Bluesfest Interview: The Secret Sisters

Bluesfest Monday
Photo and interview by KT Bell

Today marks the first gig of The Secret Sisters‘ summer tour according to their Facebook Page and they’re a little nervous,not that they have any reason to be. The Secret Sisters have experienced a groundswell of support in Australia after appearing on the ABCs Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight in the lead up to their Bluesfest appearance. We managed to catch up with the Alabama born sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, to find out about their stunning musical style and how they found their time in Australia.

KT Bell: How are you finding Bluesfest? It’s your first time here.
Lydia Rogers: Yeah, it’s our first time here and it looks like it’s going to be a really great day, we just got here about an hour ago so I’m interested to see everybody.
Laura Rogers: This is our first festival of our summer. I know it isn’t summer here any more, but we’re spending the rest of the summer in the States at least, doin’ all the festivals and this is kind of our kickoff outdoor thingy, so we’re excited.
KT: And actually,you have a good year because it’s not raining ridiculously.
Laura: I know! I hear it’s always raining!
KT: We were saying before, in Australia, we love festivals and we do them all year round because we have the climate for it. So you’ve got a lot of festivals going on back home?

Laura: Well, yeah, in the States we do, and then also we’re headin’ to all the major European festivals. We got a busy year ahead, but that’s alright! [laughs]

KT: Now, you’ve got two sets at Bluesfest, what can audiences expect?
Lydia: We always include a few originals and definitely lots of covers. We do lots of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline and we do about an hour set.
Laura: Honestly, we do a long set when we’re not opening for someone, when we do our own kind of gig we really like to make the audience feel like they’re just sittin’ in our living room, listening to us play songs that we grew up singing and so that’s a lot of what the audience can expect. It will be just casual, really easy goin’.
KT: Have the stage manager bring out a couch or two for everyone?
Laura: Yeah! We’ll pass around coffee and tea, it’ll be cosy!

KT: So you’ve never been to Australia before?
Both: No, never!
Laura: Lovin’ it!
Lydia: It’s my favourite place we’ve ever visited, honestly.
Laura: The weather is wonderful, the beaches are incredible, I just feel like I’m on a vacation the whole time. I’m like “Oh yeah, I have to sing today, whoops! I forgot!”
Lydia: And the people are very laid back and easy going too, so it’s been very welcoming here.
Laura: It reminds me of what America would be if everybody would just chill out and if we had better beaches. I feel really at home here, I don’t know why, but I guess I’ll just have to come back.

KT: How long do you get to spend here?
Lydia: We are leaving Wednesday, we got here last Monday.
Laura: So we had about ten days which was really, I think, a good introduction. We spent time in Sydney and then in Melbourne and then Wollongong and here, so it’s, y’know I think we’re getting a good taste of what Australia is. We haven’t ventured in to the outback yet, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen [laughs], I wanna stick close to the beaches!
KT: How did you find the reception at your other Australian gigs?
Lydia: It’s been pretty massive actually. We opened for Elvis Costello a couple of times and really, everybody has been so great. I mean, we’ve sold a tonne of merch and people seem to be really in to it.
Laura: We also performed on Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight and that gave us a really good response. We had loads of people signing on to our facebook and writing things, and people at the shows coming up and saying “Oh, I saw you on Adam Hills and you were incredible”, so all the promo is really accomplishing what we want it to. Everything’s good about Australia!
KT: So you’ll be back?
Lydia: Absolutely!
Laura: Oh probably [laughs] it’s funny, the other day I was like, first of all, I want a summer home here, second of all, when’s the next tour to Australia, ’cause I’m ready! [laughs]
KT: I’m sure we could adopt you.
Laura: Oh, ok!

Bluesfest MondayLydia performing at Bluesfest

KT: So the two of you are from Alabama there must be a huge, diverse range of influences and inspirations there. How does that affect your music?
Lydia: Well, we grew up, it’s the bible belt of America. We were really influenced by our church and I always tell people, we didn’t have any musical instruments in our church. So, we had to learn how to read music and harmonise with each other and that’s a lot of where our sound comes from. Church, and our family, is very musical, every year we get together and play music. We have reunions, it’s called the Parker Pigout! [laughs] And we all get together and take turns playing songs and it’s just something we’ve always done, it’s just the norm for us.
Laura: Think southern America as a whole, not event just our little bubble that we’re in, but as a whole, Southern music is just so diverse. I mean, you’ve got rock n roll in Memphis, you’ve got blues from Louisiana and the delta, you’ve got country music from Nashville and all of it just sort of swirls together to create this really fertile area that music, any kind of music really can thrive there and I think that’s a lot of the reason why we do have so many influences, we’re not just straight country or straight pop or rock. We’re just kind of an amalgamation of everything and I love it! [laughs] And I like that this festival is that way, ’cause when they said Bluesfest, I was like “we’re not blues!” but then again, a lot of artists here aren’t and I love that that’s so ok here.
KT: Timber and Steel mainly focus on folk but the funniest thing about folk is that actually it kind of covers all of those genres
Lydia: Yeah, it does! It’s kind of one of those places that you put yourself when you don’t know what you are.
Laura: Sometimes, not all the time, Maybe Americana becomes a little bit of a catch-all as well, people say “What kind of music do you guys play?” and we can’t just say country, ’cause then they think Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood or Lady Antebellum, just Nashville country, and we’re really not in that vein, I don’t think. But, we just like to call it ‘Good Music’. [laughs]

