Ward Thomas: 'We love touring together, it's like we get to take a bit of home with us'
Ahead of their gig in Enniskillen in August, country singing twins Ward Thomas say they are living their dream and still can't believe their second release went to No 1. Lizzy talks to Andy Welch about their brilliant year.
With a hectic UK tour ahead of them, which will include the weekend Harvest 2017 festival in Enniskillen in August, singing duo Ward Thomas are surprisingly relaxed.
"We're getting prepared for the tour. Like, really prepared," says Lizzy Ward Thomas.
The admission, from one half of singing twins Ward Thomas, suggests they don't always rehearse quite so well for their live shows.
"Oh no, we're normally pretty prepared. We don't wing it... Actually, sometimes we wing it. We often think, 'What do we do now?' but I think we'll be fine come those April shows."
Lizzy says it's been a frantic year or so, a year in which the English sisters' second album, Cartwheels, beat Jamie T and The Carpenters to the No 1 spot. Talking to her, it sounds like she hasn't quite calmed down from the excitement.
"We had a nice break over Christmas, which was the first time we really stopped to take stock, but other than that, it's been non-stop," admits the Hampshire-born 22-year-old.
Their debut, From Where We Stand, peaked at No 41 in the UK charts, but crucially, hit the top 10 on the country chart, winning them a strong fan base among genre connoisseurs and radio DJs.
That foundation served them well when the time came to release Cartwheels, with influential DJs, such as 'Whispering' Bob Harris and breakfast show host Chris Evans, playing the twins' songs.
"I still don't think we believe we got to No 1," says Lizzy. "There must've been something that went wrong that week. Oh God, what if there's a recount? There'll be loads of Jamie T fans demanding a recount."
She says the week before their chart position was announced was the most tense of their lives. As for expectations, they simply hoped for an improvement on their debut, to mirror the progression and maturation of their music.
"We wrote From Where We Stand when we were quite young, 17 or so, and it was a very different vibe. Albums should be a portfolio of where you're up to in your life. We wrote this one in our early 20s, so naturally it's going to be a bit more mature," Lizzy explains. "We wanted to show what we'd been doing, but also that we'd grown as songwriters.
"We also wanted to hit a wider audience. It was very, very exciting, and we really managed to do that, too."
She says they noticed things were happening for them when they suddenly got so much busier - they went from doing the odd interview here and there, to being well and truly in demand. Not that they ever get to see the end result...
"It's always strange seeing an article written about you, and we were always the last to see these things in print - we might get a screen-grab from family and friends or something - but we could tell there was a definite progression of the campaign and the size of everything. We noticed we were getting a lot more attention.
"The first time we heard a song from Cartwheels on the radio was when Chris Evans played it, and he said such lovely things before he did so. It really felt like we were hitting the second stage of our career, and the beginning of a very different year."
Think of siblings in bands together, and images of Ray and Dave Davies in The Kinks and Oasis' Noel and Liam Gallagher spring to mind. The Davies brothers would famously fall out mid-gig and reportedly go years without speaking to one another, while Noel and Liam's disdain for each other spilled over to the point they can no longer work together and trade insults in the media.
Lizzy and her twin Catherine, however, wouldn't want to be in a band with anyone else. "We couldn't imagine it any other way. Especially when we're on tour - it's like we get to take a bit of home with us."
They've been singing together since they were little, firstly classical music in a school choir, although they realised pretty early on that was never going to fulfil their dreams.
The turning point came when a cousin from Canada came to stay, and brought with her a love of US country sensations Dixie Chicks and Miranda Lambert - the latter of whom will headline Harvest 2017 with Nathan Carter in the summer.
"That was the biggest influence for us," recalls Lizzy. "It was after that we saw the 2005 movie Walk The Line, and that's when we learned lots of Johnny Cash and June Carter songs. We'd sing them at the local pub and at family parties, which is really how we started."
Then came Dixie Chicks covers, before they started writing their own material.
Fast-forward to now and, before they tour the UK, the sisters are heading to Australia, where they're performing on the same bill as Dixie Chicks ("I'm not sure we could talk if we met them"). Hopefully, there'll also be some writing and the recording of a small set of cover versions, although Lizzy is sworn to secrecy on the details.
"They'll be on a covers EP or something. It's great being able to play around with songs we love," is all she'll say.
Is it daunting, having a world tour mapped out, and expectations of a third record already mounting?
"We wouldn't be human if we weren't daunted, but we have a lot of great people around us, plus a lot of say and control in what we do," reasons Lizzy.
"Plus, we have each other."