Spotlight – meets Frank Renfordt / The Cumberland River Project (30th April 2020)

Already the first single Back On The Road felt very promising – and at least when The Cumberland River Project released their second song, Honey In My Head, it felt for sure that the debut album of this project could be a good one. The self-titled The Cumberland River Project has been released on 6th March 2020 and scored an amazing 4.8 in the review score.

The very special thing about the album: the songs sound very Nashville-like and also have been recorded in Music City – the mastermind and songwriter behind it is coming from Hagen, Germany, though. Some two months after the release of the album, I spoke with Frank Renfordt about his background, the album and about the future of The Cumberland River Project. meets Frank Renfordt

FLYC: Frank, the unfortunate mandatory question: how are you currently during
the Corona-crisis?

Frank: Thank’s personally I’m fine, but I’m very concerned about the deep impact this crisis will have on all our lives.

FLYC: Two months ago, you released the album of The Cumberland River Project.
How did that change your life?

Frank: It’s too much said it changed my life. I get in touch with many new people who like my music and I do interviews like this from time to time for radio stations to promote my album.
More important may be that there are more people who get aware of me as a songwriter and who are now interested to collaborate with me and this could have an influence on my career as a songwriter.

FLYC: You bio says your first music favorites were bands like the Beatles or
the Bee Gees. Then you got a guitar from your parents. Do you still know
what were the first songs you played on it?

Frank: The very first song was Kommt ein Vogel geflogen – a very simple German traditional.
But soon after I’d learned the most important chords I started playing folk songs from Dylan, Baez, Donovan, Cohen – all the popular stuff at that time, which you could play on an acoustic guitar, everyone played it and somewhat it has influenced my songwriting.

FLYC: How and when did you get into country music?

Frank: I always liked The Eagles and stuff like that, which is not exactly country, but has a lot in common with todays country music. I discovered contemporary country music about nine years ago: The spark which started the fire was the Zac Brown Band, when I bought the album You get what you give – that was my kind of music! From this time on I was keen to discover more of this universe of modern American country music, which you hardly get aware of in Germany. The TV-Show Nashville also had a big influence on me, I wanted to be part of that life.

By chance it happened then that I had to travel to the US for business reasons several times a year and that brought me closer to country music, especially after I’d spent some great nights in Nashville. One night in Nashville I met the whole cast of the show, when they where filming an episode in the Bridgestone Arena.

FLYC: Are there any country music acts which influenced you?

Frank: The Zac Brown Band is definitely one of them, I adore Brad Paisley because he is a great guitar player and, this may be a surprise, Taylor Swift. Don’t forget I am a songwriter, so for me more important than the acts are the writers behind the acts, Taylor Swift is a great writer and performer. I also adore Lori McKenna, she’s a great writer and wrote among others the song Humble and Kind made famous by Tim McGraw, one of the best songs ever. Another one is Brandy Clark, among others she was most responsible for the Grammy award winning album from Tanya Tucker with really great songs on it.
My love for country music is wide spread: Jon Pardi, Cody Johnson, Luke Combs, Old Dominion, Midland, Thomas Rhett, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton … to name a few.

FLYC: You then became a member of and the Nashville Songwriter
Association International. How did that influence your musical career?

Frank: NSAI and SongU are both organizations where you get in touch with experienced songwriters. Even if you have a certain talent, some education is very helpful. Songwriting is a craft you can learn. I’ve also read a bunch of books about songwriting and visited workshops in the US – it was well invested time and money and I had a lot of fun and met great people.

FLYC: Was there a special moment or a special song you wrote which made you
feel that you need to go the next step as a songwriter and release an album?

Frank: There is an insider magazine called AMERICAN SONGWRITER, It’s published bi-monthly and there is a lyric contest in each issue. I’d sent in the lyric of one of the first songs I’d ever written in English and I won the second place and my lyric was printed in the next issue. They have hundreds or thousands of lyrics send in from all over the world – of course mainly from English speaking countries, I was really flashed and it showed me that there is more possible if I try hard enough.

FLYC: During the process of writing and recording the album, were there more
moments, at which you felt you should stop – or more moments which made
you think, “This one will become really good”?

Frank: The album was written and produced song by song over a period of three years. And I didn’t have every song I wrote produced, only when I was happy with the result I invested the money. I tried to offer these songs to publishers in Nashville and to other artists, but this is a hard business with thousands of great competitors and without living in Nashville and the necessary networking opportunities it is close to impossible to get in there. Only later I had the idea to make an album from all the produced songs.

FLYC: You once said in an interview that male listeners love “Back On The
Road”, while the ladies more go with “Honey in my Head”. What is your
favorite track on the album?

Frank: My personal favorite is Revel In Love Devine – talking about romantic sex in a song without being vulgar or too cheesy is not always easy to do and I think here it works quite well. The song is really nicely produced also. I love the Bluegrass elements and the female background vocals in it.

FLYC: One of the biggest success stories of the album is likely being selected
as the album of the week at MDR Radio Saxony, a state radio. How did
they notify you? And what did you feel at that moment?

Frank: I think they got a copy of my CD sent in by my promotion partner Dr. Music and I was contacted by Frank Michael Bauer a very kind and experienced anchorman and he liked my songs. I’m always happy if someone likes and plays my songs, no matter if it is a bigger station like MDR or a small one, a blog like or a Spotify playlist. It is this recognition of our work that we creatives live on.

FLYC: Any other special moments you had with The Cumberland River Project
since its release you like to share with us?

Frank: It happens quite often that I find The Cumberland River Project on radio playlists next to my heroes. That always gives me a thrill. Most impressed I was when I found me charted on playMPE. One week Back On The Road was among the most frequently downloaded songs on that platform, which is mainly a tool for American radio stations and I was in front of Keith Urban – it was only for one week, but it was a great moment for me – one step closer!

FLYC: You used studio musicians and also did not sing the songs by yourself.
Did you get any feedback from the musicians before or after the album

Frank: No, not really. For me it’s something very special for them it’s daily business. I don’t think they have even listened to the final product.
Only my producer Dave, I think he’s eventually a little proud of would we have created together.

FLYC: And how have been the reactions at work during your career? You work for
a major German car gear manufacturer – and I guess, your colleagues
might have been skeptical at the beginning? Are they now die-hard The
Cumberland River Project fans?

Frank: There are a couple of colleagues and business friends who have been always interested in my music and some are really supporting me, in Germany as well as in the US.
Sometimes I also feel like a country missionary, most of my friends and colleagues don’t like country at all, but if they listen finally to my songs the reaction is in most cases very positive.

FLYC: What are your plans for the future? Do you aim to give the project a
second album, maybe? Is there a potential to bring the music on stage?

Frank: For the money I invested in the project you can also buy a small car. I only can think about a second album if a larger part of the investment comes back, but this is not guaranteed. Today most people don’t buy CDs anymore and with streaming you get close to nothing.
I have already some strong new songs, I’d love to do it again! I’d love to bring the music life on stage, but it would take a lot of time and effort and this would only make sense if the project raises much more interest. I’m working also on several other projects. I’ll do more collaborations, I started singing by myself, I’m not sure what the future will bring, but certainly I will write more and better songs.

FLYC: The final question: if you had a band and would tour – is there any
special place, any special festival you would love to present your music at?

Frank: I love going to concerts. As a songwriter I’d love to play the Bluegrass Cafe in Nashville, it’s cult.
Other great venues I love are the Waldbühne in Berlin and the Royal Albert Hall in London and of course to play with The Cumberland River Project at the Ryman Auditorium and bring the songs home to Nashville. But this is something I don’t even dare dreaming about.


All pictures used: artist material


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