Spotlight on Scottish Pop/ Country duo Raintown
At the end of May Country Music New International reported that Raintown would be taking part at the ‘CMA Global Artist Showcase’ (see photo and AristoMedia Press Release) at the start of CMA Fest 2011. The event sponsored by, Chevrolet, was held on Monday, June 6, at ‘The Stage’ on Broadway. Raintown were the sole representatives for the UK who said: “In the truest sense this is a real honour and we cannot wait for the performance. This is a huge event and the town will be buzzing with the start of CMA Fest 2011. We have worked hard to get here, but truthfully the hard work is only really beginning and we aim to impress and represent the UK to both the industry and fans in the very heart of Country Music.” (Live photo from the event)
I first heard their music on Radio when CMR Nashville played their first single ‘Just One Kiss’. It appeared as track 2 on the Hotdisc #141 (Sept 2010) promotional release and in January 2011 peaked at #3 on the British & Irish Chart and # 11 on the Hotdisc Top 40 . Then their second single ‘Picture Of Us’ the fourth cut on Hotdisc 145 ( Jan 2011) secured a # 3 position on British & Irish Chart and #13 on the main HOTDISC Chart.
So who are Raintown?
On there websites they describe themselves as: “A Contemporary Twist on Country Music; from its Roots. We are, couple, Paul Bain & Claire McArthur, aka Raintown” And regarding their style they say:
“Fusing the infectious elements of great pop songs with roots based instrumentation and a conversational writing style of Country Music, Raintown, Paul Bain and Claire McArthur, are a contemporary twist on a modern country duo. Continuing the tradition of exciting new music to emerge from Glasgow, their catchy hooks and dynamic male/female harmonies are delivered with a passion and style that demands attention; while their carefully crafted lyrics articulate some very human emotions in a sincere, ‘heart on the sleeve’ kind of way “ – Further reading – Raintown Promo Photo – EveningTimes Photo
Have Raintown got any music available?
Yes, Last year on 31 May 2010 they had a 3 Track EP ‘Just One Kiss’ which is available on iTunes (Link)
Then on 8 November 2010 they released independently their 11-track debut album called HOPE IN TROUBLED TIMES (See artwork). Digital tracks are available for download from iTunes (Link) and a well known supermarket.
Which radio stations are playing Raintown?
They promoted their album on a radio tour in the UK and Ireland. The support seems to be particularly strong in Scotland. ‘Just One Kiss’ got a spin on BBC Scotland last August when they rubbed shoulders on the playlist by Lady Antebellum who they cite as an influence. Other stations include Clyde1/Clyde2, Moray Firth Radio, Heartland FM, Alive Radio and Leith FM. They were made Spotlight artists on CMR Nashville (Jackie Storrar’s Country Café), UK Country Radio and American Veterans Radio . (Real Radio Photo)
Where are Raintown from?
The information on the web is conflicting. The TollCross edition of the Evening Times says the couple live in Sandyhills which is a district in Glasgow and situated north of the River Clyde. The Kilsyth Chronicle referred to them as “CUMBERNAULD Pop/Country duo”. Cumbernauld is a town in North Lanarkshire 13 miles north east of Glasgow. Back in 2001 a BBC news report stated the town had gained notoriety after winning an award for being “the most dismal place in Scotland” in recognition of its town centre, which has been described as “a rabbit warren on stilts”.
How did Raintown Paul and Claire meet and how did their musical path start?
Claire McArthur: “Paul and I met in Glasgow when we were both part of a company in a “big Las Vegas style show”.
This was about 5 years ago It was how they started and how they got into performing. The couple met working in Dennistoun at the Parade bar (A former cinema) – See PIC1 – See PIC2 – See PIC3 – See PIC4 They were doing separate projects at the time in different bands but shared the same passion for music and especially country music. Although they were in different projects Claire would bring something to the song. A conversation between them might take on “I really love this song by Patsy Cline and there could be a way to give it a modern version”. They have eclectic tastes but country music was a real love for them. It laid the foundation for Raintown and set them a goal to achieve for.
