For all the stages singers Laura and Lydia and Rogers have graced, from those in the U.S. to Ireland to Australia, they only have performed a couple of times in their native Shoals.
“We spend so much time focusing on other parts of the world and trying to get our music into every corner of it, we don’t always get to focus on home,” Laura Rogers said in a recent interview.
That changes Saturday as the Greenhill-raised duo — The Secret Sisters — headline a sold-out benefit concert for Northwest-Shoals Community College Foundation’s scholarship fund at the Ritz Theatre in downtown Sheffield. To make it a complete hometown show, the bluegrass band Iron Horse, featuring the sisters’ father, Ricky Rogers, will perform as well.
The few Shoals performances can be explained by the Rogers sisters’ start, which, unlike with other local artists, didn’t come from playing gigs around town. They were discovered at an open audition in Nashville in the fall of 2009, although they hadn’t set out as a duo.
Since the release of their debut, self-titled album in fall 2010, which was executive produced by industry bigwig T Bone Burnett, they’ve toured the world and played with music greats, charming fans with their tight sibling harmonies and classic country appeal. In 2011, they were nominated for the Americana Music Association’s new/emerging artist award and performed at the ceremony.
At the end of the month, the Sisters head to Europe for the final leg of the tour supporting their debut, with the rest of 2012 dedicated to creating their sophomore album.
In a telephone interview with the TimesDaily, Laura spoke from Seattle, where she and Lydia are writing songs with Americana artist and former tourmate, Brandi Carlile, about the past year, the new album and a spot on an anticipated film’s soundtrack.
TimesDaily: What made y’all decide to do the benefit show?
Laura Rogers: We had been approached by a friend of ours who is in charge of putting on this benefit. We obviously valued the reason behind the show and the fact that it’s a hometown show, and we don’t get to do those very often. That was very special for us.
We’re done with touring right now; we’re not touring until February. This is a good in-between show to keep us going. When you don’t perform for a while, you sort of lose stamina, or smoothness if you will. It helps us because it just keeps us on our toes, and it means a lot to get to play for a hometown crowd.
TD: You haven’t been able to play many local shows.
Rogers: We’ve never played the Ritz before. This is a milestone for us. We played a show in Decatur at the Princess; that was as close to home as we’ve really been in several months. We’ve been encouraged (by the response to this show). We felt like there was a really good reception that we’re going to be playing. It’s going to be fun all around.
Our Dad’s band is opening for us, which is kind of hilarious. ... They’re very excited, happy to be a part of it. We rehearsed the other day. There will definitely be a collaboration, a few songs that we all do together. I can’t wait.
TD: Iron Horse is known around here, of course, for its members’ musicianship.
Rogers: That’s been a good thing for us to have around us. When you look at a group of men who are in their 40’s and 50’s, they’ve been playing music that long. They’re not trying to do it professionally; they just do it because they love it. It’s been a good example for us to follow, and it keeps our motivations and priorities in the right place. And never in a million years did I imagine they’d open for us.
TD: What are the two of you working on in Seattle?
Rogers: We’re getting ready to start recording. Our friend, Brandi Carlile, has a studio at her house. She invited us to do some songwriting, do some demos, figure out what we want the record to sound to like. We’ve got a songwriting session this afternoon. We’ve already written several songs. We’ll hopefully have the record out by the end of the year, (having) cut the record in March.
TD: Where will you record it?
Rogers: We don’t really know yet. We really want to do it in Nashville. We’re still not really sure. We don’t know exactly who is going to be producing the record. I guess that will determine the location. We would really like to do it in Nashville because of our country roots and, of course, the resources available.
TD: Are you still with Beladroit Records (Universal Republic label imprint)?
Rogers: We’re still with the same label; the record will be released through those labels. 2011 was just so intense. We really put in a lot of hard work knowing that it will pay off — setting things up nicely for the next record.
TD: You performed with a bunch of high-profile artists. What were some of the touring highlights of 2011?
Rogers: It’s been amazing. There were lessons that we’ve learned from every one. With Brandi Carlile, it was just an easy tour. It wasn’t stressful; we were on her tour bus. It was relaxing, easy, fun. With Ray LaMontagne, his music is just amazing, and he’s got a great group of people around him. k.d. lang, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon ... When I look back at what all we did in 2011, I am just so humbled by all the people we got to rub elbows with. Nobody gets to do that. It’s just a dream come true.
Responsibility comes with that; lessons to learn. We take a piece of those tours with us as we go along. Everything that we’ve done has just been so remarkable, I think it’s really shaped us to be the people we are now versus who we were when we started.
TD: You mentioned you and Lydia are working to nail down the sound for the sophomore album. What can fans expect?
Rogers: From the beginning, we knew that our first record would be primarily cover songs and that our second record will be 100 percent us. ... We are writing the whole record from start to finish on our own, so that’s going to be different. There definitely still are the country music influences because that’s such a part of who we are. But some songs are more bluesy, some songs are very dark. There are a few gospel, tent-revival kind of songs. It’s going to be a really interesting sound. I think it’s going to be really different from the first album, but still us.
The first record I did a majority of the lead vocals. This record, Lydia will play more of an equal role doing lead. That makes me so excited because it gives me a break, and I love her voice and her voice needs to be heard as well. We’re hoping that the record will be able to define who we are.
We were in Australia when the tornadoes came through Alabama (in April 2011). It was so tough for us to be away from home when all that was going on. There, Lydia sat down and wrote a song stemming from that sadness, “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder.” Even though it came from a really dark circumstance, it is about looking forward to better days. Just recently, we found out that song is going to be on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack. We recorded that song with T Bone in New York.
TD: And you’re hoping for a fall debut of the album?
Rogers: We’re working hard. I kind of feel like we’re boring right now. (laughing) The end of January starts our last tour for the first album over there. Then we’re completely done with touring until the record is finished.
Sarah Carlson can be reached at 256-740-5722 or sarah.carlson@TimesDaily.com.
The Secret Sisters aren’t the only Shoals artists to have a song (“Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”) on the soundtrack for the film “The Hunger Games” (March 23). The Civil Wars, featuring Florence’s John Paul White, recently teamed with country star Taylor Swift and producer T Bone Burnett to pen the song “Safe & Sound” for the album. You can download the song on iTunes.