Matt Jacobson interviews Vanessa Murray and Daniel Saleh from Liverpool band, White Little Lies about the early years, their Ep, Parallel and life in lockdown.
White Little Lies, a duo from Liverpool consisting of Vanessa Murray and Daniel Saleh are making waves in the country music scene with a growing fan base and a reputation for writing catchy and melodic songs and found their own sound by experimenting not just with traditional country but blues, folk and pop.
Photograph – Leigh & Lee Photography
Releasing their debut EP ‘Parallel’ in 2019 recorded at iconic Parr Street Studios, with hit producer Tony Draper; their status as a “band to watch” was secured when they sold-out their EP launch at highly respected Studio 2 in Liverpool and have since gone on to receive airplay on BBC 6 Music, BBC Introducing, Chris Country and Country Hits Radio.
What music did you listen to when growing up in Liverpool?
VM: Shania Twain was the soundtrack of my childhood! I always remember going on long car journeys with the albums ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Up’ on repeat. I also listened to the likes of Norah Jones and KT Tunstall as well as the occasional boyband!
DS: Queen and Bon Jovi were the soundtrack to my early years. I spent a lot of time listening to Metal and other forms of alternative music. I was late to country music, but I am obsessed now and it enjoy it immensely.
Did you spend time watching gigs across the Liverpool scene, and do you recall any stand out gigs that come to mind?
VM: I used to watch my uncle Jay perform in The Cavern Club a lot when I was growing up which definitely peaked my interest in performing. I think a stand out moment for me was when I attended my first ever open mic hosted by Ian Prowse at The Cavern Pub. Seeing such a diverse range of people who had the courage to perform songs they had written really inspired me to do the same.
DS: I have been gigging in Liverpool since I was around 12/13. I played for years in Metal bands around the city and Northwest. The alternative scene in the early 2000s was amazing and I have many fond memories. I have lost track on how many gigs I have played since that time. I now work as a professional gigging musician in the city.
When and how did the band form?
VM: I do enjoy telling this story! We formed back in late 2017 back when we worked together in the same shop. Dan started randomly singing a song and I couldn’t help but sing a harmony. We both looked at each other and knew we had a musical chemistry. It was at that point we agreed to have a writing session, and thankfully that seemed to flow too!
DS: We worked in the same shop and started singing harmonies together one day. Something clicked and here we are now 2 years later writing our own songs.
How does the writing process work? Is it a joint venture, or do you work separately and come together to build on individual ideas?
VM: It varies to be honest, but I would say more often than not we work on a pre-existing idea. For example, I wrote the guitar part to
Parallel back in Summer 2017 and began to put words to it a year later. I really struggle with second verses, so I remember taking the song to Dan, hoping he would add a bit of magic to it. He connected with the song instantly and we finished it within an hour. It’s one of my favourite tracks to date.
DS: It’s hard to say. We don’t particularly have a set format when it comes to writing. Generally one of us will have the body of an idea and both of us will elaborate on it together until it becomes something special.
Are you always thinking about writing? Is it more mechanical and you think it’s now time to write a song?
VM: We have definitely tried writing songs because we felt we had to, but the majority of the time they have never turned out to be anything we have truly connected with. I do believe regular writing sessions help exercise the creative part of the brain, but the best songs happen when inspiration strikes.
DS: Not always no, for me personally the inspiration ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t. I would love it to be there all the time and it’s an aspect of my life I am trying to put more effort into.
Your EP, Parallel, was met with great feedback and you then received airplay across BBC 6 music, BBC introducing and Country Hits Radio – does this bring any pressure for future recording?
VM: We’re over the moon with the support we have received with the EP! I think it’s natural to feel pressure because who doesn’t want to do well? But the most important thing for me is that the songs connect to our audience.
DS: Not really, I feel that what we are writing is better. I love the EP and the success of it was amazing, but as I writer I have to believe that what I am creating is a natural progression.
You experiment with traditional country, blues folk and pop – is this something you aim for, or does it naturally mix into this format and combination.
VM: For the most part it naturally mixes into those genre’s, although when recording our EP,
Parallel, we wanted to add a couple of country guitar licks in there! I remember feeling all giddy when Dan came up with the lead guitar parts to ‘Everything Is Gonna Be Alright’. DS: I always find these questions hard to answer. We don’t have a set style per se that we want to aim for. It’s pretty much what the song is at the time. We listen to a lot of different styles of music all the time so aspects of that will permeate into everything we write.
Your lyrics touch upon passion, emotions and hope – do the lyrics stem from personal experience, and does this make you feel exposed as a person or band?
VM: Most of our songs are written from personal experience and I would be lying I said we haven’t had an occasional emotional moment singing them. Even though they are personal, it’s amazing just how many people find themselves in the songs we write.
DS: I really struggle to write from a perspective that isn’t my own. Again it is something that I would like to work on in the future. I am by nature an emotional person so I tend to write around what is going on in my life/head.
Your Ep, Parallel was recorded in the iconic Parr Street Studios. There is now talk of this venue closing, how did this make you feel when you heard the news?
VM: I felt really sad hearing the news about the potential closure of Parr Street Studios. It’s a studio with so much history and I feel every band should be able to experience the magic of recording there. I really hope it can be saved.
DS: It is a legendary studio and it would be a shame to see it go. There are a lot of memories and magic in that building. I hope it gets saved.
Has lockdown provided more time to record, or halted the recording process?
VM: At the start of this year we had plans to go back into a recording studio to record but unfortunately that hasn’t been able to happen due to Coronavirus. We have used this time to get better at recording home demos and recently upload one to our YouTube Channel.
Check out ‘Hopelessly Dreaming’ here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaOBGp1Rbog
DS: We have had to adapt and move towards a more online medium for the time being. I am ready to get back on a stage as soon as I can.
And finally, what is next for White Little Lies?
VM: We hope to be back gigging as soon as it’s safe to do so but in the meantime, we want to focus on songwriting and filming more performance videos of our songs.
DS: Build our social media profiles and conquer the world. One amazing album at a time.
Vanessa & Dan
Check out our debut EP ‘Parallel’ here: