Music & Nightlife

Secret Sisters’ Christmas tour sparks atypical holiday memories, marks rebirth

One would think a folk-roots duo like the Secret Sisters, who embarked on their first holiday tour last week, would remember heartwarming stories of Christmases past. But sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers’ warmest memories are a bit different than most.

“We have this family tradition where we sing Christmas carols, but we sing them intentionally really terribly,” says Laura from her home in Muscle Shoals, Ala., the day before the tour starts. “We find it hilarious to sing Christmas carols out of tune.”

The family, which features many musicians, assign particular parts to different family members and try to outdo each other on songs like “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

“We do it as Southern and as obnoxiously as we can,” Lydia adds. “We do that with the happy birthday song – we all sing it in a million different keys.”

That is just one of many twists on the holidays the sisters share on the tour, which stops at Neighborhood Theatre on Thursday.

The tour is part of a period of rebirth for the band, which nearly abandoned its career due to legal and financial woes after letting its manager go and being dropped by its label.

“We ran into enormous hurdles to where we never thought we’d be able to resurrect our career,” Laura says.

The pair’s creative spark wasn’t reignited until musician friend Brandi Carlile encouraged them to persevere and offered to produce their new music.

“I certainly didn’t feel inspired to write an album,” Laura says. “She told us, ‘You have to finish these songs. You’ve got to write about all the frustration you feel.’ 

Carlile kept at them, too. She and longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth (twin brothers) finished recording the record with the Sisters in Seattle this fall. It’s due out next year. The Sisters were encouraged by a successful crowd-funding campaign that raised well over their initial goal, although they were hesitant to ask fans for help.

“Our self-esteem took an enormous blow, and there’s this mentality when you’re a musician that if you take time off or your career goes into pause, nobody will remember who you are,” says Laura. “It was nice to know people were waiting for a new record. They don’t even know if they’re going to like it yet. It’s a really powerful record. There’s a lot of coming of age, learning how to process people who do you wrong, and getting yourself back together after you hit a bad phase.”

Fans will get a preview of those new songs at the group’s shows.

“I wouldn’t say it’s darker-sounding, but there’s definitely dark material in there,” says Lydia, who resides two hours away from her sister, in Birmingham, Ala. “Above anything else, it’s honest. I’m most proud of our songwriting on this record.”

And the Secret Sisters say they’ve learned a lot through the hard times and the subsequent fruitful period.

“We’ve learned to write better songs, and that’s always the goal for the two of us,” Laura says.

Adds Lydia: “I learned a lot of patience. Everything goes more slowly than I wanted it to. I learned to be content with that.”

Secret Sisters

When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.

Tickets: $17-$20.

Details: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com

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