Tony Cummings has a talk with Spain-based singer/songwriters NOEL & TRICIA RICHARDS
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Tricia: Yes, "Love Is", which started as a poem. We spent all day writing a song, because Noel had a great tune, and it was like, Now these words don't fit. I said, "Actually, I think I've already written it," but it needed the special Noel treatment. Noel is very good at chiselling and making the words fit better.
Tony: Do you do public readings of your poetry?
Tricia: I've not done many. I'd always done them in our church meetings and at conferences - they were a part of the worship. If someone was doing a Bible reading or if someone was speaking, I used to carry a little book around with me, and sometimes I'd write spontaneously. I never separated the two. I've done an evening of poetry, but I'm not very prolific. A publisher once said to me, "A book of poetry, that would be great. When you've got 60 poems, come back to us." I said, "You'd never ask me to write 60 songs."
Tony: 'Wonderful' isn't your first recording together.
Tricia: No, it's our second. 'Favourite Place' was our first. It came out in 2013.
Tony: How did that come about?
Noel: We went with a group of friends to live in Spain - friends very close to us in our church family, Cobham in Surrey. The church we were part of had closed in 2004, and we decided it was the best way forward for our congregation. In 2008 these friends decided they wanted to live in Spain, so we went with them for an initial three months. We said, "We can work from anywhere. We'll go while you're settling in and keep you company." We stayed for nine months then came back to England, but by that time we'd had a little taste of living in Spain and realised that's where our friends were, a community connection. We've been there now almost seven years. One of the things we realised, stepping out of our culture, was one of the things we'd been involved in, though we appreciated the whole worship movement, we were meeting friends and neighbours in our Spanish community who knew nothing about this. After we'd been there about a year, we sang some of our worship songs to our friends who aren't Christians, because they'd googled us and saw that we were singer/songwriters. They said, "It's good, but all your songs are about God." That was a watershed moment: it made us think, Maybe we've got something more that we can write about. The Church is now blessed with hundreds and hundreds of great songwriters, and when we started out there were just a few. We thought, There's enough people writing congregational worship songs. Why don't we now think about now writing songs we can use to communicate our values.
Tricia: For me, I'm always writing lines. Sometimes it doesn't amount to more than three or four lines, but when we'd sit down, they were more these type of songs - about life, not directly about God.
Noel: In one sense we've come full circle to where we started in Plymouth, writing with a wider audience in mind. We've also taken 16th century lyrics of a song Trish sang at school and given it a new twist; so we're not saying we'll never write congregational worship songs.
Tricia: It's just a wonderful freedom when you sit down with your guitars and see what comes. Anything can come, and I always think they're God-given.
Tony: Do you ever think, I'd love to sing some songs in front of a vast crowd? Is that something that occasionally appeals to you?
Noel: Truthfully, yes. I follow Bryan Adams on Instagram. When we first looked at doing the 'Warrior' CD, Les Moir, my producer and our very close friend, took us to Wembley to see Bryan Adams. He said, "If we're going to do Wembley, we've got to see how they do it." On a future occasion we actually managed to meet Bryan Adams and spend some time with him after a concert. I was feeling a very distant connection with this guy. He posts these selfies; he's always on the road, and it's always tens of thousands of people. I would be dishonest if I said I wouldn't enjoy playing before of a vast crowd, because it is a wonderful experience; but we're enjoying what we're doing in this season of life, playing maybe to 25 people in a front room or a café. In some ways it's equally as satisfying in a different way. We had this joke: "From cathedrals to cafés, from stadiums to sofas." We feel privileged that we can still get up and have an audience that will listen to our music and buy our CDs. After all these years it's a wonderful privilege to have any sized audience, and we're grateful for that.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.