Ain’t Your Ordinary Sister Act: An Interview with the Watson Twins

Though I did resist asking which sister was the evil one, I couldn’t hold back some other, let’s say, more pertinent questions when I interviewed indie/folk goddesses Chandra and Leigh Watson, otherwise known as the musical group, the Watson Twins.

JM:  I read that you gals were born in Oklahoma and raised in Kentucky (and now live in Los Angeles).  How has living in Kentucky and/or the greater South influenced your music?

Chandra:  I think it definitely has…we grew up with the records our mom and older sister used to play: classic rock, country and folk along with us singing gospel music in our church choir.  As we got older we started going to local punk/experimental shows in Louisville and so our sound is a melting pot of all that we heard and experienced growing up.  It’s easier to identify with those influences when you live 3000 miles away, so I felt more connected to my home after moving away. Funny how that happens.

Leigh:  Growing up in Kentucky definitely had an influence, but different than what most might expect considering it is known for bluegrass.  That part of the country is a real melting pot of sounds and that influence allowed us to experiment and push boundaries with our own music.

JM:  You’ve put out five (five!) albums in under six years and I read from the bio on your website (www.thewatsontwins.com) that you have a forthcoming album due in 2012.  Incredibly ambitious is a phrase that definitely comes into my mind.  How do you keep each other motivated?

Chandra:  We try to help each other stay focused and positive…it’s strange, when one of us starts “losing steam” the other picks up the slack and pushes forward.  We are cheerleaders for one another and having that support helps us to keep making music and touring.  There’s also that “thing” inside everyone who HAS to write and create to stay sane…just when you think you’ve written your last song the creative spirit strikes.

Leigh:  Yes, definitely our own little cheerleading team.  I think we are both pretty encouraging to one another and also have a bit of competitiveness, if Chandra is working on music I know I should be too!  It’s the ying and the yang.

JM:  I was also surprised to see an additional sixth album sneak in there from 2009 called Live at Fingerprints. Can you offer a little more information about that one?

Chandra:  Fingerprints is an amazing Independent Record Store in Long Beach, CA.  Rand, who is the owner and champion of eclectic Indie music, asked us to do an instore and record it.  He then suggested that we release it and the rest is history. Always fun to release LIVE tunes as they are a very honest representation of the performer… for better or worse, ha!

JM:  How did you choose the tracks featured on your newest album of cover songs, Night Covers?

Chandra:  A few of them we’d been playing live: Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Sade “Sweetest Taboo” the others just sort of came along.  Listening to The Turtles on vinyl one night and “You Showed Me” came on…I thought what a great song, we should cover that…so we did.  The Black Keys “Tighten Up” was just more of a fun challenge, we are fans of the band and thought it would be fun to try and make it sound like a Watson Twins song…needless to say most folks don’t recognize it right off the bat.

Leigh:  The PJ Harvey song has such amazing lyrics and imagery.  She is one female artist who we have always admired.  “Here Comes The Rain Again” by the Eurythmics was a suggestion from my oldest nephew…little did he know we had been talking about it as well.  It had to be on the list.

JM: What is so great about Night Covers’ songs is that you completely make them your own, resulting in classics that actually sound like totally new songs.  Can you describe your process or mindset when setting out to reconstruct the songs that you chose?

Chandra:  Thanks for saying that…we do really try to make them our own as mentioned.  Much of our approach just has to do with the sound that we’ve created for the band over the years and now it’s just instinctual.

Leigh:  “Just Like Heaven” started our affinity for covers.  We had such a great experience with that song, arranging and recording the Night Covers record was a total guilty pleasure.

JM:  In the lyric credits for Fire Songs, I see that each of your names is next to different songs.  How much of your writing process is collaborative?

Chandra:  We usually write separately and then come together to work on harmonies, arrangement and production.  We’ve just collaborated for the first time writing a song for an indie film and are hoping to collaborate more on the writing side on the next record.

Leigh:  I feel like co-writing has been something we’ve been working towards.  We spent the last few records finding our individual styles and now are ready to make that step.  Our first collaboration went well and seems like that’s definitely part of our next recording.

JM: I think its safe to say that a lot of your songs include lyrics about relationships and/or love. Do you see these as connecting threads throughout all of your songs, and if not do you see any that have emerged?

Chandra:  Human emotion and our connection to others inspires me on many levels…all my songs stem from that, but some of those love stories are metaphors for other trials and experiences in our lives.

Leigh:  That subject pops into a lot of writing.  Love, heartbreak and relationships are things we can all understand.

JM:  Your style has been described in a number of ways: indie folk, Americana, alternative country, folk and so forth. Do you feel that within these comparable genres your music differs from that of your male counterparts (I’m thinking maybe Amos Lee, Iron & Wine, Elvis…)?