Claire McArthur: “We started working together and writing some songs together and realised there was a natural chemistry between us and our writing”
Eventually they met up and went to Gran Canaria to work in the sunshine for six months. That was where Raintown was formed lying in the sunshine on a lovely sun lounger. (See Picture)
Paul Bain : “The irony of having a name of Raintown in 40 Degs heat. We both had a background of real loving country music. American country contemporary music, That was the thing that was really driving the writing. We actually met with a guy (Gunther Mende or Candy DeRouge) who wrote ‘The Power Of Love’ Jennifer Rush’s and Celine Dion big hit. He was about very much about writing what you know and writing from the heart. All the songs that we like are very story based and conversational in style. There was a natural chemistry in the writing that lead us to do a duet. With that Raintown was born and we decided to come home and pursue that properly”
Where does the name Raintown come from?
It was taken from the name of the 1987 debut album from Scottish pop band Deacon Blue.
Claire McArthur: “When we went to Nashville about 18 months ago we wanted to take a name that worldwide would represent where were from. But not saying “Oh were from Scotland” like names like “Saltire” or something really Scottish and were wearing tartan and were drinking “Irn-Bru” (laughs). So Raintown came from there because Glasgow is referred to as the rain town, because it rains a lot in Glasgow “
They do or did go under the name of Omni it seems (See Myspace)
About their first single “Just One Kiss”
Paul Bain: “It’s about breaking out and taking a risk to do something. It’s being fearless not necessarily without fear but doing it regardless of the fear, and in spite of the fear really forging ahead. For us it was laying down a marker and saying we’re going to do country music although it’s not big in the UK. It’s what we want to do and learn our craft. That is what it’s about chasing a dream and stepping out of your comfort zones”.
The Story of “Just One Kiss” (See video) – Raintown talk about the origins and themes of their debut single.
The second single “Picture Of Us” – The story behind it
Paul Bain: “It’s about those pictures people have on their mantle pieces or sideboards. It’s those moments that couples try and live up to. The happiest moments, whether it’s their engagement party or their wedding photo and a couple continuing to struggle to live up to those images. The song leaves you in the story unsure as to if they will succeed or not “
Claire McArthur: “It’s my favourite on the album”
Paul Bain: “It’s a nice song to perform live and always gets a good reception regardless of where we are performing”
The story behind the track “Love’s Got A Hold Of You”
Claire McArthur: “It’s really fun and upbeat and we wanted to write something to portray our personalities as well. We wanted to show everybody that country music isn’t always about the sad end of things but a story about a relationship when people are in love and the silly things they do. We had fun and a blast recording it”
About the production of HOPE IN TROUBLED TIMES
One of their early works was their song “Hero” which was used in TV advert for Magic Fruit Potions but this was very much a demo.
Paul Bain: “Where we are from that to where we are now, is light years. The production value on it is incredible. We’ve worked really hard at the lyrics and the sound in a very deliberate way as we wanted to show that this kind of music can travel. It is the kind of music that can be Mainstream and can cross over”
They started out with a storyboard of a sound and a vision – “We achieved that by the end of record, we were really proud of it” says Claire.
The songs were written with Greg Friel of Frielance Music who also produced the album. “It was a great experience writing it, a great experience getting it done and now for us to us to play it, is a joy”
Paul Bain: “The three of us have worked very hard creating that sound”
Raintown compose their own material – How do they start to write a song ?
Paul Bain: “There is really a third spoke to Raintown. There’s Greg Friel the producer, whose also the co-writer on the album as well. The three of us come together and ideas come from anywhere. You can walk by someone and they’ll say something or it can be a conversation you’re having with a family member or something you read in the paper.
