The Secret Sisters
When I sit down to talk conference-call style to the sweet, down-to-earth duo whose music has been praised (and even produced) by musical minds as diverse as T-Bone Burnett and Jack White, I ask The Secret Sisters how they arrived at their name.
With a laugh, Lydia says, “Because choosing a band name is the hardest task that any artist will ever be presented with.”
“The name really does work for us,” she clarifies, and her sister Laura agrees. “Nobody knew who we were. We weren’t on Facebook or MySpace; we didn’t have demos [or] a website. And then the secret got out, and now everybody always says, ‘Oh, you won’t be a secret much longer.’”
It’s true; ever since legendary producer T-Bone Burnett put the finishing touches on their self-titled debut album, released on his own Beladroit Records, word has been spreading about The Secret Sisters’ organic and nostalgic country music. Though their beautiful harmonies and old-timey country cover songs hearken back to the early ages of Nashville’s finest, this is not just “The year’s loveliest museum piece,” as another well-meaning reviewer put it.
“We draw a lot of inspiration from a lot of different places,” Laura tells me, listing, of course, the sibling harmonies of groups like The Everly Brothers, but also modern artists like Grace Potter and Brandi Carlile as influences. The one thing they don’t listen to often? “Mainstream country radio,” Laura replies. “We respect it, but we don’t listen to it on a regular basis.”
Hence the sisters’ relief when they were not commercialized but were instead freed up by their label and producers to make the kind of album they wanted to make. No auto-tuning (or really computerization of any kind) was allowed in their recording sessions.
Lydia says the sisters were adamant about not over-producing the record, saying, “We wanted it to be very organic.” Burnett, who created Beladroit Records for the sole purpose of releasing The Secret Sisters’ record, agreed to the style and a natural partnership formed.
Having such illustrious names attached to their music has meant high popularity, as well as high expectations from the start. Lydia tells me with a giggle about how unbelievable their newfound fame can be, admitting, “We have to pinch ourselves every day, but we still have to be professional as well. It’s hard sometimes.”
“Just to have somebody like T-Bone or Jack say, ‘Hey, I like this music,’ was a huge honor,” she adds. “But then to go so far as to say, ‘We want to produce with you,’ or, ‘We want to help launch your career,’ was even more mind-blowing.”
In fact, because Jack White produced the sisters’ first single and put his name behind them as a loyal supporter, the girls have been gathering quite a following in the indie music scene: not the typical fan base for a traditional country music duo. Tours with Ray LaMontagne, the Punch Brothers, Levon Helm and Amos Lee are also helping to put them in front of indie audiences.
Whether their fans are college hipsters or nostalgic grandparents, the Rogers sisters agree that, as Laura puts it, “A fan is a fan is a fan, and as long as they buy the record, I don’t care where they came from or what their demographic is.” She adds, “I just want them to like the music because I think it’s music for everybody.”
It’s not easy work, though. Extensive touring, after such a rapid rise to success, does take its toll on these two down-home Alabamans. Asked about the hardest part of the job, Laura hardly has to think before she tells me, “Adjusting your mind and your body to the grueling schedule of touring. It’s an amazing job, but it definitely takes some getting used to.”
This doesn’t mean The Secret Sisters have any plans to slow down. They both say they are inspired by the people they get to work with, as well as the performance aspect of their music. Lydia says her favorite parts of the job are the looks on people’s faces whenever the sisters are on stage. “Being able to see that they’re happy, that we made them happy, that’s what it’s all about.”
The Secret Sisters are already living the dream of the aspiring artist, and they seem eager to help others get there too. As for any advice they would give to those artists who are where they were just two years ago?
“Find something that isn’t being done,” Laura advises. “Find a style of music that isn’t being catered to right now and stick to it, and wait for it to come back around, because it will. I think people are just craving real music. Find out what you do best and stick to it, and the rest will come. Just trust that what you have is good enough.”
And that’s just what Laura and Lydia Rogers have done, always staying true to their country roots while making droves of new fans with their sweet and honest music.
Laura is right: People really are craving real music again, and The Secret Sisters have given their fans just the right thing to satisfy that craving.