Interview: The Secret Sisters hoping to reach new fans with their song on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack
Secret Sisters hungering for young fans with “The Hunger Games” album
The country-folk duo recorded the gently hopeful “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” for the soundtrack to the hotly anticipated movie.
For instance, “when T Bone Burnett tells you to read a book, you read it,” said Laura in a phone interview last week from Los Angeles.
“He’s got good taste, and he’s never steered us wrong before,” Lydia added with a laugh.
Most recently, the 12-time Grammy winner has steered the Alabama siblings, who make sweet music together as The Secret Sisters, onto “The Hunger Games” soundtrack, virtually ensuring that the country-folk duo won’t remain much of a secret for long.
“The movie is so great and really well filmed. I can’t wait for everybody to see it. It’s gonna be a really cool thing,” said Lydia two days after attending the world premiere of one of the most anticipated films of the year.
“It’s so amazing, I can’t even describe to you. I mean, it’s just so true to the books. It’s gonna be a really big deal.”
“A really big deal” may well be an understatement in the case of “The Hunger Games.” Last week, the Hollywood Reporter said the first film based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult book trilogy is tracking to score a $100 million or better opening and could even best last fall’s $138.1 million opening for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” which earned the fifth-best debut of all time domestically.
With the film’s high profile, Burnett was able to recruit an array of top music stars to submit original songs for consideration. The Oscar winner ultimately chose 16 songs from Tishomingo country superstar Miranda Lambert and her Pistol Annies, Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Kid Cudi, Maroon 5 and more for “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.”
But Burnett also made room for relative newcomers Jayme Dee, Birdy and The Secret Sisters for the soundtrack, which was released Tuesday. For The Secret Sisters, the opportunity to gain such a large, young audience for their music is invaluable, especially with their vintage sound.
“Up until this point we’ve had more of an older audience. Usually when we perform, we’re in a bunch of white hair,” Lydia said with a laugh. “We love white-haired people, but it’s nice to actually be exposed to younger people who can hear our music and appreciate it as well.”
Becoming a Secret
Growing up in a musical family in the sonic hotbed of Muscle Shoals, Ala., Laura, 25, and Lydia, 23, Rogers honed their angelic voices and close harmonies singing a capella in The Church of Christ.
They never really considered pursuing professional singing careers — together or separately — until Laura answered an open call for singers from producer Dave Cobb in Nashville, Tenn. A callback presented an opportunity for the siblings to sing together, and in a matter of days they were flying to Los Angeles to record a couple of demos. It was Laura’s first time on an airplane.
Within weeks, they were signed to Universal Republic and working on their 2010 self-titled album, a harmonious collection of crystalline classic covers of George Jones’ “Why Baby Why,” Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me?” and Frank Sinatra’s “Something Stupid,” plus their charming originals “Tennessee Me” and “Waste the Day.”
Burnett (who has worked with Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys) and Cobb (whose credits include Waylon Jennings and Jamey Johnson) produced their debut, and Burnett even launched the Republic imprint Beladroit Records just to release “The Secret Sisters.”
Finding their “Hunger”
Last summer, Burnett called up Laura and Lydia and instructed them to read “The Hunger Games” since he wanted them to write and record a song for the soundtrack.
“We were instant fans of the books,” Laura said. “I felt like they were really well written and that the storyline was really easy to read but serious and heavy and something that kind of made you think about really extreme circumstances that could actually feasibly happen.”
For the soundtrack, they contributed the gentle acoustic ballad “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder.”
“It fits really well with the subject matter. It’s a really simple song and it’s just kind of optimistic and hopeful about trying to move forward even though you’ve come through a really difficult moment,” Laura said.
The duo actually penned the previously unreleased song in response to the April 2011 tornadoes that ravaged their home state along with much of the South.
“We were in Australia at the time, and so we were feeling really helpless about the situation. We couldn’t do anything about it, so we just sat down and started writing a song about how we felt,” Lydia said. “And we came up with ‘Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,’ and it seemed really applicable to the situations in ‘The Hunger Games.’ So we’re glad that we have this huge platform that it’s now on and it can be exposed to so many people in that way.”
As with their debut album, The Secret Sisters recorded “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” to tape on old-school equipment. Progressive bluegrass band the Punch Brothers, whose “Dark Days” also is included on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack, accompanied them on the song.
“We’re actually really big fans of old ribbon microphones that make everybody sound better when they sing into ‘em,” Laura said.
“The sound that we all got from the vintage equipment, you just can’t beat it. We’re huge fans of analog recording.”
They plan to keep their preservationist approach for their sophomore album, which they are getting ready to record in the next month or so. In the meantime, they also are featured on another star-studded project, The Chieftains’ “Voice of the Ages,” alongside fellow “Hunger Games” contributors the Punch Brothers, The Civil Wars and the Pistol Annies. The duo recorded the folk ballad “Peggy Gordon” with the Irish band for its 50th anniversary album, which naturally, Burnett produced.
“He’s just kind of taken us under his wing. He’s a very grandfatherly figure, just really protective of us, and he tries to help us in any way he can. Because he believes in the music that we make, he’s trying to get us out there as much as possible. He’s been so helpful to us and we owe him so much,” Laura said.