Belfast's The Rising are a perfect example of a band born out of not just musical passion but sheer persistence. When Chris Logan won UK Musician of the Year, the music world watched and awaited his next move. That came in the shape of EXIT, a hard indie rock band that fitted the time and scene that surrounded it. Despite critical acclaim coming from all corners of the industry, they walked away from the easy route to international superstardom to reinvent themselves in accordance with their own musical taste. As The Rising they released their debut album Coming Home last year and are shortly returning to London's o2 for this year's Country2Country. We caught up with Chris to find out what the band are currently upto.

The Rising rose out of the ashes of EXIT. What did you learn from EXIT that you have applied to The Rising?

Well, as EXIT we had good success with things like getting great reviews in the likes of KERRANG! and great some great gigs. So we are all grateful for that experience and what we achieved. However, at the time the music climate was all very hard rock, alt-rock and indie based so we were trying to fit into that scene. Whilst we were all listening to more Country, Americana and pop based music. Likewise, the songs were written naturally as Country/Americana/Pop songs. It was only after that we would then get into a rehearsal room and literally force them into becoming harder edged rock songs. It was madness, eventually something had to give. It felt as if we were lying to ourselves by taking perfectly good songs and sand-blasting them into a form that we thought would fit a certain demographic. We simply weren’t letting the songs do all the work.

So this was a critical lesson that we learnt. The idea that the song is king and should be respected as such. Doesn’t matter if the guitarist can play 100 notes a second, singer can hit whistle notes or that the drummer’s drum kit is so big that it has its own postcode. Our focus became more about the song than the individuals in the band. This is one of the reasons we will never introduce the individual band members onstage. We feel that the band is not a bunch of individuals, but a whole entity that's greater than the sum of the parts.

The change came about after seeking a musical identity closer to your own musical tastes. Who would you cite as your key influences?

Well it goes without saying we are heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen. With the band name coming from an album that we all loved. Other key influences are Keith Urban, Needtobreathe, Eagles, Dierks Bentley, Tyler Hilton, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum.

Your band name is a clear Springsteen reference. As an artist he has achieved success that redefines genre boundaries. Do you believe that genre classification is only needed in the early stages of artistry?

Yes and no. The ‘Yes’ part is because in order to identify your initial fanbase, your music must be marketed to the correct demographic and people who identify with that genre. But once you establish a fanbase I firmly believe that an artist you should then begin to challenge that fanbase. As musicians we are always absorbing influence from all avenues possible be in Country, Pop, Rock, R&B or whatever. Be it a drum beat, synth sound or production ideas. I believe its very dangerous to write music in a vacuum. The song should be the important thing and once a song is born its almost like a living thing that takes on a life of its own and it becomes obvious what treatment that song needs. I know a few song writers who have thrown away perfectly good songs because they don’t fit a certain genre that they were trying to fit into. An artist should always take risks, if they spend their whole lives basically re-writing the same album it would get boring for the fans as well as the artist.

If we take Springsteen as a reference point. As you say, he is known for challenging his fanbase. For example, he released a massively successful album that spawned several her singles in ‘The River’. The most natural approach would be to follow that winning formula and churn out the hit records on the next album. However, he didn’t, he released a stark, atmospheric acoustic based album that he recorded himself on a 4 track machine. It wasn’t until the following album that he went back to the hit formula in ‘Born In The USA’. This means that his fans just don’t know what they are going to get from album to album, which keeps it fresh.

If we take that into modern day. Taylor Swift is another example. Primarily a Country songwriter, she has evolved album to album, never changing the same way twice. I think her next album will be very exciting, after the world conquering 1989. I expect that she may release a more stripped back acoustic/songwriter album next.

I do believe the way things are in today’s music industry that genre classification will become a thing of the past. With people listening to such a wide variety of music today in playlist form, perhaps music is becoming appreciated for what it is… if its a good song, its a good song. Doesn’t matter what genre the song may be.

Your debut album Coming Home marries your rock sensibilities with a pop appeal and country undertone. Was that intentional?

Yes it was. Coming Home is perhaps best described as a snapshot of where the band was during the transitional period. As the principle songwriter in the band I can reveal that the album was designed to be in almost two parts, i.e. where we are going and where we have been. So the first 6 songs are more based around Country, Pop with a focus on the storytelling in the lyric. The remainder of the album is almost like tipping our hats to the past. With more musically challenging songs, use of atmospheric layers and an alternative edge to the music.

