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Keep It Civil
They’re adored by everyone from Adele to Taylor Swift, who recently collaborated with them on the Hunger Games theme tune. Ed Power catches up with the increasingly massive The Civil Wars.
Ed Power, 03 May 2012
“Some folks might surmise we aren’t a good fit,” continues White. “All I can say is that to be in the room writing with her that day… it was a revelation. She had some great ideas. We had complete freedom. It truly was a collaboration. We brought the melancholy and the darker angle, Taylor was bringing the melody and the chords.
“What people forget is that T-Bone was a co-writer on the track. If anyone has an issue with it – well, we didn’t do that song to please them. We did it to please ourselves. Before we said yes we looked at each other and asked, do we want to do this? We both knew it was the right decision straight away.”
Swift and Burnett aren’t the only cheerleaders who have rallied to their cause. As already mentioned, Adele is a vocal supporter. She sought The Civil Wars out as support for her US tour and, for good measure, brought them across the Atlantic for her British dates. She also took to her website to proclaim their brilliance.
“It is so amazing that, with a few clicks, someone like her can turn people onto you,” says White. “After that the ball is in our court. It’s up to us to get people’s attention.”
They are still new enough to all of this to be starry-eyed about the Grammys, where they received awards for best folk album and best country duo, and got to share cocktail chatter with Rihanna and Paul McCartney. “We saw a lot of stars there with whom we had never brushed shoulders,” says Williams. “We had a few pinch-me moments. It was like, ‘Oh my god, there goes Paul McCartney…”
There’s an awkward moment when White, in a misguided attempt to ingratiate, starts blathering on about what a joy it is to be ‘in the UK’. As Hot Press cocks a quizzical eyebrow, Williams – who seems to have the better grasp of geo-politics – shuts her partner up and makes it clear that what he really meant to say is that they love Ireland and the country’s rich folk tradition.
They aren’t simply blowing smoke. At Burnett’s prompting, last year they shared a recording booth with The Chieftains, contributing a track to the trad warriors’ 50th anniversary LP. By way of thanks, the band’s Paddy Moloney took the pair on a tour of his favorite haunts in Wicklow while they were town for a Sugar Club date last autumn.