Spotlight – meets Frank Renfordt / The Cumberland River Project (March 2024)

The Cumberland River Project is on the final straight towards a new release. On 22nd March 2023, Frank Renfordt and his musical alter ego will share six new songs as the EP Vain Regrets. I already had the opportunity of listening to it. The more, I love to have Frank back for another interview. It is the second time after I featured him already some four years ago. Of course, in this interview, we focus on Vain Regrets, which is much stronger a country / Americana release again. Of course, there are also some additional topics. Hope you enjoy! meets Frank Renfordt

FLYC: Frank, not too much time left before Vain Regrets will be released. What are your overall feelings towards the EP?

Frank: I’m always happy when a project like this is released, because then I have my head free again for something new. Of course I hope some people will like the songs. I’m proud of this production anyway.

FLYC: Did you already had first reactions about that new release? How have they been?

Frank: Not really, not from completely uninvolved parties. I’m really excited how people will react.

FLYC: Who is typically allowed to have a first listen to your songs, EPs or albums once they are ready and move to the release pipeline?

Frank: Only a few people – you for instance 😀 and of course my wife and my youngest daughter who is still living at home, They are both very critical and no die hard country fans.

FLYC: Vain Regrets is special in many regards. First of all, after you rather tried out some pop-alike songs during the recent past, you are back to country music business. Why did you go for that step back to the roots?

Frank: I don’t think it’s a step back, country is always my core business, but sometimes I like to try different things and I don’t want to limit myself too much creatively,
I listen to a lot of stuff, not only country, but country / Americana is definitely the genre I feel at home the most.

FLYC: By the way, is there a country music artist which inspired you, either in your first step into music in general or maybe also when you recorded Vain Regrets?

Frank: Of course there are a lot of artists and songwriters I admire and who influenced my songwriting. To name a few (in no particular order): Chris Stapelton, Zack Brown Band, Brad Paisley, Lori McKenna, James McMurtry, Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, The Eagles, Johnny Cash.

FLYC: You are globally connected – and decorated with songwriting awards Especially as Vain Regrets brings you back to country music, how do you see the German country music scene – and the future of country music in Germany in general?

Frank: My feeling is that there are more and more people in Germany who are discovering their heart for country music. I was really surprised how Luke Combs rocked the Barkley Arena in Hamburg. The CMA and ‘Sound of Nashville’ are doing a good job and bringing a lot of interesting artists to Germany, I hope this is sustainable and will help to improve the ambivalent image country music still has in Germany.

FLYC: I personally feel that, to grow the genre in Germany, the CMA and other parties interested in that should also invest in German contemporary country artists, like you, Ann Doka, Nik Wallner, just to name a few. They can be present in media and on stage much more frequently. How do you see that, also in regards of the possibility of German acts being on stage on domestic events?

Frank: I think we have some really great artists. My favorites are ‘Wild As Her’ and ‘Siiri’. I’ve seen both of them live and – unlike me – they are absolutely competitive internationally.

I guess the CMA has no interest in promoting German artists or taking them seriously at all. But that would actually be clever and would enhance the entire genre in Europe. I would like to see more exchange or a bit of development support.

FLYC: Maybe an even more striking change which the EP lead to is: you sing on your own. Why did you feel that Vain Regrets is the right major relaxed doing this step?

Frank: I actually see myself as a songwriter and think that others can sing better than me, but with these songs it felt somehow right to sing them myself and I thought I give it a try.

FLYC: Even though you of course have guest musicians on the EP: does you singing the songs by yourself also mean that more likely there might be The Cumberland River Project live on stage in the future?

Frank: Yes, I’m actually planning to present a few songs ‘live’ here and there, but in a much slimmed-down form, just me and the guitar or maybe with playback. It’s quite a complex production and I can’t just put together a band like that. I like those ‘songwriter rounds’ you’ll find in Nashville, like the Listening Room or Blue Bird Cafe.

FLYC: Let’s have a look to the six songs of the EP. The very first lines of your new EP are With the moment of birth, we buy a ticket to death. It does sound very pessimistic. Finally, the song is less “heavy” than it sounds. Can you tell us a bit about how writing this song worked out?

Frank: Yes, that’s a special song for me. I’m kind of talking to myself in it. I’ve recently lost friends and relatives who haven’t reached their 60s or 70s and I’ve become very aware that my time could be over any day. But I didn’t want to write a gloomy song because of that. The message is don’t look back, no vain regrets, look ahead, enjoy your time and chase your dreams.

FLYC: I don’t want to tell the people too much about the EP already. But I felt that the songs are very personal this time. Did that also influence the decision to perform them by yourself?

Frank: Yes, definitely. As said above, somehow it just felt right to sing them by myself. I already sung two songs on my album Smell Of Gravy and some people encouraged me to sing more songs by myself and here the songs are written for me. I also started to enjoy the production process and the creative opportunities it offers, the choices you have to make regarding the instruments for instance. It’s like painting a picture.

FLYC: One of the songs of the also is named Mr. Spaceman. The story of the song is about a truck driver being caught by aliens. If you met an alien, how would you describe your music to an alien?

Frank: I would say it’s made by humans, tells about human’s life, dreams and fears. It’s organic, no AI, no tricks, all real and from the heart.

FLYC: Out of all the songs you wrote and published so far, which track would you play to the alien, als it tells the most about Frank Renfordt?

Frank: I think its probably my song Brighter Day. And if you look at the story with the Aliens – I was right – the other day was a brighter day, but not for them 😀. I generally have a positive outlook on life.

FLYC: After your EP will have been released, what are the next steps you envisage with The Cumberland River Project?

Frank: I wrote a gospel song and already started with the production – again something different, an ambitious project. And as already said I will try to play some songwriter rounds, open mics or something like this and present some of my songs live. And of course I will try to write some better songs for another EP or album.


Pictures provided by the artist – photographer: Dirk Schmidt (copyrighted by the photographer)


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