By Brent Thompson
Whether you are talking about The Everly Brothers or Indigo Girls, you can’t deny the allure of harmony vocals. The Watson Twins – first known for their association with Jenny Lewis – are carrying on the harmony tradition that engages listeners. Earlier this year, the duo – Chandra and Leigh – released HOLLER [Bloodshot Records], a 10-track collection produced by Butch Walker. On Wednesday, December 6, the pair will perform at Iron City in support of The Wood Brothers. Recently, The Watson Sisters spoke with us by phone from Nashville.
Southern Stages: Chandra and Leigh, thanks for your time today. We are looking forward to having you back in Birmingham soon.
Chandra Watson: We have a real soft spot for Birmingham and we actually celebrated a birthday there a couple years ago just for fun. We love going down there.
Southern Stages: We are glad you have a connection to Birmingham. Also, this must be an exciting time to live in your adopted home of Nashville.
Leigh Watson: We moved here from Los Angeles. If Nashville had stayed the way it was when we first got here, it would have been tough to continue to grow here – it was in a holding pattern. We’ve been here to see the explosion of it and there’s good and bad that comes with it.
Southern Stages: How long will you be on tour with The Wood Brothers?
Chandra: We have over a week of dates with them, so we’re in Florida, New Orleans, Birmingham, Athens and Charleston.
Southern Stages: We are really enjoying HOLLER. How did the album’s material take shape?
Chandra: We actually were in the studio with our friend Butch Walker – we were recording backup vocals on his record that came out last year. There was a song that we had been doing live for years called “Two Timin'” and it never fit on a record. We decided that we wanted to record it as a single, and it was a dream to bring our touring band into [Butch’s] studio to record “Two Timin’.” The song was recorded in three hours and we decided we should do more. During Covid, we hadn’t really been writing so Leigh and I set out to write a record where “Two Timin'” could live. Once we set out to write the record, five ideas came within one day. For three months, we wrote every day and had a lot of fun.
Southern Stages: Do the two of you have a typical writing process or pattern?
Chandra: We have a little bit of a different approach now. We used to write separately for many, many years and then we would come together and edit and produce the songs together. When we decided to make DUO in 2018, we reflected back on our career. People know us for our harmony, so we said, “What if we wrote all of our songs together and we sang all the songs together?” We took that approach on DUO and that was very intentional and we fulfilled the self-fulfilling prophecy of it being the two of us forever [laughs]. We had such a great time writing that way for DUO, so it went came time to writing HOLLER we said, “Let’s do that again.” We’ve worked together for so long and we can be honest without being hurtful.
Southern Stages: How do you view today’s musical climate? Some artists say this is a great time given accessibility to listeners via outlets such as Spotify, Youtube and satellite radio. Others say the current model makes it difficult for artists to be found among the clutter.
Leigh: We’re going to need at least another 10 minutes! [laughs]. I do feel like it is a very challenging time and you really have to re-frame why you do it. With almost 20 years of touring and making records, it’s evolved and it’s been manipulated into other shapes and firms. I think right now we are in limbo as to what music will be. When we look at the “what-ifs,” it feels very overwhelming and it’s important to create a place where you feel comfortable and can make music. We have to wrap our heads around the fact that the industry looks different. When we talk about accessibility, we also have accessibility to fans in a different way than we ever have. To hear feedback from fans that discovered our music on Spotify means something – that gets through the night and to the next town and to writing our next song.
Chandra: The accessibility is amazing and it’s really cool that people are listening in Stockholm or Brazil.
Leigh: People used to say, “We’re really big in Japan,” and now you really can be big in Japan even if you’ve never been there [laughs].
On Wednesday, December 6, Code-R Productions presents The Wood Brothers with special guests The Watson Twins at Iron City. Tickets to the 8 p.m., all-ages show can be purchased at www.ironcitybham.com.