Photo credit: Abraham Rowe
Laura and Lydia Rogers are two women on the precipice of a defining moment in their careers – known for their ethereal sibling harmonies and deeply evocative sound, the sisters are preparing to release You Don’t Own Me Anymore (out June 9), a new album that is a departure both sonically and emotionally from their previous work.
After being plucked from obscurity out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 2010, and promptly making two albums for Universal Republic Records under the skillful wing of T. Bone Burnett, the Secret Sisters found themselves suddenly on the outside in 2014 when they were dropped from Universal Republic. “We lost our record deal, we lost our confidence. We faced a lawsuit, we went through bankruptcy.” Explained Laura, “It was just the most gut-wrenching time. Confidence and inspiration just disappeared.” It is from this broken place, that they began to build themselves up again, and this time they would call the shots. They are now signed to New West Records and asked their friend Brandi Carlile –powerhouse vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all-around badass – to produce their new album of original songs, ones wrung from turmoil, and rife with redemption.
The story of how you got your start in the music business reads like fiction. Does it feel that way?
Lydia: We have felt really spoiled because of it happening so quickly. I mean our first tour ever was with Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne. That whole next year, we really had some good opportunities. Now, six, seven years later, we’re feeling like we’re paying our dues a little bit more. Working our way up. All those early opportunities have felt like our saving grace now. We’ve been able to utilize those relationships that we developed early on. We lost everything. All we had to rely on were those relationships.
Laura: And if we hadn’t had all those larger than life experiences early on, we couldn’t have revived [our career] after all the bad stuff. We couldn’t have resurrected it. We attribute our ability to get past that darkness to all of those wonderful friends that we made when we really didn’t deserve to make those kinds of friends.
There was a time when I called Lydia every day and cried on the phone to her, telling her I can’t do it anymore, I don’t feel it anymore, I don’t feel inspired, I don’t miss singing. How are we ever going to get back to where we want to be? It was those people… Chris Thile for example, John Paul White stepped in, of course Brandi [Carlile] stepped in, Sara Watkins … There were just these certain people that when we told them what we were dealing with, they were like, “It’s really bad, we understand it’s bad and that it’s hard for you, but you can’t stop. If you stop, then you let the darkness win.”
Have those tough experiences over the past two years changed your approach to making this new album?
Lydia: Yes, it felt more collaborative. We felt like we could lend our voices a bit more. I do feel like we have come into our own, not just as songwriters but as producers too.
Laura: One thing about being Southern women, we’re very non-confrontational and we’re very “yes,” we say yes to everything. We don’t like to say no to people. We’re always afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or criticizing them. One thing we had to learn is that when you say yes to something that violates what you see for yourself, or what you believe in, it doesn’t serve your purpose. It doesn’t help you accomplish what your path is. We really surrounded ourselves with powerful men. Some of them were really wonderful, but there were also some that were a little bit like …
Lydia: Like “I know what I’m doing and you don’t know.”
Laura: I feel like we said yes to a lot of things that were not fair in the early years, and we said no to a lot of things that we should have said yes to. It’s interesting, now that we’ve gained this confidence and this recognition of our own power, to look back and go, “I should never have let that happen to us. We should never have let that person do us that way.”
Lydia: Even if you don’t really have a valid reason for not wanting to do something, it’s still okay [to say no] because you just don’t want to do it.
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