KT: So you’ve had a couple of different types of gig here, obviously touring and the festivals, do you prefer the smaller intimate gigs or the big festivals?
Lydia: I like both, both have redeeming qualities but I really like the theatre setting. We were fortunate to play at the Palais in Melbourne and the State Theatre in Sydney and both of those, the acoustics in there were just great, and people sit down and it’s just a very respectful audience. And I think that’s the kind of audience that we like. I mean, we like all audiences! [laughs]
Laura: I think we’re most at home in those places, but of course, y’know, the only reason we’ve gotten to play those is because we’ve been opening acts. In Europe we were an opening act for a fellow named Ray LaMontagne and we were there with him and got to play in all these really great theatres. But, I mean, if we could pick any kind of venue, that would be the one, but we also do love festivals just because it’s so laid back and you get to be outside and you can be exposed to ridiculously huge crowds, which is wonderful.
KT: And crowds that may not have known they even like you
Laura: Yeah, exactly.
Lydia: They could just be walking by and hear one song.
Laura: You just stumble across it at the festival setting, where as if you go to a theatre, you’re there because you know it’s good. Every bit of it is fun, the thing is it’s different at each place, but it’s always good.

KT: So obviously you’ve got all the festivals at home to do next, what can we expect to hear from you in the next 12 – 18 months?
Laura: Oh boy!
Lydia: You can expect a lot of touring from us, we are headed straight home after this to play a few festivals and then we’re going straight to Europe for a two week tour and then we have another tour of the US, so lots of touring and definitely lots of writing and by the end of this year we’re hoping to record the next record, so, lot’s going on.
Laura: Yeah, we’re excited about that next record. I think it’s funny ’cause once you record an album, you have to live with that album for a long time, so we’ve been living with these songs for almost a year now because the album is technically about a year old as far as how long it’s been recorded, but the world has only heard it for a few months, so we’re kind of getting to the point were we’re like “Ok, new songs please!” [laughs] But it’s fun!

KT: Has Australia inspired you at all? Have you been writing while you’ve been here?
Laura: Yeah!
Lydia: We wrote a song last night!
KT: Really? Do we get to hear it?
Laura: Maybe tomorrow, there’s a good possibility for tomorrow. Today is a little…
Lydia: It still needs to be worked on a little bit
Laura: Our confidence needs to build within the song, but we were stayin’ in our hotel last night, and we’ve got a great view of, I don’t know what, it’s umm, like a harbour kind of thing
Lydia: The Gold Coast
Laura:It’s beautiful, we were out on the balcony and it was warm and breezy and we’d just had a great dinner so we wrote a song! And now that song will forever more be dedicated to Australia [laughs]
KT: Fantastic! Well, we all look forward to you dedicating it to us every time!
Lydia: [laughs] Yes, we’ll just call it ‘Australia’
Laura: Even though it’s about Alabama!
Lydia: It has nothing to do with Australia, but it’s going to be called Australia
Laura: We could always change the hook to like “going home ’cause Australia is my home.” Well, we could pretend like it is.
KT: Or you’re just sick of Australia and you want to go home?
Laura: Oh, no, no! Honestly, I don’t wanna leave! I’m kinda bummed that we have to go to Europe in a week, I’m like “Oh, they don’t have beaches.”

KT: Have a great time, really happy to spend some time with you and looking forward to everything coming from you over the next few months.
Both: Thank you, so much!

4 Comments

  1. May 26, 2011 at 17:46

    This is such an awesome interview. I have to say i love the secret sisters music and the girls seem so laid back and relaxed. I love seeing them perform they are such an amazing 2 piece if anything.

  2. June 29, 2011 at 09:59

    […] Having heard about the Secret Sisters several times leading up to the festival, I was keen to see what all the talk was about. One song into the set, the young duo from Alabama, who are indeed sisters, had turned me into an instant fan. With their beautiful southern harmonies, and country/gospel charm, they would not be out of place on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. That distinct accent, and being just so gosh darn nice, had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word. Stories of home, family, food, and tradition interlaced their set of authentically old styled originals and covers, including a beautiful rendition of Hank Williams’ Your Cheatin’ Heart. The sisters captured the hearts of Bluesfest, and it seems Australia had a good impression on them too, so this will certainly not be the last we see of them. (Check out KT Bell’s great interview with the girls during the festival) […]

  3. August 24, 2011 at 13:42

    […] This does beg the question as to whether The Secret Sisters will still make it down our way without The Great Southern Blues Festival as their linchpin. The duo were here earlier in the year for the Byron Bay Bluesfest and delivered a performance our reviewer said “had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word”. You can even read an interview we had with The Secret Sisters here. […]

  4. August 24, 2011 at 13:42

    […] This does beg the question as to whether The Secret Sisters will still make it down our way without The Great Southern Blues Festival as their linchpin. The duo were here earlier in the year for the Byron Bay Bluesfest and delivered a performance our reviewer said “had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word”. You can even read an interview we had with The Secret Sisters here. […]


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