The Secret Sisters at The Old Church – Tickets – The Old Church – Portland, OR – June 3rd, 2017

The Secret Sisters at The Old Church

Mississippi Studios Presents Americana duo with honeyed harmonies from Muscle Shoals, Alabama

The Secret Sisters at The Old Church

Hannah Miller

Sat, June 3, 2017

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$15 ADV / $17 DOS

This event is all ages

Fully Seated 

The Secret Sisters
The Secret Sisters
There are two ways of handling a dangerous, raging river: you can surrender and let it carry you away, or you can swim against the flow. For The Secret Sisters, there was a point after the release of their last record when they could have chosen to do neither – instead, sinking to the bottom as the weight of the world washed away their dreams. They went from touring with Bob Dylan to losing their label, purging their team, filing bankruptcy and almost permanently trading harmonies for housecleaning. But there's a mythical pull to music that kept sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers moving forward, and they came out with a biting and beautiful third LP, produced by Brandi Carlile, You Don't Own Me Anymore. Their first as New West signees, it's a document of hardship and redemption, of pushing forward when it would be so much easier to drown in grief. And it's a story about how passion and pure artistry can be the strongest sort of salvation – how art is left, like perfect grains of sand, when everything else has washed away.

"We are more proud of these songs than we have ever been," says Laura.

"Some of the songs are a little more cryptic, but some of them are very pointed and honest and direct. And we had to let those songs happen. We had to let ourselves be angry again, and bring up things we wanted to forget."

It certainly would have been easier to just try and forget the past few years of The Secret Sisters' life. After their second album, Put Your Needle Down, didn't perform according to their label's expectations – however unrealistic they were in this day and age – the duo was dropped, leaving them with barely enough money to stay on the road and keep making music. So they retreated home to Alabama, worn and weary from experiencing the devilish side of the industry first-hand, scraping together whatever they could while trying to embrace what seemed to be a future without music. But when Carlile – someone whom The Secret Sisters have admired for years and one of our truest talents – offered to produce their record, it made them think that a future was possible. Soon, a PledgeMusic campaign that completely exceeded their hopes and dreams made it fiscally so.

"It was a nightmare that every day seemed to worsen," says Laura. "We went through things we literally never thought we would come out of. "Adds Lydia, "it had just gotten so bad, the only option was to file bankruptcy."

Even once Carlile gave The Secret Sisters some renewed hope, things weren’t instantly easy: what they went through left huge, gaping wounds that needed to heal before they could pour themselves into songwriting. But when they did, everything changed. Laura and Lydia found themselves in a more creative and honest space than ever, with their experiences flowing and morphing into collective tales of triumph, rage and the indefatigable human spirit. The resulting songs of You Don't Own Me Anymore are about life when everything you think defines you is stripped away: from "The Damage," as gorgeous as it is haunting, that speaks directly to those that did them wrong, to the first single "Tennessee River Runs Low," that imagines the willful flow of a powerful river. These are journeys as poetic as they are confessional, always anchored by the timeless, crystalline ring of Laura and Lydia's voices in sweet unison.

"This record is deeply personal because of what we endured," says Lydia. "But it's important as a songwriter and artist to talk about the times things weren’t great. This is a hard business, and it's not all roses and rainbows. What we came out with is more honest than ever, and we couldn't help that a lot of it is about the darkness."

In the beginning, before that darkness moved in, things were a little like rainbows and roses for the sisters, who rose quickly through the music universe. An open audition in Nashville in 2009 lead them to a major label deal and a debut record produced by T Bone Burnett and Dave Cobb, followed by a tour with Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne, a feat for any artist, let alone two that had just gotten started. From there, they opened for the likes of Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon, appeared on numerous late night shows and released a second album with Burnett. But the tides turned quickly – things can change in an instant, both for the good, and the bad. And when the clouds started to lift, Carlile was there to help usher in the sunshine.

"Brandi, Phil, and Tim had never produced a record for anybody but themselves," says Laura about their experience in the studio. "We are all artists, and we could include our opinions. I felt like everyone was an equal force in the room. It is often lost on producers that you actually have to go perform your song on a stage - it's easy to get so caught up on the production that you don't discuss how this all will translate - but Brandi innately understood that." The end product finds the sisters taking their music to new places, with soulful, gospel grooves and stirring vocal deliveries that never seek perfection over power. From murder ballads to skewering roasts, it's a guidebook for survival.

After all, sometimes you have to lose everything to get a renewed version in return. Like the Tennessee River they sing about, only after a drought does fresh, new water come rushing in. The same could be said for The Secret Sisters, who were scraped dry and put through hell, coming out with their finest record, You Don't Own Me Anymore. "The only way we could have completely healed was to have written an entire record," says Laura. "I think we were just in the wrong parts of the machine," says her sister. "We feel like we have learned where not to be, and where to go." And that's to never let anyone or anything own them again.
Hannah Miller
Left-of-center pop music. Raw Americana. Eclectic, electrified indie folk.

On her self-titled album, Hannah Miller plays it all. Written and recorded after the birth of her first child, the record captures the Nashville-based musician in transition, moving away from the coffeehouse-friendly songs that filled her previous releases in favor of something louder, livelier and more indebted to the sweep and swell of a full backup band.

For years, Miller spent much of her time on the road, playing shows with artists like Langhorne Slim and Elizabeth Cook one minute and headlining her own gigs the next. She was a storyteller, taking details from her own life — which include a childhood spent in Alabama, a musical coming-of-age in South Carolina and an eventual move to Tennessee — and rolling them into her songs. To cut costs, she often played alone, relying on little more than the acoustic guitar and her voice to hold an audience's attention.

Something changed during the late 2012’s, though. Miller wanted to experiment, to make music that moved. Once her baby boy arrived, she became a bit more fearless.

"It makes you more confident to try new things," she says of parenthood. "Your perspective changes a bit, and in a lot of ways, you overcome your inhibitions. It makes you willing to try new things, even if they fail."

On the self-titled Hannah Miller, those new things involve an emphasis on electric guitar, keyboards and, occasionally, the moody, reverb-heavy arrangements of artists like Chris Isaak and Lana del Rey. Miller's songs are still rooted in the classic sounds of the songwriters she grew up with — Tom Petty, Simon & Garfunkel, even the Ohio-based folk duo Over the Rhine — but their presentation has changed.

One song, "Promise Land," has even become a viral hit, thanks to a YouTube video created by 60 Minutes cameraman Danny Cooke. The video hit the internet in late 2014, combining footage of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster — which Cooke had filmed for a TV special coinciding with the Chernobyl catastrophe's 25th anniversary — with a 30-second clip of Miller's song. The video racked up more than eleven million views within three months, kickstarting a new wave of popularity for the songwriter it highlighted.

With TV shows like This Is Us, Sons of Anarchy, The Following and Pretty Little Liars also featuring her songs, Miller is ready for the second phase of her career — one that isn't boxed in by genres or anxieties. Hannah Miller is the first step in that direction, a career-shaping record that's melodic and moody in equal doses.