Music is supposed to make you feel. A Different Thread reminds you to let your emotions flow.
British-American folk duo Robert Jackson and Alicia Best have been touring the UK and US non-stop for the last couple of years. Their band, A Different Thread, has made waves in the folk scene over the past few years, winning the Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s Open Mic Competition and releasing two back to back EP’s in 2017.
The duo’s 70s inspired style is instantly distinguishable from the more pop-centric folk one is prone to hear nowadays. They are back to basics folk rockers; a welcome break from the current folk trend. You may have heard them most recently on Frank Stasio’s show on NPR, an experience Best describes as “a treat!”.
Their newest single, Rosa Rosa, is a moving tribute to those struggling with inner demons. The song is a testament to hope and friendship; uplifting and sad all at once.
I was truly inspired by the song and listen to it several times to bask in it’s full effect.
It’s plucky, it’s haunting, and it never hits a false note. Rosa Rosa is one of those rare folk songs that has the capacity to live past its time. The vocals are soft and comforting while expertly converting an inner sadness. Even if folk isn’t your thing, I strongly urge you to give Rosa, Rosa a listen.
Two Story Melody recently sat down with these intrepid folk songsters. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did the two of you meet?
Robert: We met while busking in Galway, on the Atlantic coast of Ireland. Alicia walked past me holding an instrument and I asked her if she wanted to play fiddle with me…
Alicia: I said, “…it’s a ukulele”, and Robert asked “well, do you sing?” As soon as our voices locked in harmony I was like “OK. This is the good stuff”!
Robert: We must have sang there for three hours before stopping. And the rest, as they say, is history!
What was the inspiration behind ‘Rosa, Rosa’?
Alicia: Some of my friends when I was a teenager were struggling with depression. When they turned to self harming their parents would “ground” them, and isolate them, preventing them from reaching out to their support networks. I wanted to show my friends that there are other ways to handle (depression). There are people that you can lean on.
How would you describe the song?
Alicia: A hopeful plea to someone who doesn’t think they have options, like I see you’re in this dark place, and I don’t know when the light is coming, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and until then I’ve got you, I’m here with you dark, and it’s ok.
What is your songwriting process like, generally?
Alicia: Our songwriting process varies from song to song. We have very different approaches. These days I usually ruminating over an story or feeling until I have a clear idea of what I want to write about. Then I make up the words and melody simultaneously.
Robert: For me it usually comes out of the blue, like listening to a distant radio, I can almost hear the words but I can usually get the melody straight away and with it comes a feeling, usually a yearning feeling, then I pick up the guitar and play the melody I heard. I then put some chords to the melody and then I kind of slot the words in around it, depending on what the mood or feeling is, or what my surroundings or situation are at the time.
What was the writing process like for Rosa Rosa?
Alicia: The hook “Rosa Rosa don’t get the gun” just came to me when I was on a family road trip. I didn’t write a song with it right away, but (the hook) haunted me. Two years later I took a couple of guitar lessons and wrote the rest of the song. This is not typically how I write songs but, like I said, each song requires a different approach.
You are each from such different places with such distinct musical styles. Does that fact influence how you approach music?
Robert: We like to mix it up…that sweet spot where English folk and Americana meets is a very exciting place to us. We both enjoy learning traditional songs from both the US and the UK, Alicia actually taught me an old English song shortly after we met and I taught her a traditional American one.
Alicia: The hardest thing about it is when we’re harmonising on words like “Can’t” or “water” you can really hear the difference in our accents!
How did you find writing your debut album? Many artists struggle with that.
Robert: The most difficult part was figuring out how to cut out the parts of the songs that weren’t necessary and to edit them all down to fit on a 44 minute vinyl record! Recording was a real challenge, we laid down 11 tracks in 10 days! It was intense!
How much of the album marketing do you do yourselves?
Robert: Yeah, we’re entirely self managed.
Do you find that difficult?
Robert: For me, staying on top of the marketing and admin is the most challenging part of the job.
Alicia: I kind of like the booking and promo side of things, but I am so grateful for Robert’s skills with poster making and photoshop!
Where do you see your career in five years?
Robert: We would love to have a few more albums under our belt, and continue to tour internationally, we’d like to have a regular circuit in the US and UK!
Alicia: Slow and steady, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. Growing together, finding other collaborators, and making music that we are passionate about.