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Songwriter duo Two Ways Home have just released their latest EP Closest Strangers and will be heading for London’s first ever Country Music Week in October.
Isabella Mariee – originally from Vienna – and Lewis Fowler, who grew up in Gloucestershire met through mutual friends and have since gone from strength to strength as emerging country artists.
We had a chat to them about their new record, making music together and, of course, Country Music Week.
How did you two meet and get to making music together?
Lewis: Well, we met through some friends who told me there’s this girl called Isi, she’s in a pop-rock cover band and they need a guitarist, and we think you’d be a good fit. So I think I had to play Beat It by Michael Jackson, the solo was my kind-of baptism of fire for that band.
Isi: Yeah I didn’t make it easy. *laughs*
Lewis: No! Yeah, we toured together with that band for a little while but then it kind of fell apart. People moved away, but we carried on writing songs together.
Isi: And then we started doing open mic nights and we felt like our voices just blend really well and then Two Ways Home kind of came out of that.
What specifically drew you to country music having done more rock-pop stuff before?
Isi: Basically we just had a lot of friends who said that we sounded a little bit country. We didn’t actually have a big background in country, which was kind of weird going into the genre because obviously we hadn’t heard that much country music. But a lot of our American friends love country and they were like, “Oh why don’t you check out bands and some country music?”. And then we checked it out and we really fell in love with it.
Lewis: I think the more we listened to it, the more we realised we actually grew up listening to lots of these bands, like I grew up listening to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles. The country scene still has got a really good focus on live instruments being played; that live band sound. I hadn’t really sung that much before we started singing together, and we were both super keen on layering harmonies in our songs, trying to go for this big organic sound.
You released your latest EP Closest Strangers earlier this year, and the tracks feel quite personal. How did you go about writing them?
Lewis: On this one, it’s the first that has songs that we’ve written just the two of us, with co-writes on there. We write songs that we tend to relate with. I think we both find it hard to write a song that we can’t very closely relate with or that we’ve got experience in. We worked with a couple of American artists and an English artist on various songs and it was nice to draw from some other people’s thoughts and experiences as well as our own.
How was that process of working with both UK and American writers?
Isi: It was pretty smooth. The first song on the EP called Best Part Of Me was written with Adam James in Nashville. The idea came together pretty quickly. I think it was just something I had in my phone, just a little note. Because me and Lewis constantly just… if we think of something we just put it in our notepad. I think it was just a little idea and then we kind of fleshed it out in about two or three hours. So that one was really quick. And then the other one we wrote with an American artists was Don’t Give Up On Me Tonight, which was the third track on the EP. That was with Logan Brill who will also come play at the Country Music Week.
Lewis: And I think that song was a little bit different to us. I think she came up with the starting idea for that song. The idea of being on the road and wishing you were home. She also had a lot of experience with touring. I think the nicest thing about writing with different artists, both American and UK, is the different perspective to how we would write just on our own.
Would you say there was an evolution in regards to sound from the last two EPs?
Lewis: I think our plan was always to do three EPs and in that time figure out our sound. And I think we kind of have now. I think we’ve worked with a different producer on each one, not because we were unhappy with the previous producer just because we wanted to see who brought the most to our sound. I feel the producer we worked with on this one, him just being such a great musician and understanding the genre, and also being from the UK rather than America, I think that gave it a sound that had enough distinction from the American sound to be a little bit alternative. And also he has a really good awareness of it. Him also playing a little bit of piano was a new thing for us, that changed our sound a little bit. And then the fact that we got it mixed in Nashville with a guy called Mark Lonsway and his company 4 Music Production, that really changed our sound and we loved how he was mixing it. It feels very polished, but I hope not over-polished. I think there’s still an element of rawness to it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from, your stories, lyrically?
Isi: We always write songs that we can connect to. A lot of the stories are things that we’ve either encountered, or we just look at friends’ lives and draw from them. It’s very much real situations.
You’re playing Country Music Week in October with various other country artists – what can we expect from the live show?
Isi: I’m so excited for it!
Lewis: We’re really psyched to be playing! The venue is great, Borderline, just next to the Tottenham Court Road area. We’re playing with loads of friends which will be brilliant.
Isi: So I think we’re going to play as a trio with our guitarist Michael Clancy who also sings. So it’s going to be quite heavy on the harmonies.
Lewis: The sound in that venue is particularly great, we’re trying to incorporate as much percussion and drum sounds as we can. I’ll have a stomp box and I’m sure Isi will shaking a tambourine somewhere too.
With more and more young UK country artists emerging and making a name for themselves, it seems to pull more young listeners into the genre this side of the Atlantic. Do you agree?
Isi: I think that the country genre in the UK has been growing so much over the last few years and we can really see how more and more people are getting into it and are discovering the genre for the first time which is really cool.
Lewis: And also we’ve been hosting a monthly night in London called The Round Up and we’ve really seen over the last year we’ve got a lot more people coming regularly. So I think the nice thing about the audience that you seem to get at these country shows spans age and gender, it really doesn’t seem to be too specific. We get everything from teenager coming to our shows all the way up to the older guys and gals who just love some great music. It does seem to appeal to a very wide age range, which is cool I think.
What else is next for you two? What can we expect?
Isi: We’re actually releasing a new song. It’s going to be in the Country Music Week on Friday.
Lewis: Yeah, and in fact this interview with you will be the first time we’re really announcing it. But yeah we’ve got a new song coming out called Outlaws which is a slightly different sound. Again, we’ve tried to push some …
Isi: Tried to push the boundaries a little bit.
Lewis: We have with this one. So we’re just working towards that release now.
Isi: And we’re going to be shooting a music video next week so that will come out just shortly after. I’m really excited for that. And it will be out in Country Music Week so that’s super exciting.
Two Ways Home play London’s Borderline on the 8 October 2017 as part of Country Music Week. Get the last remaining tickets for Country Music Week via Ticketmaster.co.uk.