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Dexeter On ‘4000 Miles To Nashville’, The Road To C2C 2015 And Their Rising Stars – Interview

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By Vickye Fisher

Dexeter’s performance at the C2C Festival in March 2015 was, to all intents and purposes, a life-changing moment for the band. Surrounded by an overwhelming crowd of around six hundred people, far removed from the rest of the pop-up stages, it was their crowning achievement of an amazing year that had kicked off at that very festival a year before. Spurred on by a band line-up change, the release of mini-album ‘Brighter Skies’ and a plethora of festival gigs and support slots for the best in the business (Lindsay Ell, The Shires, Ward Thomas, Sasha McVeigh, Sonia Leigh, Honey Ryder and Hannah Jane Lewis, to name a few), Dexeter have gone from strength to strength on the UK country scene. Now, with the release of their second (and first full-length) album ‘4000 Miles To Nashville’ on the horizon, and a coinciding launch show set for July 3rd at celebrated venue The Barfly, there’s no chance of things slowing down for the band that still works full-time day jobs in addition to their burgeoning music careers. I caught up with them as they went to put the finishing touches on the new record, about the events that led them to this moment, partnering with Think Country Promotions, the streaming debate, what’s coming up for them and much more.

dex 1 Photo by Amy Westney

Vickye: I wanted to start with C2C. What a magical moment!

Dee: I know! I still can’t believe the response we got from that, it was just overwhelming – there was so many people there! We were literally expecting like six people, and then half of them we thought it would be Annette [their manager] and our parents or something! (laughs) There was just loads of people there, I think about six hundred people they’re saying. So it’s pretty cool.

Vickye: Wow…!

Dee: I know. (laughs) We didn’t really know what to expect last year when we went, but we knew exactly what was gonna happen this year. We were so excited – partied a little too hard the night before! We’ve learnt our lesson! But yeah, it was just an incredible weekend.

Vickye: What were the crowds like for you in C2C in 2014?

Dee: To be honest that was actually only our third gig or something like that. Third official gig, and I was so terrified the whole way through that I don’t actually remember what the crowds were like! (laughs) But I think we had a few that actually came to see us last year, that came again to see us this year. But we had a better stage last year as well I think, it was the one that’s by the escalators in the centre [Music Mile Stage].

Vickye: Were the rest of the band jealous when they found out how amazing it had gone and they weren’t there?

Dee: What this year? Well I think everybody actually came along. Yeah, everyone was there it’s just obviously Jim couldn’t play, but he was standing at the side looking all proud at us.

Vickye: Aside from your own performance, what did you think of the festival this year?

Dee: I loved it! I loved every second. Like I said a minute ago we weren’t really sure what to expect last year, so we turned up for our set, stayed around for a few hours and then we went home, we didn’t really get a chance to see that many of the bands and stuff. But this year we went to see loads of people. And we actually had tickets for the Sunday evening and we got to see Lady Antebellum again, who were insane. That was really good, and we obviously caught The Shires and Ward Thomas playing the Satellite Stage, which was cool. If they need anyone to do that next year, I’m sure we’ll be alright…

Vickye: (laughs) Did you have any other favourites from the main stage or the pop-ups?

Dee: From the pop-ups… I really liked Fitzwallace actually. I’d not really seen them before and I felt they were a standout for me, I really enjoyed them. Main stage was definitely Lady Antebellum. Oh and Pauper Kings! They were really good.

Vickye: So your success at C2C was really just the icing on the cake of what is a pretty amazing year. I was looking through all of the things you’ve done over the course of the last twelve months – it started off with the release of ‘Brighter Skies’. When was that?

Dee: We actually released it on Country to Country day last year. We’d already done ‘Brighter Skies’ before, there was four tracks on it originally which we released in 2012. And then we added a couple of songs to that and sent it out as a mini-album, which was March 2014.

Vickye: How did that record come together? You said that you got the first four tracks then the other two tracks – was it you really deciding to gig more that made you put the two other tracks on it?

Dee: We released the first one with a different line-up, our band was totally different. Different members and stuff. And then it all kind of ended for a while and we all went our separate ways for a few months. Then Gareth phoned me to see if we wanted to start things back up again – so that was Gareth, myself and the drummer, Jim. We were the originals. Then we had a few auditions for a bass player and the accordion player who’s not with us anymore. As we had new members and stuff we had a couple of new songs, we just thought it’d be nice to release something. And so yeah, we put the two together. Cause we hadn’t done a great deal with ‘Brighter Skies’ at that point anyway, so it would have been a shame to waste it.

brighter skies

You can buy Brighter Skies on iTunes

Vickye: Were you surprised at the reaction to it, particularly after C2C? Or was it more relief that people understood where you were coming from musically?

Dee: Yeah, I mean I don’t think you can ever expect how much people enjoy it. (laughs) I don’t know – it’s crazy to think we’ve actually got real fans now. That’s what I call the real fans! But I actually think the next album is more terrifying than the first one, because we just didn’t know what to expect before, so the fact that everyone liked it was a bonus. But with the new one, we’ve got people expecting huge things, so that’s a bit more scary!

