Andy Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates are a couple of old souls, who as The Weeping Willows, play music that is steeped in bluegrass tradition. In 2013 they released their debut album Till The North Wind Blows which continues the musical tradition of those they admire. We caught up with the duo via email as they took some time to answer a few questions about their history, their sound and their plans for the remainder of the year.
How did the two of you come together as a duo musically? As you are also a couple did that happen later or before the musical partnership?
Sadly enough, I was a groupie for another Alt-Country band that Andrew sometimes plays in called ‘The Wildes’. We struck up a conversation at a couple of gigs and, before long, started dating. I wasn’t actually pursuing music at the time but one weekend Andrew convinced me to sing some Johnny Cash and June Carter covers with him, just for fun. We shared our renditions with the band and I ended up singing backing vocals for them. The Weeping Willows began as a side-project; a chance for us to write our own songs, but soon became our main musical focus. You could say the romantic relationship came first but music was always a big part of it from the beginning.
What is the significance of your name, The Weeping Willows?
Several of our favourite Country songs make mention of weeping willows; from Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson’s ‘Crazy’ to Johnny Cash’s ‘Big River’ and, perhaps most significantly, ‘Bury Me Beneath The Weeping Willow’ by The Carter Family. Our name pays tribute to these great songs and artists.
What instruments do you both play and what made you gravitate to them specifically?
Andrew plays guitar, resonator and harmonica and I play accordion and occasionally, the lap steel. Andrew was drawn to the guitar from a young age, mainly to appeal to the ladies but soon found he had a real affinity for the instrument. I learned accordion and lap steel specifically for The Weeping Willows. I felt the accordion would bring a melancholy texture to our songs, while the lap steel is just one of the most expressive and haunting instruments I’ve ever heard.
You have a very classic sound, as well as appearance, that mixes country/folk and Americana. Who has influenced you?
Thank you. From a young age Andrew was listening to the Country stylings of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Doc Watson and our very own Australian guitar god, Tommy Emmanuel. My love of story songs developed more out of the 1950s movie musicals. It was Andrew that steered me towards Country and folk music. When we started on down the road of writing together it began with Johnny and June (Cash) before straying off to the wonders of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and more recently Jason Isbell, John Fullbright, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison. Our image is just a natural extension of the music we perform. I don’t think I could feel authentic singing our style of music in anything other than a purdy dress. Likewise, Andy prefers traditional suits, vests and cowboy boots!
What drew you to this type of music?
We both really enjoy the storytelling aspect of Country/Folk music. Our songs generally tell tales of other people, places and times. It’s musical escapism.
Your first record, Till the North Wind Blows, came out in 2013. Did the two of you write all of the songs for it and do you enjoy writing?
Yes, we wrote all of the songs for ‘Till the North Wind Blows’ together. Andrew is the main songwriter while I step in later in the undertaking. He is the ‘ideas man’ who usually has a concept but says he generally struggles to finish songs. As an ex-English teacher, I like to come to the rescue with red pen in hand! It’s a process we enjoy but it’s not always easy. Some songs come together quickly; others can take months so it’s satisfying when you decide one is ready to show the world.
You will be in Nashville in September for the Americana Music Festival. Talk about that.
We are once again heading over to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival and Conference in September. We are part of the Sounds Australia crew who will be performing a few shows around town at venues such as The Bluebird Café and The 5 Spot. We plan to see as many showcase artists as possible as well as attend the Americana Music Awards night. From there we will be embarking on a mini-tour of the South taking in Knoxville, TN, Asheville, NC, Atlanta, GA and Birmingham, AL.
Have you been to the US before and how has the reception been to your music?
We ventured over to the US last year, performing shows in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. We were pleasantly surprised with our positive reception. There is an innate understanding of our style in the South. It was like ‘coming home’.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
Once we get back from the Americana Festival it’s straight back on to the folk festival circuit for us. However, we do also plan to schedule some ‘down time’ later in the year so we can focus on writing, workshopping and demoing new material for our next album which we hope to record in 2015.
What are you currently listening to?
We are still enamoured with Jason Isbell’s Southeastern album of 2013. That’s destined to be a life-long love affair. Most recently we have been getting into Sturgill Simpson, Holly Williams and Mandolin Orange.
For more information visit their official website
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Watch them perform "Home for the Broken Soul" below