WARD Thomas are Hampshire sisters Lizzy and Catherine. Touted as one of the first genuine British country acts, the pair play the Empire in Middlesbrough on November 24. Matt Westcott spoke to Lizzy ahead of the gig. Their debut album From ‘Where We Stand’ is out now.

MATT: You have been given the title of Britain’s first country stars? That’s pretty lofty acclaim, how does it sit on your shoulders?

LIZZY: We're very grateful to be included in such a community and along with some very talented people, for example our great friends The Shires and our lovely friend Jess Roberts as well as many more people doing Country music over here.

MATT: How did you end up choosing this path?

LIZZY: We've grown up around country music our whole lives. We grew up on a farm which had a big influence on the style of music we chose. However, it was when we watched the film ‘Walk the Line’ and heard the Dixie Chicks that we immediately knew we wanted to write songs like this and make a career out of it.

MATT: Tell me about how you got your demo ‘Footnotes’ heard in Nashville?

LIZZY: We had a singing teacher at our sixth form college who was a session singer in Nashville for a few years. She heard our song 'Footnotes' and sent it to her friends Bobby Blazier and Chris Rodriguez, who are both producers and session players out in Nashville. It all went from there.

MATT: Were you prepared for any possible criticism of taking on a style so rooted in American culture?

LIZZY: Of course we are always prepared for criticism. But we just love this genre so much and feel strongly about how it helps us tell our own stories from our lives that we saw no other path. We feel like we have put our own spin on the American cultural music style and wanted to show it in our own British way.

MATT: Do you regard yourselves as new age Country and Western or traditionalists for want of a better phrase?

LIZZY: We think there are so many different versions of country music out now. We feel that a lot of the modern country music has many influences from those traditional elements. So I would say we maybe fall into a new area of country music as we write some of our songs in the traditional country music style - for example 'Footnotes' - mixing our influences from modern country music and our influences from a completely different culture coming from England.

MATT: Do you look across the Atlantic for inspiration for your songs or can you find that here?

LIZZY: We have spent a lot of time in Nashville so of course we have a lot of influences from over there with our new songs. However, all the songs written on our album – ‘From Where We Stand’ - are all influenced by our lives over here in the UK.

MATT: How does your relationship with your sister work? Who is in charge?

LIZZY: Ha,ha. We generally swap around depending on the situation. For example, when it comes to sense of direction I take charge and when it comes to organizing a social outing Catherine takes charge.

MATT: How is the tour with the Shires going?

LIZZY: We are all already having the best time! The first few nights went down very well and it's great fun doing this whole tour with good friends because we always have a laugh and its always great fun to collaborate musically. For example, we have been doing a joint encore at the end of the night.

MATT: What are your plans for the coming year?

LIZZY: We look forward to another single release, and have plenty of plans for the new year, including more touring, writing and recording. We can't wait to get started!