With the second part of the week being hijacked by Halloween all the shows you need to see this week are happening early on. For starters, the absolutely delightful Watson Twins are sharing a stage today with Billy Bragg at 930 Club. We did a big interview/listening party with them last time they were in town and I am pretty sure Michael is the only one that read it. And more people should have. So, we are rerunning it. For yours, ours and their benefit.
I remember a year or two a go someone said to me:
“I always thought Jenny Lewis was kinda amazing and talented and super hot, but then I saw and heard The Watson twins”
Our love for Jenny non-withstanding, we get it.
Leigh and Chandra have been harmonizing like angels since they were “this tall”, first at home in Louisville, then as back up singers for almost a decade, then as part of Miss Lewis’ “Rabbit Fur Coat” album and now finally, after their delightful 2006 EP, on their first solo tour to support their debut full length album “Fire Songs” (out now on Vanguard).
I sat down phone to phone with Leigh, while Chandra was driving, somewhere in the middle of their 14 hour on-the-road day. She was sweet and funny, and called back the second the line broke in the middle of the second to last question and apologized for a bad connection and our 15 minute interview slot ended up being almost 40 minutes long. This is what we talked about. Prepare to love:
On being in a car for 14 hours a day (and Wham)
We have been driving for days. Me, Chandra and our tour manager. We just had a pit stop in Nashville which was a nice break but other than that we have been in the van for fourteen or more hours every day. The band is meeting us in DC and we are so excited to see them and to hear how people react to the new songs. What do we do to pass the 14 hours? (on repeat) Well, I have been reading the new David Sedaris, which is so hilarious, sometimes I have to turn the music off and read whole chapters out loud to the car. And the (driving) music…well, its been a collage of things, I mean, right now we listened to some Wham, because you know, it felt right. Aside from that: the classics, some Dylan, some Gram Parsons, some newer stuff: a little bit of Midlake, some Shins, the new Death Cab….we are prepared for anything, next up could very well be Michael Jackson.
On First Big Solo Tour (jitters)
We are very excited. And scared. But scared in a good way. This has been a long time coming, we have sung back up vocals for people for almost a decade now, and we took our time with this record, and are so proud of it, but also nervous to see how people will react. DC is really the first real stop. Why? (laughs) You have to ask our booking agent why. We’ve done some LA shows and a bunch of radio appearances (they are doing a session at XM this morning-ed.) and now we are going to go for it. I hope you guys are ready.
On (touring with) Jenny
That was a great experience. We learned so much about ourselves and what being on the road is really like and what being truly professional means. It will come in handy this time around, I am sure.
On Ending up, fitting in and staying in LA
Well, we grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and by the time we got done with college we were ready to leave. So we decided to just drive around for six months. We had never been further West than Kansas and we were curious to see what is “out there”. So, we camped and crashed and had this amazing trip. And then we got back and a friend of ours called and said that there were rooms available in his house in LA. And so we just packed our bags and moved, fully expecting to be there just for a year, then move again. That was almost 9 years a go. The house was in Silverlake, we met a lot of people in the music community, a lot of whom we ended up playing and singing back up vocals with, started a band (Slydell) we ended up being in for five years, and never left. Things like this, I guess, sometimes just happen.
On Labels and Labelling
We made “Rabbit Fur Coat” on Conner Oberst’s Team Love label which was great to us. The EP (Southern Manners, released in 06-ed) we did as a self-release, as we did with all our recordings before that. We were always raised with that DIY approach to things: If you want it done right, do it yourself. So, how did we end up on Vanguard? Well, they were just persistent, and really seemed fully committed to support us with this.
Plus, you know, it feels nice to be part of such a great label history, with Doc Watson and Joan Baez and Levon Helm and a back catalogue of fifty years of good stuff. I think it worked out.
On Naming the New Album
It all started with a song which is now called “Old ways” which we initially called “Fire Song”. It just stuck. There is definitely a reference to torch songs in it and to that old folk narrative approach to songwriting. That is something we tried to convey, while still sounding relatively modern.
On Standout Songs AND Processes
Well, “Old Ways” is definitely one. It is actually the first song that happened on this album. We were on tour with Matt Costa and this song came out of souncheck. Chandra was strumming and out came the chorus. Then, the next day out came the verse, and by the time we came back to LA, we had this skeleton of a song ready to play with. It is also the first song we recorded on the album, and we do a three part harmony on it with our producer, and that was so much fun to do. Lyrically, it is very poetic, I think. It goes back to what I was saying about torch songs and our love for old, traditional folk music people sing to each other on their porches, all the creative metaphors people come up with to describe things. And, as I said, it was our first song on this album, and as such holds a special place for us.
Another song I like to talk about (laughs) is “Only You”. I was stuck in Kentucky, being a little overwhelmed and tortured by feelings for this person I was falling for. Of course, he was in the music business as well, and dealing with how inevitably being sort of public ends up overwhelming your relationship. But this is someone who is still very dear to me and as such this song is also very dear to me too.
And finally, I would say “Sky Open Up” which my sister wrote and which to me is a very California song. It addresses the state that we are in, I guess, both as a country and individually, which, like it or not, is something we all think about….and while it deals with the things ahead and decisions to be made, it also has a nice hopefulness to it, which I like.
So yes, those three, though, you know, it is hard to pick favorited (We know-ed)
On Future Plans
Well, in short term, we arrived to DC tonight (we talked yesterday), are doing this XM radio thing in the morning, taking a break from being in the car, maybe sightseeing a little, playing our first show for your guys on Wednesday and are somehow, predictably enough, already thinking and working and writing and experimenting on the new record. So…we’ll see.