Dynamic girl/boy duo, Cross Atlantic, have been causing quite a stir ( in a good way!) opening for Brandy Clark on her current UK tour. Their writing and harmonies have been truly impressive, both are more than capable of lead vocals and they have a great stage presence. Missouri raised Karli and UK’s James met by chance over two years ago in a Nashville coffee shop and they are now based in music city, and with James’ visa finally approved they can now really begin to pursue their shared dream. Definitely ones watch out for, they kindly agreed to an interview backstage at London’s stunning Union Chapel before the first of their two shows there.
Lesley I’ve gleaned a bit of background information on you both from what you’ve been saying during your sets ( I was at the Brighton and Bristol shows) and your website https://www.crossatlanticmusic.net…Karli, you moved to Nashville from Missouri, were you writing and performing back there and what prompted the move?
Karli I have a very musical family, in Missouri we had our own Opry show every Saturday night and I was up on the stage there from two years old! I have a little sister and our older cousin sang as well, we were called The Little Chicks because our favourite band was the Dixie Chicks. We did that every week til i was ten or eleven…..I honestly fell in love with it at four or five and I knew that was what I wanted to do forever! I started playing guitar when I was thirteen, I actually started on violin when I was six, then when I went to middle school I picked up the saxophone and played in a jazz band but then I got really into the guitar. I started writing songs and told my parents i wanted to be in Nashville and luckily enough my parents actually met in Nashville, they were both singers and wanted to be superstars and had always talked to me about it and I felt that was where I needed to be! At the time I looked up to Taylor Swift and I knew she’d moved there. My Dad started looking for jobs there when I was fifteen, and the whole family relocated and I finished high school there.
Lesley…….and James, all he way from the UK to Nashville, were you on holiday there when you two met?
James Well I went over with my best friend, we’d been playing music together since we were ten years old but were sick of the London rat race. We were sat in a pub one day and I said “ let’s go to Nashville….” and he called me up a week later and said “I’m in!” . So we left our jobs and went there for a couple of months, exploring and having fun, we played a few open mics and soaked up the atmosphere. We got a bit of attention from some publishers, so when we got back to the UK I said to him that we needed to get back out there, but he didn’t feel he could do that so I had to decide if I should go back, would anyone be interested with me on my own? But I did go back, and within a week of being there Karli and I met in a coffee shop!
Lesley I love that, it’s like a movie!
James Yes! We did some song writes together, we weren’t writing for a duo, we were just writing. I went back to the UK and produced all our demos, sent them back to Karli and she gave me a call and said “ I think we should be a duo”! We got some attention from a manager who had been following Karli’s career for a while who said to her “ that is what you need to be doing”. So we went for it and that’s how I ended up in Nashville, but there was a lot of back and forwards before I finally got my visa! It took a year and a half!
Karli I was back in Nashville just waiting ….
James Yes it took a lot of patience and that’s how we know what we’re doing is worth it
Lesley As Lindsay Ell says. “Worth the Wait”!
Lesley Wow!! Have you written any songs about your journey so far?
Karli Yes, there’s a bit of influence from our lives in our songs!
James We like to mould it into something universal, we don’t write literally. But there’s lots of bits and pieces in all our story! Our song Drive, I’d just had some bad news about my visa and I sat down at the piano and just spilled out the first verse starting with “ The night is always darkest before the dawn…” it all just poured out of me.
Lesley And your musical influences, Karli you’ve already mentioned The Dixie Chicks and Taylor, so you’re really rooted in the country genre?
Karli Oh yeah, growing up in Missouri that’s what you grew up listening to! At the shows we played Dad was always singing George Strait, Mom Patsy Cline.
Lesley James, what about you?
James When I moved to Nashville I actually discovered the music I’d been making was country music, tho when I first went I didn’t particularly know what country was! I’d have known it here as singer/songwriter, I never knew what its place was in the UK. I grew up on classic rock music but my dad always had film soundtracks on in the car and all that weirdly influences our sound…..
Karli Yes you’ll hear that in the recordings that James produces….strings….
James We have angles coming from all kinds of places
Karli It just kinda works!
Lesley Do you ever write with other people?
James Yes we like to bring in a third party as much as possible
Karli Yeah it brings something new to the table
James We have our preferred people but then we meet other people and they become a preferred person as well!
Lesley Is there anyone you dream of writing with? ,
Karli Well actually Brandy Clark, she’s an incredible songwriter, it doesn’t get much better than her lyrics!
Lesley I’ve heard people comparing you to The Shires and Striking Matches…..how would you describe your sound?
James Hey we will take those comparisons but I don’t think we’re like anyone else, obviously those comparisons happen as we have the male/female thing going .
The one we get a lot and I agree with to some degree as they’ve been a big influence on us, is “Fleetwood Mac meets country” .
Lesley Ah….yes, you do a cover of theirs at the end of your set (“Go Your Own Way”)
Lesley And is this your first visit to the UK, Karli?
Karli I went to Guernsey, where James is from last year, but this is my first time in England
Lesley And what a dream introduction to the UK, getting invited to open for Brandy!
Karli Yes we didn’t think it would be possible so soon in our career, so we’ve very, very grateful.
James When you hear about something like this, you can’t announce it straight away as all the pieces have be put in place so we couldn’t say anything for a few weeks!
Lesley And you’ve had a great reception, I haven’t heard such a fantastic reaction to an unknown opening act for a long time…..saying that, in Brighton there was someone who knew one of your songs!
Karli That’s always an amazing feeling, as an opening act you feel that no one’s there for you, to see them singing along that just means the world!
Lesley I hope that this makes you want to come back, maybe for a headline tour?
Karli Oh for sure, this has been amazing
James I never thought that would be possible at this stage but given the reception we’ve had I actually think we could pull that off!
Lesley Maybe for c2c?
James We’s love to play c2c, it may be too early in our career for them to want us next year …
Karli But as soon as we get the invitation!!
Lesley You’ve released two singles so far, independently, ” Mercy” and “Get Back to Me”……
Karli Yes they were our way of introducing us as a duo
James Entirely us, no one else involved, we did the whole recording process. “Mercy” got incredible backing from CMT.
Lesley So hopefully there’s plans for an EP or album?
James It will be an EP first, we want to do it as soon as possible, we have enough songs and people keep asking us about that!
Karli Hopefully next year!
James Yes if it was just down to us as artists we’d just record the songs and put it out but it’s a business and we have to have a few conversations with a few people….
Lesley So what does the rest of the year hold for you when you get back home?
Karli We’re actually moving into our first place together on Nov 1st so we’re keeping busy!
James Yes we like to keep busy on the personal and the band front!
Karli We do a charity event for the hurricane in Houston in Nashville when we get back and then we go to Virginia, then it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas!
Lesley Oh you’ll have your own place so you’ll need to put a Christmas tree up!
Karli My goodness we’ll have to get a Christmas tree!
Lesley Absolutely, it’s the law!
Lesley Have you got any message for any UK fans you’ve made over here?
Karli Oh man, we just really appreciate you coming out and supporting us
James Yes i’d just like to say thank you to them all, seriously
Karli Yes, for being so kind and wanting to meet us afterwards
James That means the world, when people come back and talk to us…
I said to Karli before we came over, British audience in the past to me are normally a little more reserved than the Americans, but they have been the loudest crowds we’ve played to all year!
Karli Yes, that applause are “Mercy” the first night was just phenomenal!
James That’s what we do what we do, we just want people to enjoy themselves!
Lesley Well I definitely enjoyed seeing you, and look forwards to you returning here very soon!
Thanks for your time and enjoy the rest of the tour!
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings