Dealing with a membership change can often be an awkward time for a band: the newbie has to fit in musically and also socially. But when Runaway June announced in May that Hannah Mulholland left the band and was being replaced by Natalie Stovall, it was especially weird, as the world was in the early months of the pandemic.
We spoke to all three members — founders Naomi Cooke and Jennifer Wayne along with Stovall, via Zoom — and they spoke about their next phase, and their new version of one of their earlier songs.
You’ve just released a new version of “We Were Rich,” from your Blue Roses album with Natalie on it. Obviously you wanted to have something new for the fans so they can hear the new lineup.
Naomi: It was a no-brainer to get Natalie on the song. I think that was something that the fans wanted to hear. She’s an incredible fiddle player and the music really had space for fiddle to go on there. And we weren’t going to have her fiddle and not her vocals. It was like, “Let’s do this!”
Natalie: It was really fun because “We Were Rich” was my favorite runaway Runaway June song before I was in the band. It was weird because it was “pandemic land.” So it was just me and an engineer in a studio and no one else could be in there. But it was just it was a really beautiful process for me personally because I already felt attached to that song as a fan of it. So that was cool.
So you guys had to replace a member during this incredibly weird time. How did you do it: are there auditions? Did you rehearse together a lot?
Jennifer: No, we actually when Hannah left, I think that was in March. And we Naomi and I both knew Natalie in Nashville, it’s a small world. But Natalie and I go way back, we met probably ten years ago on the road. I was in another band and she was in the lead singer of her band. Fast forward to a couple of years later, I was working at a record label and I was actually her record rep bringing her single to radio. So I knew firsthand how hard of a worker she was. You know, I took her on the road and took her to radio stations. And she’s just a super pro musician. But there are a lot of talented girls out there, a lot of talented players and singers.
Naomi and I were like, “There’s a million talented people. But Natalie knows what it’s like to be on the road. She’s done the grind. She’s a hard worker. There are so many other bonuses on top of her being a great singer and musician.” That’s so important. You know, she’s been working her butt off. So and Naomi had gotten to really know her this year, too. For Naomi and I, it was either going to be Natalie or nobody. We were going to either be a duo or it was going to be Natalie coming in the band.
It must be weird to not be able to just get together and go into the studio.
Naomi: We’ve actually been a little naughty and we’ve been going to the studio together. It’s totally fine, we’ve been doing everything within [social distancing] guidelines. We are working on a Christmas record and that’s almost done. And we’re writing for album number two right now. And we might even be cutting the first parts of that in late October. So we’ve gotten together to write a couple of times. Ninety-nine percent of our writing sessions are happening on Zoom. In the beginning, everybody was so freaked out by Zoom. It was like, “Oh my God, this is too weird.” But I think now it’s really starting to work and people are very resilient. And there are so many smart, creative people; this is just an obstacle. We can get past this. But yes, album number two is in the works and we’re very excited about it.