In the band we all love the beauty of a great pop song, so, this is why all of the songs on the album have a strong pop focus, big sing along chorus and lots of hook elements. This even applies to the longest song on the album, which is a musically challenging seven minute piece of music that is painfully constructed. But, despite this the song also has a chorus that anyone can sing along to.

You will see in our next release that all the pieces will come together to form a more definite foot in a certain genre camp.

The album has been out for over a year now - what have been the highs and lows post release?

We are all very proud of the album, so even getting the album out and gaining major distribution on that album was a major high point. As it took allot of work to get it there. It never gets old when you walk into a record store in another country and see your album on the shelves. Other high points include hearing the singles on the radio, including the likes of Radio 2 with the likes of Graham Norton supporting the release. Likewise, doing a session live on BBC Radio London with Gaby Roslin was also a major high point and pretty surreal. We’ve also got some great press reviews and fan feedback.

Low points are few and far between, because even the low points all led to something good around the corner. But, I suppose a major low point would be the realisation that you have lost more money than you made was a down to earth with a bump moment. But its all part of the growing a career. Most people don’t see the sheer amount of hard work that goes into getting your music out there.

You will be appearing at this year's Country 2 Country and have supported Ward Thomas, The Shires and Jess and the Bandits to date - would you say country is where The Rising feel most at home?

Absolutely, especially modern country which features pop/rock elements. Despite being raised on country music with steady diet of Cash, Haggard, Campbell, Eagles, John Denver etc what really draws me and indeed the rest of the band to country is its emphasis on songwriting. We love the idea that in country music you can say things you may not be able to say in many other genres and really develop a narrative storyline in a song.

I know that today there are allot of arguments of ‘what is country’, ‘Bro-Country” etc. But most of these arguments are from older traditional people that refuse to see that modern young writers aren’t writing in a bubble, they are taking advantage of different sounds, genres and production values. If Johnny Cash was around today I’m sure he would be playing about with what new technology could offer. Likewise with instrumentation. Its all about the song and its message and that's what excites us about Country Music.

We hear new music is on the horizon, what lessons did your debut album teach you that you have applied to the new music?

Yes we are indeed.. and we are extremely excited about it. We have been working hard on new material since November last year and we started recording over the Christmas break. So far we have 6 songs recorded and currently being mixed. Our plan is to release a new single very soon, followed by an EP which will lead nicely onto a full-length album.

We think the new music will really surprise people. For existing fans it will be the point where everything falls into place as we firmly plant our feet more into a certain genre. Our debut album basically paved the way for what's to come, by showing all aspects of our sound. The new music will build upon those foundations and create a sound that we believe is the natural progression of the band. Letting the songs lead us wherever they may.

What can we expect from your C2C performances?

This year C2C is a massive springboard for us and fans can expect to hear the brand new music that we have been working on. C2C will be the first time the new songs will have been performed in public, So we are really excited and nervous about that. It’ll be great to see how people react to the new material.

We are also going to surprise allot of people. Especially those who have seen us perform previously because we have added some brand new band members. They are Chantelle McAteer (Vocals), Brian Mellors (Bass) and Carla Crawford (Piano/Synths).

We are also really excited to play The Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday 12th. Last year while we were playing C2C 2015 we made a wish/set a goal that we would play there so its really exciting to be given that opportunity.

What is your goal for 2016?

2016 is shaping up to be very exciting for us, we have been working very hard behind the scenes and we can’t wait to start sharing our hard work with everyone. Our main goals this year are to get new music out there, release our second album, tour the UK/Ireland as well as make moves toward US and Europe. Really just to get our music out to as many people as possible.

Lastly, if you could team up with one of your fellow C2C performers for a one-off duet - who would it be and what would you sing?

In terms of artists on the pop up stages we are already friends with a lot of these artists and have collaborated with them in some way. But in terms of writing a song and also performing a duet we feel that we have a kindred spirit in Sonia Leigh, as her music has similar genre fusion elements as our own. So I feel we could come up with a pretty awesome song and recording out of that collaboration.

In terms of Main Stage acts, a dream collaboration would be either Eric Church, Carrie Underwood or Dwight Yoakam.

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