Muswell Hill band Red Sky July formed from members of three other famous bands in 2009 and were on the cusp of recording their debut album when guitarist Ally McErlaine (Texas), suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Wife Shelly Poole (Alisha’s Attic), found him on the sofa and he was rushed to hospital where doctors said he had no chance of survival.

But with the support of his family and third bandmate Charity Hair (The Alice Band) he battled back to health and began playing music once more.

The band is now about to perform at the Country to Country festival at The 02 and on March 25 will release their third studio album The Truth and the Lie, which includes a song In Black that Shelly, who is the daughter of Brian Poole (the Tremeloes), wrote about her husband’s struggle.

The record was recorded at their home studio in Haringey with guest performer Nashville singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman.

When did you first realise you wanted to make music?

Ally: When I first heard Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie. I was amazed by it and got hold of all his records then I asked my mum and dad for an electric guitar. My dad played in folk groups so there were acoustic guitars around the house. Then I just became obsessed by music.

Who are your idols?

Ally: Don’t really believe in idols, but people who I admire in music are David Bowie, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Gram Parsons, Robert Plant, Dolly Parton, Lyndsey Buckingham, Tony Rice, Neil Young. My favourite bands at the moment are Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses, Punch Brothers and First Aid Kit.

How did the band first form?

Ally: I always liked roots USA music, there was a lot of slide guitar in the early Texas days but as the sound changed I didn’t really get to do that so much so really wanted to have an outlet for that. Shelly heard a few instrumental ideas I was working on and wrote melodies over them, we both knew Charity so we asked her to come sing with us and it was a good blend, she also added her fiddle skills.

Where did the name come from?

Ally: Shelly just came out with it, we thought it was descriptive of the sound we were making.

When did you two meet?

Ally: We met in a hotel in Paris when we were both doing a TV show with our bands Alisha’s Attic and Texas, we were both on Universal Records and Sian from the label thought we would suit each other and she was correct.

How did you meet Charity and why did you want her in your trio?

Shelly: I met Charity through Dave Rowntree, Blur’s lovely drummer. She was in his band the Ailerons and Dave asked if we’d write together so we did and it was fun and I loved her voice and of course thought she looked really good!

Do you ever feel like a gooseberry Charity?

Charity: Definitely not onstage. And we are all very professional and united in a common goal of doing great music together so the other stuff doesn’t really have a chance to get in the way very much.

Who’s the brains of the operation?

Ally: Shelly is the one who produces most of our music and is the driving force.

Who spends the most time getting ready to go on stage?

Ally: Charity as she has the biggest hair.

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How would you describe the band’s sound?

Ally: Country but also a mixture of all our experience in pop, rock , folk, electronica (we love Mellotrons), people say Americana I guess.

How did you cope when Ally had his brain haemorrhage?

Shelly: At first I think I was just working on adrenalin as it was touch and go as to whether he’d make it for the first two months. When we knew he could stay stable on a life support machine even though machines were doing the work, I think a coping mechanism comes in to play and you get on with it with all amounts of gusto. I think I’ve always been quite stoic but I surprised myself.

What did you do career-wise in those two years?

Shelly: For those two years my career was dressing, feeding, cleaning and wheelchairing my husband around. I was a full time carer.

What did the doctors say about his recovery?

Shelly: The doctors think he’s recovery is a miraculous one. He’s been back for many studies since.

What do you put it down to?

Shelly: I put it down to the amazing, amazing doctors and surgeons and lots of extreme hard work and balls. I also put it down to a lot of positive thinking and visualisation.

How long afterwards did you start performing together?

