Interview: Talking to The Secret Sisters about their new album, their UK tour next year and more

The Secret Sisters are an Americana duo made up of sisters Lydia and Laura Rogers. Both singer/songwriters, the sisters have some of the most beautiful harmonies across the genre and write very honest, bold and beautiful music. The Secret Sisters have just released their album You Don’t Know Me Anymore via New West Records which was produced by Brandi Carlile and Tim and Phil Hanseroth. 

The Secret Sisters recently played in the UK including an impressive set at London’s Union Chapel. We caught up with Laura and Lydia during their stay and they tell us of struggles in the industry, filing for bankrupcy , turning things around for the better with their new album and returning to the UK next year.

Tour dates

Transatlantic Sessions:

02-Feb
Glasgow
Royal Concert Hall
03-Feb

04-Feb
Glasgow
Royal Concert Hall

05-Feb
London
Royal Festival Hall

06-Feb
Bristol
Colston Hall

07-Feb
Cambridge
Corn Exchange

08-Feb
Gateshead
The Sage Gateshead

09-Feb
Manchester
Bridgewater Hall

10-Feb
Birmingham
Symphony Hall

Interview

Hi – how are you both?

We are good, how are you?

Not bad thank you, not bad.

Welcome back to the UK – how has it been so far?

Laura: It has been great, we love it here so much; it has been five years since we came over.

Five years?

Laura: Yeah, it’s been a long time coming – too long.

How was Union Chapel?

Lydia: It was magical; it was everything that we could have hoped it would be. It was a full room and everybody responded really well to the new songs. It is such a beautiful venue and we can’t imagine playing anywhere else in London.

Was it your first time playing there?

Lydia: No, I think we played in 2011; they have made a few changes since we were there.

What I like about it is that you get hot chocolate and can ask for a cushion and a blanket, haha!

Lydia: Oh really? I didn’t know that!

You released your album, You Don’t Own Me Anymore, earlier this year. Tell us about how that came to be, as it’s such an interesting story – how you very nearly gave up on music but were saved.

Laura: Yes, that’s true; we went through a rough spell. It was right around the time we put out our second record that we found ourselves under an enormous law suit and we had to file for bankruptcy – and we got dropped from our record label, all within in a few months of each other. So it was really difficult for us to find inspiration, as we were completely exhausted and sad. We didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – we just thought that it was the end of the line for us. We stopped writing for a while and kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that we couldn’t make music and survive financially.

I don’t really know what it was that made us start writing again. I think probably Lydia just really wanted to get together and do some songwriting, because she is more driven than I am, so we did. The songs kind of happened from there and they kind of became a healing mechanism. We didn’t have a record label – or even a team in place to put a record together. We didn’t write the songs thinking that they would ever become an album, we just wrote them because that is all we know how to do. So we started writing songs and then of course Brandi Carlile, who is a long time friend of ours, heard some of the songs that we were working on and she was like ‘I want to help you guys make this record, because you need to share what you’re saying with people.’ So yeah, that is kind of a shortened, edited version of how it came about – and we are obviously very thankful that it did, because we never thought we would be back at it again.

The album’s content reflects on the difficulties you mentioned above – is that right?

Both: Yes, definitely.

Lydia: We couldn’t think of anything else to write about because that was such a painful time and at the forefront of everything that was going on in our lives. We couldn’t help but write about it.

Your story shows me just how tough the industry can be and that sometimes, no matter how talented you are, it is a long road. Has this changed you as artists, as writers – and how you see the “big machine”?

Both: YES, haha!

Laura: Completely. We see some things in a worse way and some things in a better way. More things in a better way I think, especially in how we perform and in how we view our last performances. We were inevitably spoiled in the beginning – we had really a great first three or four years in our career. We had a lot of great opportunities and got to tour with amazing musicians and things that we took for granted. So on the other side of the process, we have a different perspective and we see things a lot differently. When people pay good money to come to our show and take time out of their schedule to see us, we are really, really grateful and thankful that they believe in us that much. I think that we are better people because of what happened.

I can understand that.

I have read that Brandi Carlile, Tim and Phil Hanseroth have only ever produced their own records, so that must have been quite wonderful that they wanted to produce yours.

Laura: Yeah, it was really fun, because we were able to explore it all together. It was fun to watch the way they work in a studio and it was really inspiring to see them take on the role of producer. But then again, they were also really involved in the tracks of all the songs – like with really cool guitar parts, where Tim would come in and do it, and if we needed background vocals they would come in and add their signature sound to it. So it was really collaborative, organic – and they never wanted us to feel pressured into any direction that we didn’t already want to go, so it was a perfect match.

What is your overall opinion of these pledge campaigns, as your goal was reached almost immediately. I personally love them, as someone who is going to buy an artist’s album anyway, I love being part of its creation and I also think it somewhat connects the fans to the artists.