Vickye: Do you think that that fear about it was informing you as you were putting it together, like the pressure to make a song really good?

Dee: Yeah I think so. Gareth and I we’re perfectionists when it comes to stuff like this anyway, like we can’t just leave things until we’re totally totally happy with it. For example, one of the songs on the new album – it was recorded, and then we decided to change the key, so it had to all be re-done! Which is something that happens quite a lot! (laughs) But it just has to be right. I think we’ll always be like that, it’s who we are.

Vickye: So you’ve been playing all over the place in the last twelve months, like festivals and you’ve got places like the Borderline in London. How did some of those opportunities come about?

Dee: Well actually, we’ve got a lot of thanks to Jeannine Barry for our first London gig. She played at the Garage last year and she asked us to come support her for that show. So that’s what started it off really, and then just since then we just try and get on as many as we can. To get out there, get out in London and try and build up our fanbase. So to have our own album launch there in July, our first headline show in London is just crazy.

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Vickye: You’ve supported on tour, like Sasha McVeigh, Honey Ryder, Ward Thomas, The Shires, and Lindsay Ell… it’s quite a few people!

Dee: I know, there’s loads of them isn’t there! Actually when I first met The Shires it was at Yeehaw festival, and they’re the only ones that I’ve met that I was actually really starstruck by when I saw them! (laughs) So then to be asked to play for them was really cool. But I love doing the support shows because you get to have all the fun and there’s not so much pressure, because it’s not your show to sell out! So it was great fun doing the Ward Thomas and The Shires tour, I think that’s been my favourite one so far.

Vickye: Is it hard sometimes to warm up the crowd maybe if you’re opening?

Dee: Yeah, it’s something that I struggle with, and I’m learning, I’m getting better, but luckily I have Gareth who loves all that kind of stuff, he loves the crowd. That’s all I need, I just let him do his thing! He gets everyone going.

Vickye: Has it been difficult with you both having day jobs, to be travelling all over the country?

Dee: Yeah, oh gosh it’s really really difficult! We don’t like to moan too much about it, because you know it’s great fun at the same time, but it is pretty tiring. We drove back from Preston once – I think it was about four in the morning or something that we got home, and then we had to get up for work the next day. So that was quite tiring, but hey, hopefully it won’t be forever!

Vickye: So Gareth’s a teacher, what do you do?

Dee: I work in an office.

Vickye: Ahh okay. Do both [employers] know exactly what you’re doing, are they quite supportive of that?

Dee: Yeah! Yeah, I think so. My boss is brilliant! He loves it, he’s always watching all my videos, he likes to check out my wardrobe before I have a show! (laughs) I normally get my clothes delivered to the office so he can vet what looks good and what doesn’t! You know he tries to come up with locations for our music videos and stuff.

Vickye: (laughs) That’s really cool! So, the new album is ‘4000 Miles To Nashville’ – was that name inspired by a certain blog? (laughs)

Dee: It might have been! Yeah, Steve Riley, we love him. We met him shortly after Country to Country last year, I think Gareth had been speaking to him previously prior but we didn’t actually catch up with him there. But then a few months later we were playing a gig at Rockingham Festival and Steve came along to that, and ever since he’s been a great friend to us and he’s helped us out a lot, so we thought it’d be a nice thing to do. And it’s true, it is actually that many miles from our house to Nashville. It’s brilliant, we’ve just stolen it! I think he’s flattered, so that’s good.

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Vickye: I was a little bit confused about the release date, because you’re playing the release show in July, but [it was previously] May.

Dee: Yeah it’s gonna be July now, that’s the official release date.

Vickye: Ahh okay, so what was behind the decision to push it back?

Dee: Just basically it’s taking a bit longer, and we wanna make sure it’s right. Then obviously we’ve got the launch show, that was like the first Friday we had available I think! To book it in. The fact that we all have jobs as you say, and we do all the recording ourselves – Gareth and Paul they produce the album and we don’t go to any professional studios as such – so it’s just sort of getting in when we can. We’re trying to cram it all in now. Me and Gareth have got a couple of sessions booked this week and next week, so hopefully get it finished!

Vickye: So when did you first sit down to start work on this album?

Dee: We started recording 22nd November. But I think we were playing a couple of the songs before that – yeah, we’ve been playing ‘Older’ out at shows for quite a long time now. But that’s only really a couple of them. The rest of them Gareth’s written and just brought them to the studio. We’ve learnt them, had a few rehearsals and stuff and then we’ve been recording them straight away. So it’s hard to say exactly how long, because we definitely played ‘Older’ at festivals last year.

Vickye: So that’s gonna be on the new record.

Dee: That’s gonna be on the new record, ‘Slow It Down’s gonna be on it as well, which obviously we have a video for. But then the rest of them are new. And everyone will love them!

Vickye: (laughs) I’m sure! What are some of your favourite songs on the record?

Dee: My favourite song – ah, we haven’t actually decided on the title yet, so I can’t tell my favourite song. Gareth’s favourite is called ‘Meet Me There’ which is gonna be the single.