We come into the studio with that idea and sit down and say we want this style to be slow, a ballad or get people up and ready for a Friday night, they’re going out, they want a party -. Let’s write a song that will get them up there. That’s what we try and do when we sit down and go through a process of going through the melody first and then start writing the lyrics around the skeleton of that. ‘Just One Kiss’ the debut single is written about taking the chances, making decisions, being fearless not necessarily without fear, but with being fearless in living your life. I think people can relate to that right across the board”
For Raintown idea’s come from so many different areas. It can be a conversation or an inspiration or something on TV. They tend to do all the writing in the studio. It’s fairly structured when they go in with an idea.
Paul Bain: “On a day of writing a song you can go in with 2 or 3 ideas and feel about for which one is the best. If someone is really passionate about a particular idea that’s the one we’ll go with. To us it’s irrelevant who comes up with the idea or best lines. What is important is the song itself and the end product and does it say what we set out to say in the first place. A song can take a U turn or an interesting path that you never meant to do and can really add something to it. The song ‘I Won’t Dance Alone’ was a very specific idea whereas something like ‘The Road Never Ends’ or a ‘Picture Of Us’ was allowed to see organically what happens with this song. Let’s keep the foundation the same but let’s see where it grows to. Both of those songs took us down some really interesting avenues that were really proud of. Vulnerability is something we tend to shy away from but it opens up to some really good lyrics. Every idea has merit and any idea is better than nothing on a blank sheet of paper “
Is there a song they or someone else has written that moves them the most?
Paul Bain: ‘I Won’t Dance Alone’ has that about it. It was written after a conversation we had my grandmother whom I lost a few good years ago. Everyone was going to a family party and she basically said “I don’t want to go, I don’t won’t to dance alone anymore” She used to get up and dance and I really miss it and it makes me feel upset. Me and Claire looked at each other and thought there’s a song in there somewhere.
As a song we didn’t write Tim Mcgraw’s ‘If Your Reading This’ the first time I heard that I though that is incredible. It felt like you were in the living room of someone getting that devastating news. If the song can be stripped back to a piano or a guitar and you can still deliver the message than I think the song has its own life”
Raintown say they have a natural love of country music – Where does this come from?
Claire McArthur: “That comes from my grandmother playing Patsy Cline when I was one or two years old. She used to sing, she was a really good singer as well. That is when I started loving country music through Patsy Cline and the likes of Dolly Parton became my idols”
Paul Bain: “My Dad would always play Don Williams In fact I still listen to Don Williams a lot. Charlie Pride, Jim Reeves he was a massive Jim Reeves fan. It’s all those songs that really stick with you because they’re created a story in your head and you’ve created the imagery to go along with the music”
On their website they list: Pink, Brad Paisley, Christina Aguilera, Take That, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts
Paul Bain: “The main influences we take from these guys is that they deliver songs so well. We were blown away when we went down to Nashville and taken round RCA studio B. You see where Jim Reeves recorded and recorded everything live at the same time. That’s now it sounded on the day in the studio, no post production. It just shows how amazing these artists were. It’s also the fact that they can tell stories and that is what we try to convey in our song writing with 3 to 4 minute stories. You take from the giant’s inspiration but you also look around at other styles of music that maybe influenced you. I do like Otis Reading, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett also the pop influences I’ve grown up with. You can look at someone like Queen, incredible harmony and stage presence and really know how to put on a show. We see no problem in looking at someone like that. Lets have a look at their songs- Why were they so good? Let’s look at ways of introducing some of that sound but making it us. Country is at the heart of the whole thing but lets not be afraid to look at the other genres and bring in aspects of those.
You look at the Scottish bands like Deacon Blue, Wet Wet Wet, Hue And Cry, Texas, Sharleen Spiteri even up to Amy McDonald and K T Tunstall. These are all great artists with great music and we just want to be part of that. Keep that tradition going and writing good songs and out there performing live”
How would Raintown describe the type of country music they make?
Paul Bain: “We took the view of very much being influenced by contemporary country music. So you’ve got the likes of Sugarland and Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum but were also massive Pop fans as well. We enjoy pop music like Take That, James Morrison’s and Pink. All those things came taken. Our aim was to take bits of everything that we really liked and work a style and work Raintown around those things”
Claire McArthur: “Pop music is a massive influence as well as American country music. If you could imagine the pop driven melodies of the likes of Pink and merging it in with emotional conversational writing style of country that’s what we wanted Raintown to be”.
