Singer-songwriter duo Chris While and Julie Matthews have had a busy latter half of 2016.
In September the pair released their 10th studio album, Shoulder to Shoulder, which featured their customary melting pot of genres, following it with a successful tour.
But now, along with David Hughes and Fairport Convention’s Chris Leslie, they are back on the road on their 15th consecutive Christmas tour as half of St Agnes Fountain.
Julie explains how getting involved in various different projects helps keeps things fresh for them: ‘I think it does keep it fresh.
‘A lot of my outside interests are more songwriting, Chris works with her daughter Kelly and we both work in St Agnes Fountain obviously, so we both work with other people.
‘So when we come back to the duo it’s fresh. We’ve always said that the duo is our main job, the other stuff is fantastic, but that’s is the main body of work.
‘It must be fantastic for Chris to go and work with her daughter as that’s an entirely different thing again.
‘Over the last few years, we’ve done some trio gigs as well with her. We do the songs in the front room when we’re singing together anyway, so we thought, we really should be taking this out in front of an audience. And when we do they love it – I think it’s that three-part harmony, who can resist that?’
Describing the duo’s new album, she says: ‘There’s always political stuff on there, we like to include a bit of social commentary, as there always is on our albums, we like to cover a broad spectrum of subject matter, you’re affected by what you see or feel, or what people around you are seeing or feeling.
‘We kind of tend to straddle genres a bit as well – are we a bit of folk, are we a bit of country, or a bit of pop, or a bit of blues? For years we kind of struggled with that.
‘We’ve been a duo for 22 years now, so we’ve kind of got the point where we are what we are, and our followers have come to expect that – they get a bit of country or folk, or whatever. and it keeps us interested too – it’s nice to be able to cross over into different areas.’
In their day job they won The Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Duo in 2009, but with St Agnes Fountain they have also racked up an impressive discography of eight albums and two compilations, which include traditional songs, covers and originals.
But as Julie adds, it’s their friendship that is the key component to what they do.
‘We’re both passionate about the music, we’re best friends, we laugh a lot and we share the same ideals for the music and for the world.
‘We have the same outlook for the world and what we want to see happen for the world.
‘I think being best friends is the most important thing. It’s an infectious thing, and when people see us live, they pick up on that.’
ST AGNES FOUNTAIN
The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham
Friday, December 16