When certain male and female singers get together and record as a duo they often create some of their best work; Lee and Nancy, Gram and Emmylou, Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, the list is almost endless, stretches way back in time and new names are still being added.

One of the most recent and most surprising is a duo going under the name of Light Over There. Minneapolis rocker Rex Haberman has been involved in music for some time now; he has released solo albums and has recently released EPs and albums with his band War Poets. The socially conscious band has built up quite a following touring the USA for the last few years and they show no signs of slowing down.

Haberman has released an album before as part of a duo; ‘Neale & Haberman’, which featured the skills of master guitar player Dan Neale, but for his latest project Haberman has linked up with Aileen Henderson to create yet another side to this fascinating musicians already impressive musical CV.

That it shouldn’t really work makes the music that Haberman and Henderson have created on their five-track EP simply titled ‘Light Over There’, even more impressive. Haberman has forsaken his rocking roots and produced five songs of country-flavoured Americana that, while occasionally throwing a fleeting nod towards the music we have come to associate with him, has brought out a side to his music that has been hidden so far. One gets the feeling that Aileen Henderson is responsible for this new direction.

Henderson was born in Dumfries but brought up in Galway from the age of three. Still only 18 years old, she was singing country songs inspired by the music her father introduced her to like Dolly Parton and The Dixie Chicks before she started uploading videos to YouTube which proved a success. The fact that Henderson has the voice of an angel maybe has more than a little to do with that.

Two musically disparate talents then, who have yet to meet in person, have created one of the warmest, honest and lyrically astute takes on Americana we are ever likely to experience. We had the opportunity to ask Rex Haberman a few questions about how Light Over There came about and how, despite the age difference, the sea that separates them and having totally different backgrounds the duo have managed to produce music that can’t fail to touch the listener with its beauty and warmth while still never having met! Haberman has provided some thought-provoking answers.

PB: Rex, with your solo albums and your band War Poets your name was already known to many but Aileen Henderson, your partner in the Light Over There Project, wasn’t as well known. For those who still have not heard the story of how you started recording together as Light Over There can you explain how you first came in contact with each other?

RH: War Poets followed Aileen on Twitter about a year ago. She responded by sending me a message on Twitter, thanking us for the follow and asked if I’d check out her You Tube videos. We get these kinds of requests many times per day and they’re usually not checked out. However, with Aileen she came across as very sincere and seriously interested in War Poets. I did check out the videos and was impressed. So I sent her a Twitter message to see if she has ever collaborated in songwriting or would be interested. She said she would, so I started by writing lyrics for 'Solitude Gratitude' and sending them to her to write music for and sing. Within a week or so, she sent back a beautiful demo. Her performance on the demo was superb and immediately connected with me. So we kept on writing more songs.

PB: War Poets have toured for a few years now and built up quite a following, you’re not planning on putting that band on hold for now and concentrating on Light Over There given the more than favourable response to the EP?

RH: War Poets is continuing to play live, write songs, and record. However, I have given a lot of attention to Light Over There recently and the project may become my major focus with the upcoming Ireland tour. War Poets is a rock band that is guitar driven and our songs are about social issues like gun violence, poverty, and income inequality. Light Over There is very different. It’s Americana and showcases Aileen’s unique and powerful vocals and the songs are all co-written by us.

PB: Did you and Aileen have separate tasks for the songs? Was one responsible for lyrics and the other the music or did you share the lyrics and music?

RH: We did write separately usually. For 'Where Memories Live' and 'Solitude Gratitude', I wrote the lyrics and Aileen wrote the music. For 'I Ain’t That Bad' and 'Mountain Song', Aileen wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music. For 'She Cries to You', I wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Aileen.

PB: The name for this project, was it chosen to reflect the miles between you and Aileen?

RH: Yes. It has to with the distance between us and the light we see in each other from afar. It is also about the respect we have for each other despite our cultural, geographic, and age differences.

PB: What promoted you to start the Light Over There project, did you feel you had other things to say that didn’t fit in with War Poets?

RH: I truly enjoy collaborating with new and unique musicians. Aileen has such an easily identifiable voice that intrigued me and inspired a variety of song ideas. For example, my wife asked me to write a song about Alzheimer’s Disease. I couldn’t think of anyone else as powerful as Aileen to sing the lyrics I wrote, so we recorded 'Where Memories Live'. Light Over There has a definite country bend to it, which is different than War Poets and I don’t think would fit in their genre.

