"Twinergy: A Conversation with The Watson Twins" By Jason Anders

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky in 1975, Chandra and Leigh Watson knew even while attending school at the University of Evansville that they would find their way into the music scene. Releasing their debut EP, 'Southern Manners' in 2006, would almost directly coincide with their collaboration on 'Rabbit Fur Coat', the premiere solo album from Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley. The Watson Twins recently released their newest studio album, 'Talking To You, Talking To Me', which is a refreshing mix of Americana, R&B, Bossa Nova, indie pop, and classic soul. Chandra and Leigh were kind enough to talk to Fulle Circle about their new album- as well as their inspirations, favorite records, and even what they love doing most when not creating beautiful, soulful music.

Jason Anders: So let's start with the new album, Talking To You, Talking To Me- how far back does the songwriting for this new project go?

Chandra Watson: I would say that Leigh and I both started writing about a year and a half ago. We started writing as soon as Fire Songs was recorded and released- so pretty much in the last two years is when this batch of songs started taking form. We were writing right up until we went into the studio, so it was basically over an album cycle.
Leigh Watson: For me, the concentration was starting in the beginning of 2009- that was a full period of writing. We did a few tours at that time, but we were able to settle back in to being home because 2008 was so busy with the release of Fire Songs. It was definitely a creative period of time. We went up to the cabin that May to start doing the demos and that's when everything started coming together. That was really helpful to keeping our recording time precise and staying focused.

Once we got back, we had a few weeks off to get our studio and players together at the the same time- we ended up tracking the record in eleven days. It was really quick- the great thing was that we had an amazing group of players who were going to be working on the record. We had a real focus on the rhythm section- the bass and drums we tracked together, as well as a lot of the key parts. There wasn't a ton of over-dubbing, and that really adds a spirit to it that is sometimes hard to get if you're just recording and singing along to music that was recorded days before.

JA: Do the two of you have different tastes in music, or did you grow up typically enjoying the same kind of stuff?

CW: For the most part we share a lot of the same tastes in music- it's kind of rare that we disagree. Maybe that's just because of our influences, and what we grew up listening to and singing together. What do you think, Leigh?

LW: I definitely think that's one of the similarities in being twins- one of us might be into something earlier than the other one and then it eventually catches on, but we usually tend to lean in the same direction. What's interesting is that those inspirations hit us at the same times. When she's fusing maybe an Americana or country sound... and jazzy, soulful lyrics on top of it- those are all things that I can understand, but maybe wouldn't have put them together all at the same time.
JA: Were there specific albums or artists you were channeling during the making of the new album?

CW: I was channeling Leigh, and she was channeling me (laughs). And we were both channeling Chaka Khan. I just really wanted to emotionally connect with the songs in a more fully realized way than I had traditionally done in the studio. I think a lot of times you're under the gun to hurry up and get your part done. Leigh and I have said to each other that we don't want to be rushed- we wanted to take time with the vocals. Being friends and performing together for so long, we have a style that innately comes to us. Some people like that, some people don't.

For us it's just natural- from the time that we were little kids we would just break into harmonies together, we just have that ear that we could do that. On this record we wanted to challenge ourselves to focus on being lead singers as opposed to relying on the harmony thing that we always do. It was more about connecting vocally as opposed to having a specific influence. I was inspired by a lot of soul and rock music, and I wanted people to hear some connection in there.
JA: What are currently your favorite records that you're listening to?

CW: I just got the Laura Veirs album July Flame and I really like that- there's a few tracks on there that I've been playing pretty frequently.

LW: I'm really into the new Corinne Bailey Rae record. I didn't really listen to her first record, the one that was her introduction to the world, but I just really like her voice. The writing on her new one is a little more experimental, and she does a lot of really interesting chord progressions. I think that's really cool.

JA: What are your tour plans for the new release?

LW: I don't think we'll be doing any tours until the beginning of the summer. We're doing some festival stuff right now- we're going to be at Noise Pop next weekend and then we have some gigs in Los Angeles, as well as South By Southwest, and then we come back and do a festival in the Midwest. We'll pretty much be everywhere come summer, doing a full run. We're hoping to continue working with our friends who helped us make this record from a band called Everest. It's been really great to play shows with them.
JA: Is there a place you enjoy performing the most?

CW: That's a tough question. Milwaukee is always fun, as well as Minneapolis... Athens, Georgia. Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina- it's interesting how each venue has its own life. We circle around this country over and over again, sometimes hitting new spots and sometimes hitting the old, familiar spots. Even though they may not always be super nice clubs, it's just that feeling of arriving someplace and being home again. One of my all time favorite places to play is The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee- it's an amazing space that we've played a bunch of times and everyone there is family. It's quite a beautiful theater.

JA: Do you have any fondest memories of traveling around with Jenny Lewis?

LW: There's too many!

CW: That was an amazing time for us, and we still continue to look back. One of the things we did was play on Later... with Jools Holland in the UK. All of the bands set up a stage in the room together, and there's an audience in there listening. Everyone stays at their station while everyone else plays. That show was Pearl Jam, The Zutons, Corinne Bailey Rae, Hot Chip, and us. It was a crazy, crazy line up.

LW: Try following Pearl Jam!

CW: Seeing Eddie Vedder sitting on his amp watching us play was pretty great.
JA: Were you able to interact with him at all?

CW: Oh yeah, everyone was backstage milling about. They were complimentary of our record and were familiar with it, so that was pretty cool.

JA: What do you enjoy doing most when you're not creating music?

LW: Sleeping.

CW: I love cooking, actually- so I love making home cooked meals and listening to music. Relaxing.

LW: I feel like I am becoming more and more a homebody- whenever I am home I just enjoy watching weird, old movies. My favorite are sixties thriller movies like All the President's Men, Chinatown... I'm just really getting into movies and comedy shows like Ricky Gervais. I also love watching stand-up.

JA: Do you have a favorite comedian?

LW: I actually really loved the new Wanda Sykes stand-up, and Bill Maher. Politically incorrect, but hilarious.
JA: I know that the two of you attended a University, but what did you go for? And did you finish?

LW: Yeah, we both graduated believe it or not (laughs). I was an art therapy major- it's not a very well known profession, but when we finished school my sister and I started playing music. It didn't progress further than that. Chandra was a theater major.

JA: Were either one of you ever headed in a different direction professionally?

CW: I pretty much knew half way through college that I was going to try and pursue music. Theater was good training for that, but I realized that I liked playing music a lot more than I liked being on stage acting. I think I'm a better musician than an actor (laughs).

LW: People would ask 'what do you wanna be when you grow up', and I never really had an answer. I always enjoyed singing and playing music and being a part of that. I was always somewhat skeptical of trying to do it. Luckily my sister was pursuing it and was really encouraging, sort of my cheerleader in a way, saying 'come on, we can do this'- but I was always skeptical of doing it full time and trying to make it happen. We just got out of rehearsal a few moments ago- just looking around and hearing the music... it lifts my soul.
JA: If you had to use just one word to sum up your style, which one would you use?

CW: Twinergy! (laughs) You can spell that however you want- I doubt it's in Webster's Dictionary.

LW: I'm going to call iTunes and get them to add that onto the categories.

JA: Wow. That's the perfect answer.

CW: Well it would describe our music, Tegan and Sara, the Nelsons, and The Breeders (laughs).

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