The Rails are husband and wife folk duo Kami Thompson and James Walbourne. The pair met while they were both working on a solo album from Kami’s mother, legendary folk musician Linda Thompson, but their careers both separately and together are a who’s-who of the folk and rock scene. We caught up with the pair ahead of their visit to The Musician this September as part of their tour supporting new record Other People – a follow up to their acclaimed debut Fair Warning.
Your new record ‘Other People’ is out soon. Is there a marked departure in sound from your previous releases?
Kami: Yes, with the first album we set out to make a pure folk record but this time we’ve allowed ourselves to just write and record without parameters. It’s definitely resulted in a heavier sound.
James: We cut it very quickly in Nashville with the producer Ray Kennedy. He’s known for working with Steve Earle and Lucinda Willliams among others. It’s a far more personal record than the last one.
It’s been a fair few years since your debut – did you feel like you needed the time to make this record or have other things been in the way?
Kami: I think three years is about right between records. You release the album, tour it for a year and a half, recover for six months, then write and record the next one. We definitely did have some down time to reset though. And we moved house. And got a new rescue cat!
James: We toured a lot and released an acoustic EP that I’m proud of during that time. I also had a lot of Pretenders shows over the last 18 months so sometimes we need to work around those things.
Why the switch in label for ‘Other People’?
Kami: Our deal with Island Records was for just one album. We were then asked by Sony/Red (now The Orchard) if we wanted to set up our own imprint (Psychonaut Sounds) so jumped at the chance. It’s given us more freedom which is good.
James: It was great having the Island imprint and to re-use the original pink label for our first release but at the end of day we found the whole thing very corporate.
Kami, it’s inevitable that you are compared to your parents, and you’ve been quoted as referencing the parallels yourself. Do you find that frustrating, or is it nice to have those connections drawn?
Kami: I don’t find it frustrating at all. If I was doing something wildly different, then it would be silly, but we’re all in the same field making music so it’s natural that people draw comparisons. I’m very proud of my parents’ work and just hope I do the name justice.
How do you find the experience of working closely with your partners in the studio and on the road?
Kami: It can be really challenging. We spend 24/7 together a lot of the time and it can be difficult to delineate the boundaries between home life and work life. We reckon that we’ve probably spent as many hours together in five years as some couples who’ve been married for 25 years. We’re just lucky that, for the most part, we get on incredibly well.
James: Sometimes it can be trying for sure. I guess you find ways of making it work so it doesn’t interfere with your non musical life. It’s good to keep them separate when possible.
The Rails play Leicester’s The Musician on Tuesday 12th September. Tickets are available now.
Photography by Jill Furmanovsky