PB: Despite some heavy subjects covered in the songs on the Light Over There EP there’s a lovely, inviting feel to the songs, a warmth if you like. Was that difficult to achieve when, not only were you not working in the studio together, but had never actually met?

RH: Despite that Aileen and I won’t meet officially until August 15, we have been in nearly constant communication for over a year. We have come to know each other well and realize we have a special sound together. When we trade demos, we listen carefully to the music and lyrics and make sure they are telling the story we want but also have the warmth you’ve alluded to. There is an innocence to the music, but there is also deep meaning to all the songs. This contrast is what we think makes the songs so appealing.

PB: Did the way you recorded the EP throw up any unexpected problems that you wouldn’t have experienced had you laid down the tracks in the conventional way?

RH: Not at all. We recorded instruments at Drum Farm Studio in Menomonie, Wisconsin, then sent Aileen’s producer an MP3 of this minutes after we finished. Aileen then sang her vocals in Ireland and sent her WAV vocal files to us via large file data transfer. We then inserted those files into the studio session files. All the songs were then mixed in Nashville by multi-Grammy winning engineer Joe Baldridge.

PB: At just five songs the EP works beautifully and, as any great EP should, leaves the listener wanting to hear more, any plans for future records with Aileen?

RH: Aileen is just finishing high school so one never knows what is next for her. I am involved in many projects and have a busy professional life as well. Despite our busy lives, there’s always room for more. I think it’s safe to say we’ve both become important parts of each other’s lives.

PB: Would you use the same process again? Record separately?

RH: I would really enjoy getting Aileen to the USA to record. It might happen, it might not. We can always record the same way we did before. We know how to do it, we have the musicians and team to pull it off, and then it’s a matter of writing the songs. I do that all the time, so I don’t see that as a problem.

PB: We’ve heard that you are actually going to meet up this summer and tour a little, can you tell us more about that?

RH: Yes, we are touring Ireland in August. We arrive in Galway on August 15 and leave from Dublin on August 23. We have 7 consecutive nights of gigs in the works. It looks like it’ll be Galway, Limerick, Cork, Connemara, Derry or Belfast, Bray, and Dublin.

PB: While Aileen takes most of the lead vocals on the EP, the duet, ‘I Ain’t That Bad’, proves that, while there’s no denying that Aileen could melt the hardest of hearts with her vocals, when the pair of you sing together something special happens and the music you make takes another direction almost; who came up with the idea of that arrangement? And is it something you will explore further on any future recordings?

RH: We both came up with the idea of duet at the same time. It just seemed to make sense. In the choruses, the blending of parts seemed to fall into place during the studio sessions. There is no doubt that Aileen can melt hearts. When you add in my voice there is certainly a new dimension to the sound. I think the give and take works, so it is likely we’d do more of that.

PB: Were there more tracks laid down featuring you and Aileen or have you just recorded the five featured on the EP so far?

RH: Just 5 tracks. Pretty amazing.

PB: Do you have a personal favourite from the songs on the EP, one that means more to you for some reason that the others? If so, do you know if Aileen has one that’s more special to her?

RH: One song I really like is 'Where Memories Live'. Aileen sings it in a way that brings tears to people’s eyes once they realize the nature of the song. Aileen and I really like them all though and it’s hard to say one is more of a favorite.

PB: You’ve covered a lot of ground musically, it would be interesting to know what music you are listening to currently for pleasure and if you feel that any artist or band in particular has influenced your work?

RH: There’s no doubt that the American songwriters of the past and present have influenced me. This includes Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty. For pleasure, I listen to those artists that have a message in their songs. The music world is so diluted with releases, it’s hard to keep up. I guess many people realize making music is so much fun.

PB: Thank you.

Irish Tour Dates:

Sun Aug 16 - Monroes LIVE, Galway city
Mon Aug 17 - Cyprus Avenue, Cork city
Tues Aug 18 - Dolans, Limerick city
Wed Aug 19 - Mullarkeys, Foyles Hotel, Clifden, Connemara
Thurs Aug 20 - Barge, Belfast
Fri Aug 21 - The Harbour Bar, Bray
Sat Aug 22 - Bello Bar, Dublin city

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