Shelly: I eased myself back into music after about two years when I felt like I could leave Ally with my mum and dad without it feeling like they were babysitting ( he also had two front lobe strokes after the haemorrhage for good measure and couldn’t really be left in the house alone and still couldn’t get about independently). I remember it so well I went on my first writing trip to Andy Hills house. It was just two days as I used to do often and it felt amazing to be me again. But at the same time terrifying of course as I did everything for Ally and it was a struggle for me to look after him let alone my parents but it all went well and was probably a great relief for both of us so I decided to take more day writing jobs. Then after about three months of that, Charity and I decided it was time to get mean with Ally - his motivation and mood had gone right down so we booked the studio to make the Red Sky July album, so it had to be done. When we did the album, Ally still couldn’t walk up or down stairs properly, or sit on a chair for too long upright or drive of course. He was still having big trouble remembering things and also was quite a different character, so it was tough. It really was quite amazing how he stepped up to it and how we all managed to not kill each other.

Does it still affect his playing etc?

Shelly: I don’t think now Ally’s playing is affected at all, obviously at first, it was as his left hand was clawed up due to the stroke. But I’d say it’s even better now….it’s a miracle really.

What can fans expect from your Country to Country performance?

Charity : Fans can expect some brand new tracks from our new album The Truth And The Lie as well as some favourites from our first two albums.

Can the English do country music as well as the Americans can?

Charity: Yes absolutely. Good country music is all about heartfelt lyrics and good tunes, and that stuff is universal.

What has inspired the songs on your new album?

Charity: We wanted to write some bigger-sounding, toe-tapping tunes with drums to play at our live shows as well as some grass roots country songs based on the acoustic guitar and mandolin, and so that’s what we did for this album.

Which song was the hardest to write?

Charity: It took a few weeks for all of us to settle on the chorus melody and verse lyrics for Dodge. We had the ‘Get the hell out of Dodge’ lyric and knew we liked that idea, but there must have been at least five different versions of the chorus and as many different versions of the verses!

Favourite lyrics from the album?

Charity: ‘It don’t matter now how we got here but here we are’ (Good ole’ country grammar!)

How do you feel when you perform In Black?

Charity: The lyrics in that song are a devastatingly raw and honest description of what happened when real love met real life and the disappointments that can come after. We’ve all lived long enough to have had those experiences and come out the other side… It’s not an easy thing for a relationship to live through, but oddly when we perform that song I feel lucky to know how important it is to survive those disappointments and remember “the good things”- for example, Ally survived and recovered from his illness. The chances of that happening were a million to one, and for us it happened so we have so much to be grateful for.

What is title track The Truth and the Lie inspired by?

Charity: Who hasn’t told that porky pie at some point?! There’s the truth that’s just written all over you and the lie you have to tell…There’s nothing more delicious than fancying a guy you’re great friends with, the build-up of all the sexual tension, and (hopefully if you’re lucky) that night when there’s one drink too many and the inevitable first kiss happens. The biggest loves I’ve had have been with guys I knew very well before we got together.

Worst lie you’ve ever told/been told?

Charity: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

When and where was the album recorded?

Charity: It was recorded in Shelly and Ally’s back garden Studio 177 in the summer, in between the noise of airplanes flying overhead and squirrels scurrying over the roof.

How long have you lived in Muswell Hill?

Charity: We’ve lived around the corner from each other in Muswell Hill for four years now.

What is your career highlight?

Charity: There have been so many great moments that I can remember. We’ve had the good fortune to be on tour supporting the likes of Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Jools Holland, 10cc, and Deacon Blue among others, all of them fantastic talents. Playing to a sold out audience in The Royal Albert Hall while supporting Sheryl Crow last year was a particular high though because her music has been such a huge influence for me.

What is Tom Jones really like?

Charity: Tom Jones is utterly charming, handsome, and everything you’d expect from a rock star who’s been at the top for so many years. What an incredible performer!

The biggest challenge of your career?

Charity: Juggling the all-consuming job of motherhood with the also all-consuming need to keep doing music.

Best advice you’ve ever had?

Charity: “Nobody knows what’s good for you better than you do.”

What’s next for the band?

Ally: We’re getting on the road and bringing our music to our fans :-)

The Truth and the Lie is out on March 25. Details: They will perform at Country to Country (March 10-13) on March 12 and 13. Details: