Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 3, 2011

The Secret Sisters define their own style of country music

By Thom Jennings
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

LOCKPORT — The Secret Sisters are Laura and Lydia Rogers from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Their brand of old style country is unlike anything else in popular or country music today.

Calling the Secret Sisters music “old style country” is a bit unfair. In an age when music charts and satellite and internet radio stations are broken into endless subgenres, the Secret Sisters seem to have hit upon a musical formula that doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, and that worries the band a little bit.

“We don’t fit in with the modern country crowd. That’s not a bad thing, we are just different. But to be honest, sometimes I worry about fitting in with the modern country music crowd; I wonder if they will ever jump on the Secret Sisters ship,” Laura Rogers noted during a recent telephone interview.

The Secret Sisters are not much of a secret anymore and are seemingly on the fast track to stardom. It was only a little over a year ago that sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers auditioned for music industry professionals in Nashville and blew them away. Within weeks, the Secret Sisters were recording a demo in Los Angeles and soon after that, they had their first record deal with Universal Republic.

“We were just sincerely singing the way we do at home, nothing was forced about it,” Laura said about the audition.

Their album, released in October, has garnered a considerable amount of press and favorable reviews from Rolling Stone Magazine, People Magazine, Country Weekly and Billboard. Only weeks after the debut, the Secret Sisters appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The key to the Secret Sisters sound is in both the production of the album and the Secret Sisters ability to harmonize. The album was produced by David Cobb, who produced albums by Waylon Jennings and Jamey Johnson, and recorded using vintage recording techniques and vintage recording equipment. That places the emphasis where it should be — on the rich harmonies.

The Sisters have other big name supporters, like the Grammy-Award winning, legendary record producer T-Bone Burnett, who recently produced Elton John and Leon Russell’s critically acclaimed collaboration “Union.” Burnett is listed as executive producer on the Secret Sister debut album.

The Secret Sisters have also worked with guitarist Jack White of the White Stripes and toured with Levon Helm. Barely in their twenties, I wondered what their impression was of the famous musicians and industry personnel.

“To meet somebody like Levon Helm and other music legends and realize that they are just plain and nice people, that has been great,” Lydia said. “Almost everybody we have worked with, whether they are a music legend or not, has been very kind and offered lots of support.”

“It is easy to escalate somebody’s status when you’re a fan and they are always in your CD player or on your turntable. When you meet them, you realize they are just normal like the rest of us,” Laura said.

Becoming national recording and touring artists was not Laura and Lydia’s original intention. At the time of the audition, Lydia was a nanny and Laura was in school studying for a career in the music business, but not as a performer.

“It’s funny, you go into things expecting one thing to happen and something entirely different comes out of it,” Laura said. “I thought I would be writing record contracts, not reviewing them.”

Her education did come in handy when the Secret Sisters negotiated their record contract. “I surprised some people by asking questions about things like cross-collateralization,” she said.

In case you didn’t know, cross-collateralization is a clause put in some recording contracts that allows the record label to recoup early losses by banking on an artist’s future successes. It shifts much of the risk away from the record company and onto the artist.

The final thing I wanted to know about the Rogers sisters was how they got along now that their futures are intertwined.

“We know how to put a smiling face on for the audience, but when we get back to the hotel room the evil comes out,” Laura said. “When we are off the road I go as far away from Lydia as I can, and we don’t see each other.”

Lydia laughed as she said, “I guess the secret is that The Secret Sisters have a terrible offstage relationship.”

Whatever the relationship is offstage, it’s no secret that onstage their musical relationship is magical.

If you decide to pick up the Secret Sisters debut album, please fire an email to thom@backstageaxxess.com and let me know what you think of it.