Did you both grow up in a musical household?
I suppose so. Our father plays guitar, piano and sings, and my mother sings as well. Her side of the family were half-Irish, with her father being born to travelling musicians. So music was always around. It started for me with my Dad’s guitar, learning Nirvana songs … Charlotte and our other sister grew up tinkering with the piano, so the house was always pretty noisy.
So when did the idea arise of banding together into a whole group?
We’d always wanted to do it, but the opportunity only really came up earlier this year, as Charlotte finally had some free time. She’s a busy lady! She was still finishing her degree when she started on Fresh Meat Series One, and before that, she’d been balancing her studies with other acting, as well as singing in the group All Angels.
Once she’d finished the first series of Fresh Meat last autumn, she had some time to sing with me, both as a duet, and with the full band. We even got the Angels to sing at one of my gigs, and it’s our live performance of Right Then and There that is now going to be featured on episode four of the upcoming second series of Fresh Meat.
You both come from quite a diverse background, with your parents moving a lot around Europe. Do you both feel any particular identity, especially with the prevailing English themes on The Water’s Edge?
I travelled around Europe quite a bit as I grew up, and it definitely affected my sense of national identity. It took me a long time to really feel English, and I still find the idea of Englishness extremely interesting, being so closely tied up with the legacy of Britain’s empire and colonialism. Those ideas definitely played on my mind when writing several songs on the album – such as Looking Glass, Shanty and Lighthouse.
Luke, you set yourself a target to write a song a week for six months in 2010. What is your songwriting process at the moment? How do you write songs together?
Charlotte and I haven’t written songs together – not yet anyway. I myself am slowly starting to write again, in between all the touring.
It’s always pretty slow, and painful, but I’m gradually making progress. Whereas the first album reflects the solitary, introspective nature of that songwriting process, some newer songs seem to be louder, as I’m writing with the band more, and it naturally changes the writing process. The next album might be a bit more electric, and I keep hearing horns in places.
Was it difficult to choose those songs that eventually ended up on The Water’s Edge?
I had a rough shortlist of 20 songs to choose from, and the producer Paul Savage had a big part in whittling that list down to 11. In fact, after our first meeting, he listened to all 20 demos from the shortlist, and he had a very clear and insightful response to them, identifying those tracks that seemed the freshest and most honest.
It was that personal and focused response to my songs that made me certain he was the right producer to work with. Those 11 tracks that he sketched out over our first phone conversation eventually became the 11 songs on the finished album.
What are your plans for the band after this freshers tour is over?
We have a national tour coming up later in the year, and in the meantime I plan to continue writing. The band have started messing around in the studio a bit, so hopefully we’ll have some new material ready for the festivals next summer. And of course I’m really excited about writing again.
Luke Ritchie’s debut album ‘The Water’s Edge’ is out now.