Vickye: So when does the single get released?

Dee: June the 12th! That’s what we’re gonna do. And probably a double A side actually, we’ve got a professional piano version of ‘Older’ that’s gonna be on it as well.

Vickye: Oh, are you gonna have a video for that?

Dee: We’re thinking about it at the moment, obviously it’s money and stuff like that. We’d like to have a video but we’re just gonna see how it goes, see if we can rustle up enough funds. It’s just finding the time! But the two tracks are gonna be totally different, I mean ‘Meet Me There’ is very commercial, a country pop kind of thing, and then ‘Older’ is a ballad really.

Vickye: How is ‘4000 Miles To Nashville’ different than ‘Brighter Skies’ musically? How has your sound evolved?

Dee: I think it’s totally different to the first EP, I think it’s totally different. But I think Gareth being the main songwriter as well, he has listened to a lot of different stuff since then. It still sounds like Dexeter but I think as a band we’ve definitely grown and become more aware of other artists in the country genre. It’s easy to take little bits from everyone – we love Lady Antebellum, I think there’s some influences from that in the new album. I think at the start there’s one of the songs which is my favourite, which I can’t tell you the name for yet cause we haven’t got it – but that’s very Miranda Lambert. Cause at the time when that was written she’d just released ‘Somethin’ Bad’, so that’s definitely a bit Miranda. It’s a bit more rocky that tune.

Vickye: What was the kind of music that you were listening to growing up?

Dee: Growing up, I can’t say that I was a huge country fan. When I was growing up I was very much into the charts and pop and all of that, as you do. But Gareth’s been listening to country forever – and also metal, he’s in a metal band! (laughs) But yeah, unfortunately I was definitely one of these R&B/pop girls when I was growing up!

Vickye: So how did you get into country?

Dee: It was Gareth really! We have a shared playlist on Spotify and he just puts loads of stuff in there and makes me listen to everything.

Vickye: Fair enough! That’s one way to do it.

Dee: Exactly! I’m getting there, I’m learning.

Vickye: So what else have you got coming up this year aside from the new album?

Dee: We’re gigging a lot throughout July and August, festivals and stuff like that. We’re going to Midwinterfest again, loads of stuff. We’ve got a lot of stuff coming up in London, we’re doing a show with Paul Carella at the Borderline… we’re going to San Antone festival again, which was great fun last year. I think that’s everything, it’s hard to know what we can and can’t say! Annette will tell us off!

Vickye: I was gonna say – Annette’s now your manager. How did you come to start working with her?

Dee: It was a strange one really, because we’ve always got along well with Annette. She supported our Pledge campaign that we’ve done – we’ve done that for both albums actually. But for this last one she supported us for that. She came to see us at Midwinterfest earlier in the year and we were just chatting to her and stuff, and she was like you guys need to get a manager, and we were like okay, can that be you? (laughs) And she just sort of agreed to it! It’s just working really well. Annette knows lots of people so she’s great. She’s not scary like a lot of music managers, she’s just nice.

Vickye: So really quickly, I wanted to get your thoughts on streaming, because it’s such a hot topic at the moment. Where do you weigh in on Spotify, YouTube, Pandora etc?

Dee: We’re on Spotify. Me and Gareth use Spotify for everything all the time. And Deezer… I don’t know, I’m not every technical! Gareth doesn’t mind streaming either, so there you go. He’s saying it needs to be paid fairly, but the access is good.

Vickye: Have you heard about Tidal, the new service that Jay-Z has launched?

Dee: Oh yes I did hear about that actually, the other day! [Mumford & Sons] were in the news the other day moaning about it. [silence, while she speaks to Gareth] Gareth wants to know if Jay-Z’s gonna pay us properly.

Vickye: Well that’s the idea I think, because there’s no free streaming there’s just two tiers which is like ten dollars a month and twenty dollars a month. I think that most artists get equity in the business so I’m not sure what the actual numbers are supposed to be in comparison to Spotify but the idea is to pay the artists better.

Dee: I don’t know, it’s hard for us to comment on things like that, about music fees and things like that, because a lot of the time we don’t get paid for anything! (laughs) Oh, we made $67 from iTunes recently, apparently! Yeah that’s the kind of [money] we’re talking about right now so it doesn’t really affect us a great deal.

Vickye: Do you hope that in the near or even slightly distant future that you’ll be able to make some good money from your music?

Dee: Yeah, I’d love to. I mean it’s not necessarily about the money side of it, but it’s doing it for a living. That’s what we’d like to do. I mean Gareth would love to sell out stadiums and stuff, I’d be absolutely terrified! Just to be able to do this full time, and go on tour, tour without having to get up to go to work four hours after we get home! And then Gareth would have more time with the writing and stuff like that, everything would be less rushed. That’s really the dream, but we’ll see. We’re doing everything we can.

Vickye: Step by step.

Dee: Yeah. The Shires are on tour at the moment and I’m really jealous that they have a tour bus! I want a tour bus! That’s the aim. And if we could tour America that’d be insane.

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Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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