Chandra:  Wow, I never thought about it…I guess the big difference is that none of those fellas have a cool twin to sing sweet harmonies with. 🙂

Leigh:  I’m flattered to be listed along side those male counterparts.  The familial harmonies definitely are one thing that are distinctive to our sound.

JM:  You are playing Schubas in Chicago on September 20th.  Are you going to do anything extra fun while you’re here?

Chandra: We might just be cruising around sampling deep dish pizza…hard to say at this point, but we’ll keep you posted.

JM:  May I recommend Spacca Napoli?  It’s amazing.  And finally, if each of you could meet any singer/songwriter or artist who ever was or is, who would it be?

Chandra:  Another tough one, great questions btw…hummmm, I think it would have to be Dolly Parton.  I’ve always said over the years that she’s one person I’d like to have lunch with…her sense of humor is amazing I’m sure she’d have a story or two.

Leigh: Bob Dylan.

JM:  Thanks so much, gals and I’ll see you at the show!

Quick Watson Twins Album Info:
Southern Manners (2006)
Rabbit Fur Coat (2006)
Fire Songs (2008)
Live at Fingerprints (2009)
Talking to You, Talking to Me (2010)
Night Covers (2011)
? (2012)

For further information and tour dates, please visit The Watson Twins’ website at: www.thewatsontwins.com.

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Being Their Own Women: Self Discovery & Independence in Women’s Personal Lives


The Awakening
by Kate Chopin

Set in the late 19th century, The Awakening spans two pivotal seasons in Edna Pontellier’s life as a young wife and mother.  Having never felt truly alive during the entire span of her life, Edna “awakens” during a summer of spiritual liberation, leading her to reflect on her life as someone’s wife and mother.  The story results in a woman who subverts the conventions of her time by defying filial and maternal expectations by focusing on her life as her own woman.

Personal Velocity
 by Rebecca Miller

Miller’s book consists of seven short stories that describe the lives of seven very different women. They are bound by their grit, strength, incredible struggles, and their will to survive amidst their personal tribulations. Despite each of their uphill struggles, each character finds solace the minute details of life uses that to persevere in their own ways, revealing the complexity of women’s reaction to struggle.

A Spy in the House of Love
by Anais Nin

In this semi-autobiographic work, the lead female character, Sabina, struggles to develop her sexual and artistic expression.  This work is known for its erotic language and strong themes of a relationship with the self and passion.

The Story of Avis
by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Avis is an artist who decides to marry who she thinks is a “modern man,” believing (and being led to believe) that once married she can continue to express her creative self.  However, the traditional gender roles that suppress(ed) women and elevate men take their hold over Avis’ artistic expression.

Orlando
by Virginia Woolf

Born as a man, Orlando transforms into a woman as (s)he lives over several centuries, experiencing the gamut of gender norms, restrictions and suppositions that are forced on men and women. Seeing the treatment of Orlando as both a man and a woman by society, though (s)he is the same person, highlights the inequities that both men and women have faced throughout the ages.

The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath


Though sold as fiction, The Bell Jar is an autobiographical account of Esther (some argue Plath), a young woman working for a summer as an employee of a major magazine away from home.  There, Esther suffers a mental breakdown, and the reader is taken down with her into the depths of her insanity, so much though that it is difficult to distinguish insanity from reality.

Nightwood 
by Djuna Barnes


Taking place in Paris, Nightwood tells the story of two women romantically involved and the deterioration of their relationship.  This novel highlights both hetero-sexual and lesbian relationships that are expressed through dark, thick and lyrical language.

Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein
by Gertrude Stein

This collection features non-fiction essays, anecdotes and fictional stories about Stein’s female partner, and artists of the day.  This book is a perfect sampling of Stein’s well-known fragmented and unique writing style.  It also features the well-known short story “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” who we assume to be two romantically linked women who strive for their own fulfillment in life and relationships.

HERmione
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Perhaps the most obscure of all her titles, this autobiographical account and coming of age story, written by Hilda Doolittle, commonly known as H.D., details her unsure and tumultuous life during her twenties at Bryn Mawr. H.D., known in the book as Hermione Gart, battles to transition between her old, obedient self that her parents once knew and the new identity that she begins to forge now that she is away at school and exposed to people who help to foster her true self.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Most known for the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, a woman is denied creative output by her husband and is treated as psychologically weak and incompetent, which ultimately exacerbates to her mental deterioration. This collection also features Gilman’s non-fiction prose, Women and Economics and an excerpt from her novel Herland which illuminates a peaceful, all female utopia without the presence of men and that of a patriarchal, capitalist system.