How do Raintown get across the politics to country music media and its audience if they say like pop music as well? It’s not going to go down well perhaps?
Paul Bain: “It certainly seems to be the way. What we come up against and I know were not alone in this is “Oh but your not country” or your not “country and western”
I think what a lot of people don’t realise how open the country fans are to new things. I think there’s a misconception that they all want to be listening to 1970’s and 80’s Country and Western. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think what people want is good fresh country music and were not from Nashville were from Glasgow and we don’t have the drawl that Brad Paisley has but then again Keith Urban doesn’t have that he’s from Australia (Note – He is from New Zealand). That’s not to say you can’t be a massive country star and be influenced by other things. You read anything about Brad Paisley, Sugarland and Jennifer Nettles They’re influenced by rock music and that 70’s singer-songwriter style as well. I think country music has always had a thing where it reached out to other styles of music. I think it’s massively underrated as having a real cross-over potential”
Claire McArthur: “We get a lot of people that say is that “We really like you, but you guys aren’t country”, and were like well”
Paul Bain: “It’s a real opportunity now for people to listen to country music and go – “Well that’s what country is about now” – There something fresh about it and relevant to their situation today. I think rightly or wrongly that people view country as something their Mums or Gran or Grandpa’s listened to way back when. That’s just not the case. There are some really relevant artists out there singing relevant about topics. Yes I’d like to think that we’ve introduce people to the likes of Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and acts were just getting to know like Steel Magnolia and Thompson Square. Equally we come against people who say: “Your good but your not country”. I understand the protectiveness of it because there is something to protect there. With the Internet the boundaries are really coming down”
Claire McArthur: “We think there’s room for everybody and every type of country”
Paul Bain: “As soon as you close off possibilities then your missing out. It’s the person closing off the possibility that’s missing out on maybe something really interesting”
If Raintown had the chance to work with other artists on a special song who would they choose?
Paul Bain: “It would be interesting to do something with the Zac Brown Band for the fact of the strong male harmonies and have Claire’s distinctive voice on there. Someone like Miranda Lambert would be phenomenal, or maybe Lady A”
In November 2010 Lee Williams from CMR Nashville lead a British Invasion to Nashville who came in to celebrate the 44th CMA awards and to perform at The International Party on the night before the CMA Awards Tuesday 9thth November at the Cadillac Ranch. Raintown joined other UK acts The Hayley Oliver Band, Alan West Band, “the legendary” Sandy Newman (Marmalade lead singer), David Bradley Band and Emma King and The Heartsets.
In 2010 Raintown performed at 2 festivals in Glasgow. They attended the 2010 Kirkintilloch Canal Festival on 29th August and the BIG KIC Festival, which incorporates the popular Kilsyth International Carnival.
Watch their live performances of ‘Ship Of Fools’ and ‘Loves Got A Hold On You’ on YouTube – Video 1 & Video 2
Paul Bain: “These are big festivals, 20 to 40 thousand people at them. Were really excited about that. We also do a lot of work with the commercial radio stations in central Scotland – Real Radio and Radio Clyde. Were out regularly promoting the music, the single ‘Just One Kiss’ and promote ourselves and let people know that were constantly developing the music and the sound and that it’s radio friendly. It’s not something for Internet use it can be played on the radio. There are a lot of people giving feedback on Facebook after doing gigs. The great thing about social networking – It’s immediate. You get access to that information very quickly. So you know when something is working or whether something needs to be improved. Were out there doing it week in and week out, trying to promote the sound as we go along “
Last year Raintown opened for McDonald Brothers (Craig and Brian) playing to 300 of their fans as a support. (see Video Blog) Remember them? (See Promo Pic) They finished 4th to Leona Lewis in the 3rd series of X Factor. They were the duo mentored by Louis Walsh who Simon Cowell hated until they performed ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) “
Raintown do full band shows and acoustic with just a piano – Do they enjoy both sides of delivering the songs.
