Philippa Reed and Chris Maxfield joined forces to create country duo Reed Maxfield. Here, they talk to us about their songwriting journey over the last 14 years.
1. Tell us about how you started making music as a country duo.
We started songwriting together 14 years ago, following a chance meeting in a London bar at a mutual friend’s party. Philippa was a music journalist at the time and Chris a music teacher. We got chatting and found out we both had ambitions to be professional songwriters and that we shared a mutual admiration for the same styles of music. We certainly remember a lengthy conversation about Fleetwood Mac and Brian Wilson at the time!
2. How important do you think music publishing is to emerging artists in today’s industry?
Vital really, as we feel it’s one of the few remaining ways in the current music industry that songwriters can make money. Through sync, it’s also a great avenue that their music can be shared with a mass audience. Plus brand partnerships and working within film or TV can be really interesting and fruitful for songwriters and artists on a creative level.
3. What is your typical songwriting process?
It’s a collaborative process between two people that has evolved over the 14 years we’ve been writing together as a country duo. One of us may have a musical or lyrical idea and bring it to the table for the both of us to work on, or we will sit down and write together. But, usually it stems from a specific idea one of us has whether that is musical or lyrical. What is quite fun is that the other person will add something to ‘pivot’ the song into a different direction or provide a balancing component. So, together we get a richer ideas blend.
Musically Philippa as the vocalist will bring the vocal melody and Chris being the guitarist will come with the chords or riff idea. Oftentimes, though, it’s hard to work out who came up with what and when because we have been working together for so long. It becomes quite seamless and at times almost telepathic!
4. Describe a pivotal music moment for you in your favourite film, television show, brand partnership etc. Has this influenced any of your own compositions?
Musical influences from our childhood and teen years often crop up in our writing sessions. We wrote a song called ‘Flatscreen’ (on ‘Songbook Vol. 3’) which references various film & TV moments from our 80s youth. For Chris, pivotal film moments include ‘Back to the Future’ with the soundtrack by Huey Lewis & The News and Lindsay Buckingham, and for Philippa, the Celtic folk soundtrack by Clannad featured in the British TV series, ‘Robin of Sherwood’.
In terms of brand partnerships, it has to be the Levi Jeans series of ads in the mid to late 80s which helped bring artists like Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke to a new generation – those adverts were huge! Also around that time, the TV ad for Pepe Jeans that featured the amazing guitar riff from The Smiths ‘How Soon is Now’. That ad gave a brand that was lagging behind at the time, a much edgier, fresh feel.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters?
Like any craft, it has to be honed – and that takes time! Write as much as you can and persevere. Not just with the writing process but with breaking into the industry, too. It also might take some time to develop your songwriting ‘voice’ – that unique signature that makes people identify you, for being you. You can be influenced by other artists of course and at the start, it’s easy for songs to sound like other artists. However, there comes a point where you have to shut out everything else, dig deep and listen to your own intuition. That’s when your unique musical identity can develop.
What do you really want to tell the world? It’s your chance to truly ‘speak your mind’ in a way that other methods of communication can fail. Lyrics are a creative opportunity to express the ordinary in an inventive way – or to just have fun with language! Other than that, always be listening – to every type of sound in the world, not just music.Keep in touch with what’s going on in and around you (time alone helps), and respect the muse when it strikes! One final point – keep a writing / recording device by your bed (smartphone, notebook, whatever) – inspiration can often strike between those sleeping/waking states!