Laura: Yes, they were really great for us. We were pretty hesitant to do the campaign – or any campaign – in the first place, because we had never had to one before and we didn’t want to ask people for help. But we did, and they were so onboard with campaigning for us and putting it out there; they did a phenomenal job. I think within two weeks we had raised all the money we needed, so it was a really great experience and really a good way to connect with our fans.

I like them, as I like to give money to the artists direct. I like the different bundles you can get, the experiences – much better than paying a multi-million pound corporation – and, as you say, it connects you with the fans and us with the artists.

For me, it baffles me how the industry works sometimes, as this record is one of the best that I have heard in a long time.

Both: Aww, thank you.

I became instantly obsessed with He’s Fine. Please tell me about that song and who Davey White is?

Both: Hahaha!

Laura: I wish that was his real name, haha!

I didn’t think it would be, ha!

Laura: No, we’re not quite brave enough to call him directly by name – but he also doesn’t have a beautiful poetic name, so we couldn’t fit it into a song, ha!

Isn’t that always the way: for example a name like, I dunno – Trevor Johnson – wouldn’t exactly work.

Both: Haha!

Laura: Exactly, so we had to come up with a different name for him. That song is written from the perspective of me; it’s about a fella that I kind of had a really tough time with years ago. It was a tumultuous, toxic relationship that I just could not get away from. Initially of course, it disintegrated and thankfully it worked out the way that it was supposed to, but a lot of the songs on our record, including He’s Fine, were songs that were a little more symbolic, I think? There was some symbolism; it was cryptic. We kind of had to bury our frustration with the music industry, and all of the turmoil that we went through, in a subject matter that was identifiable, because it is hard to sit down and write a song about ‘I filed for bankruptcy today.’ So, for our own purposes, we had to write about the emotions that came with all of those struggles, but we also knew that it had to be a broad kind of emotional reach, because we wanted people to be able to find themselves in the music. So you will find those songs where I write from a pretty personal perspective about the rough relationship that I went through – but there are also some jabs at the music industry, in here comes the man to take advantage of the woman.

Tell us about the video, where is it filmed and who are the people in it; whose dog is it – is it yours?

Both: Haha!

Lydia: I wish it was. It was filmed at Bear Creek Studios where we made the record. It’s just outside Seattle – about 45 mins outside – and it’s out in the country, in the woods, in this big barn. It’s actually where Brandi has recorded several of her records; it was a great place for us to be inspired and the dog belongs to the engineers; her name is Chloe.

Awww.

Laura: You gotta have a studio dog – that’s part of it, haha! Yeah, it was a great experience for us.

You are dog people yourselves, right?

Laura: Haha, are we? We are so bad. We visited Hyde Park the other day and there were so many dogs. I don’t how British people interpret Americans squealing over their dogs. I was probably a very strange American losing my mind over their sweet creatures. We are homesick for our dogs right now, haha!

How many do you have?

Laura: Lydia has one and I have five.

Five?

Laura: I know – it’s a problem. I collect them, haha! I just really love taking in stray dogs. In America we have a lot of dogs that don’t have homes, so I find them and I can’t give them up, haha !

Lydia: Ha! She always says she will find them homes, but ends up keeping them.

Awww.

Tell us about the cover of the album – who is it?

Laura: So, that is our paternal grandmother – her name is Marcy and in the photograph on the album she is around fourteen years old. She is still living – in Alabama right now; she is 86 years old and she is battling cancer.

Oh, I am so sorry.

Laura: She is handling it like a champ. She is a wonderful, spirited, good woman, so we thought it was pretty fitting to pay tribute to her with our big, powerful, female-charged record, haha!

You are coming back as part of the Transatlantic Sessions next year. Could you tell us a bit about that, please – and where can we see you?

Laura: We really don’t know much about it, but we have other friends in America who were involved in it. I think it is a group of American musicians who come over and tour all over Europe and the UK together, with shows in big theatres. It is supposedly a really great night of collaboration in music. We are really excited; we wanted to get back over here so badly for so long and now we have got so many trips planned over here with the Transatlantic Sessions and then we are coming back in March and April for a four week tour over here. Making up for lost time, haha!

You were featured on Dan Layus’ Dangerous Things album which is another album I love. How did that project come to be?

Laura: He lives in Nashville and his wife is a fan of us, so he reached out and asked if we would sing on a couple of songs. We got into the studio and ended up singing on five of his songs; he is such a nice guy and took us on a couple of tours – we are just really rooting for him.
And we love everything he does.

What music are you loving right now?

Laura: We love Willie Watson. He is a folk singer in America and he is one of our favourites- we are really loving his new record. We love Gillian Welch.

Lydia: I have been promoting a girl called Courtney Marie Andrews.

Oh, I love her.

Lydia: I am a big fan of hers; she has a phenomenal voice.

She just played Union Chapel, too.

Lydia: Oh, really?

She is one of those people you just want to be your best bud, haha!

Lydia: Haha! Yeah, that’s how we feel, so neat.

Well, thank you so much for talking to me today.

Thank you so much, take care.

Purchase You Don’t Own Me Anymore by The Secret Sisters here

 

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