simplicity and a focus on storytelling, as well as the use of ‘real’ instruments. The new album definitely reflects these musical inspirations.”
Prior to your travels you performed at the Thornbury Theatre supporting country legend, Iris DeMent. What was it like to support someone who has achieved such renowned success?
It was of course, incredibly intimidating to be sharing a dressing room with Iris DeMent! We have long admired her as an artist and performer, so it was an absolute honour to be on her bill. It was awe-inspiring to be sitting in the beautiful Thornbury Theatre by ourselves watching her sound-check. It was also fascinating to see (up-close) such a unique and renowned singer-songwriter on stage; the way she structures her shows and interacts with and engages her audience. She had them eating out of the palm of her hand; just her and her piano. It also gave us faith that you don’t have to be a mainstream artist to fill a theatre and have a loyal fan base.
What influences you both as songwriters? Can we expect the material on the new album to reflect your musical inspirations?
The music that we both love is generally timeless and universal and that’s what we ideally aim for in our own songwriting. We are drawn to songs that could have been written 100 years ago or yesterday. With that also comes a simplicity and a focus on storytelling, as well as the use of ‘real’ instruments. The new album definitely reflects these musical inspirations. The core of the album is just us and Andy’s guitar, with some fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, pedal steel, accordion and banjo thrown in on a few tracks. Songwriting wise, the tunes are a collection of cautionary tales, which are definitely a feature in the more Old-Timey, Americana music
“For all of the reasons just mentioned: the storytelling, the simplicity, the timeless and universal nature of the songs and the use of real instruments.”
What is it about Americana music that draws you to it?
For all of the reasons just mentioned: the storytelling, the simplicity, the timeless and universal nature of the songs and the use of real instruments. I guess we are also inspired by the Gothic side of Americana; the Murder Ballads and Gospel songs, the Spirituals and the Hymns. We like to explore our darker side (haha).
How do you approach songwriting together? What is your creative process?
Andy is really the ‘main man’ when it comes to the songwriting. He will usually have a theme or a story (but no lyrics) in his mind for which he will invent a guitar part. From there, he will start to write some words/lyrics over the guitar line to build the narrative. I usually come in around this point to tie it all together. From there, it’s a matter of choosing who sings the lead part (if there is one), finding a good key and then working on harmonies and arrangement. This final part of the process is generally done together.
What are your plans now for the album?
Once the album is all mixed, mastered and the artwork done and pressed, we will be looking towards releasing it next year, preferably with a video clip to herald the announcement. Our lovely Pozible supporters will be the first to receive the album (probably in February) before we hold an official (Melbourne) album launch in March. We then plan to complete an Australia-wide tour during 2016 and a month-long US tour in September/October 2016, including the Americana Music Festival in Nashville.