The Secret Sisters to perform at Kent Folk Festival

Lisa Robertson

Alabama sisters are steadily making a name for themselves

The Secret Sisters are actually sisters. The duo of Lydia Rogers, 22, and Laura Rogers, 24, hail from Muscle Shoals, Ala. With the clout of legendary producer T Bone Burnett behind them, the sisters self-titled debut album, released Oct. 12, has been widely praised.

Together as The Secret Sisters for about a year, the two women blend country, indie and folk to create a sound straight out of the 1940s and 50s, matched by a trademark sense of style from the same era. And it works.

Lydia said their manager came up with their name.

“We were all really having a hard time finding a name, and Andrew actually came across the phrase Secret Sisters. It sounded good to us, and it wasn’t taken,” Lydia said.

The sisters, who both play guitar and piano, grew up surrounded by music, Laura said, and were both heavily influenced by their family. Both of their parents sing, and “our dad plays every instrument you can imagine,” Laura said.

Throw in a grandfather who can sing, and practically every other member of the family who sings and plays an instrument, and you have all the ingredients to assume the sisters would grow up wanting to be professional musicians.

But that was not the case. Though Lydia said she wanted to be a singer, “I never thought that it would be marketable, so you know, I decided to go to school and be a graphic designer.”

Laura, who also never seriously considered pursuing a professional singing career, graduated from college and was a nanny in Nashville, Tenn., before she decided to audition for a group of music representatives.

As their story goes, producer Dave Cobb quickly snapped the girls up to record demos, with a record deal soon following. They recorded their debut album in just two weeks in February, and refrained from using any “fancy-schmancy” auto-tuning equipment, Laura said.

“We wanted to make sure that the record that came out was as good as, or at least equal to, what we could do in a live performance setting,” Laura said.

The sisters, along with their producer, used an eclectic amount of resources to find songs for their album, including iTunes, YouTube, Cobb’s old record collection, classic country catalogs, an old Irish tune and Frank Sinatra. They also suggested songs they wrote, which proved to be a particularly nerve-wracking experience.

“We wanted to put a couple of originals on there, but we just, we didn’t know if our songs that we had written would stand out next to such, you know, amazing songs that had already been written years before,” Lydia said.

Laura said they were looking for a certain message with their song selections. “On a deeper level we just want it to be really pure and really honest, and we want, we want there to be a certain innocence and wholesomeness to it over all.”

In a whirlwind of picking out material and recording, the sisters, who both still live in Alabama, said their family keeps them grounded. They are also very supportive, Lydia said, admitting that their mom keeps a scrapbook of all the articles written about her daughters.

“They’re so supportive and encouraging, and it’s just really nice to have that, because we know not everybody does,” Lydia said.

Two sources of inspiration for the sisters are Ray LaMontagne and Levon Helm, with whom they are currently on tour. LaMontagne and Helm are not just providing musical inspiration, Laura said, but also the inspiration to withstand the rigors of touring.

“It’s hard. You’re just going non-stop and you’re exhausted a lot of the times, but when you get on that stage it’s just, it’s really special,” Laura said.

The sisters will soon get an even bigger dose of country stardom and staying power when they tour with Wille Nelson and Loretta Lynn.

Both Laura and Lydia are refreshingly honest when it comes to the issue of sibling rivalry and annoying one another. As Lydia said, “We are horrible to each other, but I mean, at the end of the day we’re all each other has.”

“It’s hard because when you’re on the road and you’re so new to this, you’re always stuck in the same hotel room, you’re always in the same car, you’re always on stage together. It’s like, you never get any private time to just kind of recuperate, and I just get to the point where I could literally, you know, pull her hair out sometimes. But I don’t,” Laura said.

Hair-pulling aside, the sisters are already thinking about a second album. This time around, they want to use more of their own songs and maybe venture outside the country genre, Lydia said.

In the meantime, the sisters are working hard to prove themselves and develop a solid fan base.

Their goal is longevity, and to “be able to put really great music out there for people,” Laura said.

“We really are into it for all the right reasons.”

You can contact Lisa Robertson at [email protected].