Claire McArthur: We dearly love performing the track with a band. A few tracks like ‘The Road Never Ends’ which is absolutely awesome with the whole band sound. It’s just really energetic and up there. And then with a couple of numbers like “Just One Kiss” and “A Picture Of Us” that go really sweet with just a piano or acoustic guitar. The songs actually represent themselves just with acoustic and a backing band”
Paul Bain: “We can apply our songs to various situations, at a smaller event or whether you’re at a big festival. We are really fortunate to work with great musicians who can tailor the sound with the way they play to the actual event”
Raintown perform a version of Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now’. (See it on Youtube)
Is that emotion something that comes naturally to them as performers? There are singers who can sing well technically but not all singers can convey the emotion?
Paul Bain: “We would like to think we put everything into it. We try as singers to go to those places to find that emotion. For me Claire has that really intrinsic naturally ability to deliver a song, with real heartfelt emotion. For me there’s a little more work involved with it. I really have to mentally try and get myself into that space. We’re constantly working on our harmonies and songs and the delivery and just try to make things better for our audience. For us it’s about trying to create that empathy right away, trying to create that sense of I’ve been there, I know exactly what they’re talking about or how they feeling”
Claire McArthur: “Deliver is so important, especially when you are performing live. A song we have on the album ‘I Won’t Dance Alone’ is really personal to both of us. When we tell the story it just captures the audience right away”
Paul Bain: “Songs come from so many different areas and inspirations. The best songs are just those ones are from real heartfelt moments or a real emotion that happened. You’re writing about the emotion, and trying to stay in it while you’re doing the writing. Whether it was physically jumping up and down to get that adrenalin going in the studio or having a chat beforehand about what the songs meant to us to find the right moment and space”
Social networking – Where to find Raintown on the Internet
Claire McArthur: “We’ve been using social networking massively over the years with the likes of Myspace, Bebo and Facebook. It’s been so helpful to us in getting our music out there to different people who may not have heard of our music and have heard us through Facebook”
Website – http://www.raintownmusic.com/
Twitter – http://twitter.com/raintownmusic
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Raintownmusic
Raintown’s Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/RaintownMusicTV
What the media are saying
“Imagine a two-member Lady Antebellum and your pretty much in the right territory.“Further proof, if it were needed, that credible Country music can originate in the UK when the artists have enough talent and the right artistic sensibilities” Pat Geary – Voice of Country (Nashville,Tennessee)
“Their two part harmonies work really well as their vocals complement each other and the songs are pop-orientated in content, with sing-along choruses that would rock a large crowd. Strong vocally and with a hearty band behind them Paul and Claire are the hottest new duo to the country/Americana scene in the UK.” – Laura Bethell, The Maverick Magazine
“Raintown are just what the UK country scene needs. Paul and Claire are full of enthusiasm for what they do, are hugely talented as artists and songwriters, and have the drive, ambition, energy and determination to become successful. They are one of the few UK artists whose music can be played seamlessly alongside the big Nashville-produced country hits of today.”- Allan Watkiss, Presenter (BBC Radio Sheffield / UK Country Radio.com)
“I think Raintown are the hottest new property in British Country Music. They have certainly raised the bar for other Acts to follow. Paul & Claire are a wonderful young couple whose personalities are just as infectious as their music and live performance. It’s obvious that Raintown have an abundance of passion and talent. It’s great to see such a fresh, contemporary duo that is exactly what British Country Music needs today.” – Jackie Storrar, “The Country Café” CMR Nashville
“I was told to look out for an amazing duo in Scotland called Raintown. A few tracks were sent down and I was hooked on their original sound. We have since met and I find them two of the most professional young musicians with the right attitude that is going to give the UK their own hit Country/Americana act in the very near future. ” – Lee Williams, CMR Nashville/DJango Productions