Southern 17-year-olds, Sarah and Savannah have talent that stretches far beyond their years. Their organic bluegrass/country sound surely sets them apart from the young artists of our time. From the raw, yet smooth quality of their harmonies mixed with classic country instrumentation, one could easily mistake those velvety vocals for someone twice their age. The sisters began garnering hometown awards and thousands of views on YouTube. Today, you can find them working alongside big name artists like Brandon Heath and Bill Anderson.
We caught up with The Church Sisters just in time to hear about their musical family, their biggest dreams, and the certain Disney movie soundtrack that started it all...
CCA: Could you start by introducing yourselves and your role(s) in the band? Tell us a little about your musical journey, thus far.
The Church Sisters (TCS): We are Sarah and Savannah Church, 17-year-old twins from Danville, VA. Savannah sings lead and plays the fiddle. Sarah sings and plays mandolin, shaker and tambourine. Our musical journey began when our mother discovered we could sing on an evening ride home from church. Savannah tried to pursue a singing career on her own, but the very next year Sarah’s harmonizing abilities were revealed on that car ride home. We auditioned for a talent show the next year together and earned the first place title. From there, we performed at local churches and small events.That quickly grew into a full touring schedule and invites from major artists to join them either in the studio or onstage.
CCA: What is your earliest musical memory? Is there a specific experience that sparked your interest in pursuing music as a career?
TCS: The earliest memory would most likely be the hours of practicing the same song over and over to sing it for our mom and dad. We heard a song from the Disney Channel’s High School Musical “What I’ve Been Looking For” and the words we’re so fitting for our current situation. We sang it in the car for mom and she got us home and made us sing it like 100 times until we begged her to let us stop. We entered a local talent competition, won it, and the rest is history.
CCA: As a country/bluegrass band, who would you cite as major influencers of your sound?
TCS: Early influences include The Peasall Sisters and The Isaacs. From then to now we would definitely say Alison Krauss, The Civil Wars, Brandon Heath, and Rhonda Vincent. We listen to all sorts of music and have a high respect for all genres.
CCA: I had the opportunity to see you play with Brandon Heath on his recent Blue Mountain tour. Tell us how that came about and what it was like for you.
TCS: It was the most amazing experience we have had to date! We opened a show for Brandon back in June with our band. He told us he was very impressed with us and even spent time with us after the show. We jokingly told him if he ever needed an opening act to give us a call, and honestly thought we would never hear from him again. To our surprise, he called three weeks later and invited us on the tour. We could not believe it! The tour began in early October and ran through late November. We drove 14,000 miles in seven weeks with a few shows of our own in Nashville before returning home for Thanksgiving and Christmas break. We learned the ins and outs of touring, management and more. It’s helped us to deliver a much more professional show and we are so thankful to Brandon for teaching us so much. We plan to work with him on more projects, in the future.
CCA: Tell us about your projects, so far. What can you share about what's next for you?
TCS: We released our debut album in September of 2009, Farther Along. It’s a simple collaboration of gospel songs and old hymns. We released our second, more progressive bluegrass/country album in July of 2012. There’s You features many star players including Jenee Fleenor, Adam Steffey and Jody King. Jenee is currently on tour with Blake Shelton and Martina McBride. Adam Steffey toured with The Dixie Chicks and various others and now tours with The Boxcars. We will hopefully announce our choice for a record label, soon. Recently, we’ve started something new. Each week, we choose a song our fans suggest and post the video on youtube and facebook. The response and growth has been great, and we enjoy giving the fans what they ask for. After all, if not for them we could not continue and we are well aware of that.
CCA: What is it like pursuing this dream with your twin sister and your family?
TCS: Our family is very close. Sarah and I do everything together. We are best friends in every way, and tell each other everything. Though we do have our disagreements, we try to do what’s best for the music and the family business. We love traveling together, and get along well on the road.
CCA: What's your favorite part about playing live shows? Who do you dream of playing with (past/present)?
TCS: Live shows are an adrenaline rush for sure! Our favorite part is the crowds. While in Texas for the first time, with Brandon Heath, the crowd response so memorable. When the crowd is involved like that it’s so much easier to perform well.
We have our hearts set on meeting and possibly touring with Dolly Parton, The Band Perry, Loretta Lynn, and most of all Brad Paisley.
CCA: Tell us about your most recent album, Theres You, and the creative process of bringing it to life.
TCS: We wanted to capture our most requested songs at our live shows on this album. The album was one year in the making because our touring schedule was so extensive, last year. The songs feature Jenee Fleenor on fiddle, Jody King on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin and our cousin Josh Pickett on guitar and bass. Josh also produced the entire album in his studio, Creekside Recording. We are very proud of this album, as it features both original material as well as songs from Nashville songwriters Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley.
CCA: Where can we go to find your music?
TCS: All of our albums are currently available on our website www.thechurchsisters.com and at our live shows. We are working to make our music available on iTunes very soon.
CCA: We hope to see you out on the road, soon. What can you tell us about upcoming tour plans?
TCS: We plan to start on our next album, soon, so we won’t be touring too much. If things go as planned, the record will be our first label release, next spring.