The Secret Sisters are as joyful on stage as their songs are depressing. Laura and Lydia Rogers love the dark days.
“We sell antidepressants at our shows,” Laura jokes on stage at Cooper’s BBQ’s Americana Music Association showcase, which became Americana Ladies’ Night when the organizers realized all their headliners were women.
In front of a brick wall with a neon Budweiser sign over the shape of Texas, the Alabama women sing “Bad Habit,” a song their mother calls “intense.”
The huge head of a longhorn bull looks down on them as they harmonize with a rapturous twang. Over 100 people sit on the floor, fill the tables and stand along the walls. The whole room is silent, enchanted.
Between songs, Lydia tunes her guitar, and Laura chats with the audience, joking and telling stories. Chewing gum, she tells them about meeting the Everly Brothers. Laura says she was so excited, she burst into tears, and they weren’t pretty tears. She looked like she’d “just been born—red and shiny and wet."
The sisters love music from another time, and most of their favorite musicians are dead. It shows in their music—an old-timey feel with a sadness that’s older than they are.
“And now we’re going to segue into happier material by playing a murder ballad,” Laura says. It’s a sequel to their first murder ballad and will be on their next album, “You Don’t Own Me Anymore,” produced by Brandi Carlile and out this summer.
“Don’t tell us if you don’t like it,” Laura tells the audience, laughing. “That’s like telling someone they have an ugly child.”
The women get a lot of their inspiration from failed relationships, which is why Laura hasn’t written a song she likes since she got married to a “redneck from Alabama” last April. So they play the last good song she wrote: “He’s Fine,” about the last man who broke her heart.
They ended the set with an a cappella rendition of the 1950s, “Tonight You Belong To Me.” They asked the audience to snap along.
“If you’re not a rhythmic snapper,” Laura said, beaming, “please, just snap in your heart.”
The Secret Sisters will be on tour this summer. For dates go to secretsistersband.com/tour.
It's impossible not to notice that women rule SXSW 2017. At every venue, front-women belt out their hearts and their stories while rocking strings and beats.