With the music industry saturated with "personalities" used only as muses by producers and record labels, one can become jaded by the lack of actual, authentic talent in the music marketplace. Luckily, The Watson Twins proves that artistry and craftsmanship are alive and well in this day and age. A modest, folk duo that hails from Louisville, Kentucky, MVRemix had the chance to chat with half of The Watson Twins, Leigh Watson, to discuss their thoughts on being independent, as well as their debut EP, "Southern Manners".
MVRemix: Before you two decided to release material under your own name, the two of you both made a living backing such established LA bands as Slydell, Rilo Kiley, and more recently Jenny Lewis, what made the Watson Twins get into music?
Leigh: My sister and I have always been writing our own songs and playing out together now and then. When we first moved to LA we formed Slydell with our friend B.Roam, who was the singer, and when that band started getting recognition people in Silverlake started seeing us as back-up singers. We love singin' on different projects, it really lets you go to a lot of different places musically. I think that also opened some doors in our writing as well. To answer the question…sorry I got side tracked… I think it was just time for us to release a Watson Twins record. It has been a long time a comin' and the timing was right; the people, the place to record it, and the songs all came together. Now we have our record "Southern Manners"!
MVRemix: I read that you studied art at the University of Evansville and Chandra was into theatre. Were The Watson Twins always involved in the arts at a young age?
Leigh: Art and music have always been a part of our lives. We started singing at an early age at church and acting in musicals and stuff. We enjoyed it and my family encouraged us in everything we did so that helped. As for art specifically my sis and I are "crafty". We like making art pieces. Chandra still does these amazing shadow boxes.
MVRemix: How was collaborating with indie icon, Jenny Lewis, on her debut solo album "Rabbit Fur Coat"?
Leigh: Jenny is an amazing singer and writer. We were so honored to be a part of that record. It has been an experience that you can't really place a value.
MVRemix: I know you guys were recording both "Rabbit Fur Coat" and "Southern Manners" at approximately the same time. Did Jenny influence some of the musical direction on "Southern Manners"?
Leigh: Not really musically, but she was very encouraging when we talked to her about recording the EP. Vocally, I think "Southern Manners" may have glints of similarities, but that is only because instinctually those vocal moves and harmonies are what we do. Jenny's specs when we were recording RFC was just "do your thing", so that's what your hearing.
MVRemix: The Watson Twins previously went under the name "Black Swan". Why the name change? Did you want to personalize your music more with your name?
Leigh: We actually played under so many names, but none of them really stuck. When the record came around with Jenny and she decided to credit it Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, we kinda realized that was who we are and we needed to embrace it. It was that name that we had been trying to dodge and it came back. So many folks know us by that name… it just made sense.
MVRemix: After listening to a couple of tracks from "Southern Manners", I noticed hints of Cat Power, the organic, stripped sounds and emotions of singer-songwriters from the '70s, as well as a bit of a Norah Jones-esque jazzy vibe. The tracks sound authentic and have a classic, vintage quality to them. Was that intentional?
Leigh: Thanks, that's a nice compliment. I don't think it's necessarily something we set out to do, but we recorded at our friends' studio, Everest Analog Recorders. It's all vintage gear. We didn't use Pro-Tools or anything. The guys there Russ Pollard and J. Soda, who also co-produced the record, are really into that sound and we all felt that warmth was important for the material.
MVRemix: On the title track and on "Friend or Foe", I couldn't help but feel a sense of melancholy, as well as a sense of hope at the same time. I read somewhere that it is easier to write happy songs when you are sad and sad songs when you're happy. Do you agree?
Leigh: Writing songs is a strange thing. We all have different motivations and those translate in different ways and words when a song comes together.
MVRemix: While writing the songs for "Southern Manners", how do you guys contribute to the songwriting process? Do you both write on your own and then come together and talk about the lyrics? Or is it more of a collaborative effort from the beginning?
Leigh: We both write on our own and bring songs to the table. The collaboration happens after that. It is the way that we have done it forever. Maybe on upcoming stuff we'll try and switch it up and see what the outcome might be?
MVRemix: The Watson Twins are independent in the most literal sense as you guys are marketing your debut EP directly through your website, what does the word "independent" mean to both of you?
Leigh: Having options and making your own decisions. It's been nice for our first EP to have a independent release. It has helped us learn a lot.
MVRemix: With the power of the Internet and sites such as MySpace, do you feel independent artists are getting more exposure than ever before?
Leigh: Definitely! I think it's a great time to be a musician 'cause you can share your music for free with a lot of people. Before this musicians had to tour and tour to get the songs out of a 100 mile radius. Now we get hits from people all over the world who love the music and only because of the internet and MySpace know who we are.
MVRemix: I know you two have stated that you both feel pleasantly surprised that "Southern Manners" has surpassed your expectations. Now that the recording process is finished, how does it feel to be touring and doing press interviews for your EP?
Leigh: We couldn't be happier, thanks to you and MVRemix for asking us to do one. It's so nice to be talking about our project. It's always scary when you put something out that is so personal. Sharing songs can be like showing someone a wrinkle on your face that you aren't so proud of, but it's yours. Um, does that make sense? Yes, we are very pleased about people diggin' the record. Thanks!
MVRemix: You're currently opening for Matt Costa on his West Coast tour, how has that been so far?
Leigh: Really great, Matt and his band are talented players and on top of that really cool people. We just played House of Blues on Saturday and it was the perfect start. I think musically the two bands work really well together and we all like to have a lot of fun. It's a good combination.
MVRemix: Are you looking forward to coming up to Vancouver in September?
Leigh: I really like Vancouver. I went up there about 5 years ago for the first time and was blown away by how beautiful the country is.
MVRemix: I read in the current issue of Blender magazine that they listed "Southern Manners" as one of the top 20 songs to download this month. In their description of the song, they say how you offer a suitor "a slice of pie". Are the Watson Twins good chefs? And are there any "Southern Manners" that we should all know?
Leigh: We can cook! We both really enjoy cooking and food was something that was important in our house growin' up. All the women in my family are all about real butter and homemade whippin' cream stuff like that. "Southern Manners" is a lot of stuff; hospitality, knowing how to entertain, when to talk and when to just shut up. I think it's something that is really concentrated to one part of the country which sounds backwards, but I think it's true. "Come on down to our home town, Louisville, Kentucky… the doors always open and you won't go hungry".
MVRemix: Lastly, just wanted to know about the twin dynamic. Who is the more introverted of the two and who is the more extroverted?
Leigh: We switch off wearing those hats, it's weird. For instance if I feel like she isn't up for talking and entertaining or doin' something I'll take the lead. I would say instinctually she is more driven and I am a bit more laid back. This record would have never happened if she didn't crack the whip like she does.
MVRemix: Is there any occasional tension between the two of you? Like shall we say, over a mutual interest in a guy perhaps?
Leigh: Not with boys, we don't ever like the same ones - luckily. We are siblings and have known each other for a long time. So of course tension comes up… but it's here and then it's gone. We don't hold grudges, its just not the way either one of us are wired.
MVRemix: One last thing, are your astrological signs Gemini?