Our first interview of the 2016 Country 2 Country weekend was one which sprung possibly the biggest surprise that we had all weekend. On the Friday afternoon, shortly before their set at the Brooklyn Bowl, we sat down with Northern Irish country rockers The Rising however this interview was slightly different. As we arrived at the venue we were greeted by the familiar face of guitarist Chris… and new lead singer Chantelle. The guys went on to tell us what’s happened to the band and where they are going now.
Welcome back to C2C. How much are you looking forward to this year’s festival?
Chris: Yeah! The first time was great and was very much a springboard for what happened with the band. We’re very much looking for to this one because tonight we are at The Brooklyn Bowl which is a big one!
A lot of British bands like you have been able to get a great foothold in the industry and market through the festival. How important do you think it has been for UK acts?
Chris: When we started off we were playing a certain type of music because we didn’t really want to play country music as we’d probably get laughed at! But now people are starting to listen to a couple of things and think, “oh, I didn’t know that was country!”
Have you found that you have gained a lot of fans by being put in front of so many country music lovers at C2C?
Chris: Definitely. We got a lot of radio and press off the back of it so job done, you know? It was a huge Launchpad for getting the album out there.
Other than performing will you be taking in any of the other acts around the festival?
Chris: Definitely! We just caught a bit of Sonia Leigh then. There are a few key artists that we just have to see who we are friends with like Jess & The Bandits and Luke & Mel.
You toured with Jess & The Bandits last year around the UK. How fun was that tour?
Chris: It was epic. We played a lot of great shows and it was great to be on tour with a lot of friends. As the tour goes on usually people start to avoid each other but it was good! Most shows were either sold out or nearly sold out which was great.
It’s great how you toured with them and it was almost like a double headline…
Chris: (Laughs) I’m not too sure about that but it was great. We had some great local bands join us too which was fun.
Your album Coming Home was received well by fans and critics. How pleased were you with the reception it got?
Chris: First albums are always tough. You throw them out there and see what happens. It did ok, it didn’t break any world records or anything. It got us a fanbase though and established where we are.
Do you think it’ll be a different sound for the next album then?
Chantelle: It is kind of a different sound but we’re trying to keep to the whole country rock thing and add some more ‘poppier’ sounds to try and get us into UK radio, which is kind of tough to get into.
Chris: Yeah, obviously the single that we released Still Coming Home is largely a signpost of where we are going. A little more poppy…
Do you currently have any plans for the follow up to the debut album?
Chris: We intend to. We’re in writing at the moment and we’ve just got Chantelle in helping with that and singing. We’ve actually substituted a few members of the band in so we’ve got a new singer and we’ve been in the studio working hard since Christmas.
Right, so is it the same original band with Chantelle as well?
Chantelle: No not really! The whole band was kind of rejigged. We’ve got a new bassist in Brian and Carla on keyboards. We kind of just gelled together.
I suppose that’s part of the process of changing stylistically. Eventually something has to give…
Chris: It was actually on the tour when frictions started to rise and band members started to rub each other up the wrong way. It was more that some people realised that maybe they didn’t want to pursue music full time. It was a mutually decision to let people go and do their own thing.
Well it’s exciting now to see what it sounds like!
Chris: You’ll see from our sets tonight and tomorrow what it’ll sound like!
As a band you’ve come from a variety of different styles to land on country music. Do you think that brings something a little different to your sound?
Chris: We were sort of a pop rock, Bon Jovi esque band because that was cool at the time. We were getting positive press but we were starting to write songs that sounded like country and trying to make them fit into what we have to do. Eventually something had to give and we made the move into country. It was a combination of moments, each time we went to rehearsal we were like “I’ve got a new song here, it sounds country but it’s not going to work with what we are doing”.
I suppose it was great timing with C2C and the rise of UK country…
Chris: It was fantastic timing. Where we are from we are separate from a lot of what is going on here so we were doing this country rock thing about three years a go before it really got going over here but we were very much playing it and getting laughed at.
Who would you say are the biggest influences on The Rising?
Chantelle: I kind of take my influences from Carrie Underwood and her style. Then we’d fit that with Chris’ influences… hence the name. Who else do you like?
Chris: Keith Urban…
What are the next steps for the band and what would you like to achieve?
Chantelle: We are hoping to get a single and an EP released in the next two to three months then to round out the year we are hopefully going to organise a tour after an album has been released but that’s up to Chris. We’ve only really got up to winter.
Chris: Well this weekend is a Launchpad then we’ll get a single out there and set up an EP then work on the album and tour.
Does it almost feel like a fresh start now then?
Chris: Yeah, it’s weird, it’s maybe not a start but… making it better. It’s more how can we make this better and move forward.
Chantelle: It’s like a new chapter.
Have you played many shows with this lineup?
Chantelle: This is the first one! I’m a little bit nervous but I’m really excited! As long as it gets our new vibe out there I’ll be happy. It’s basically the starting line.
Have you made an official announcement about the changes?
Chris: This is it! Nothing was released officially so people will find out tonight!