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ZB Images

A Sisterly Chorus From The Whitmore Sisters

The COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on families all over the globe, and, unfortunately, continues to do so. The Whitmore Sisters are a wonderful, melodic anomaly; they prove that with the right mindset, a little familial laughter, a love of the arts, and a physical distance of some 1,300 miles, anything is possible.

Ghost Stories, the first studio-recorded collaboration from The Whitmore Sisters, is just under a month from being in your hands. These songs are strong, filled with personal bonds of past and present, and reflect an element of closeness that few can put to words. For an album that was a long-time-coming, Ghost Stories is worth the wait.

Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore passionately poured grief and strife into these homegrown tunes. Each song carries a buoyancy and a warmth that envelopes you, and even if you don’t expect it to, it creeps up on you in a more than satisfying way. We find it doesn’t quite matter you’re enamored by a more Americana track or if you’re tickled pink by a power pop one – you’re left with a full heart, a thrill in your bones, and a ruminating mind.

Eleanor is 1/2 of The Mastersons, an alternative country outfit that she and her husband, Chris Masterson, created a decade ago and makes you feel wholeheartedly alive when listening to their songs . Bonnie is a rootsy solo artist and side performer who dreamily bends genres like its nothing. They are, in fact, both part of Steve Earle’s ensemble, The Dukes.

In chatting with the sisters, it’s easy to see where their individual artistic skillsets and combined musical magic come to play as not just musicians, but as people. The talented pair let experiences guide their soul, which gives the latter space to do the talking via song. Miraculous and harmonious, The Whitmore Sisters’ long-awaited album is just was 2022 needs to get off on the right foot, so make sure to listen in and listen good come January 21.

The modern, more upbeat, and female version of the Everly Brothers – this is how one should categorize you and your work. It’s simple, but effective with melodies that cannot be easily replicated. How would you describe your music, though, knowing it from the inside out?

Bonnie: Sure. The Louvin Brothers with tits. 

Although not wholly country, there are country roots in your music. How much twang and grit goes into shaping your sound? Because it is refreshing in its subtlety.

Eleanor: Being from Texas and growing up singing and playing country music, it’s impossible for it not to rub off. I always say I like Ray Davies as much as Ray Price and it’s fun to ride the line between the two. You can write a country song, but dress it up with whimsy and create something that sounds entirely unique.

As sisters, do you find making music and creating art to be a familiar and familial experience? Or do you embark on projects like as this forthcoming album more like co-workers with a vision to get across? (Maybe it’s even a mix of the two!) 

Bonnie: As sisters, there’s a lot of history that can be channeled in a lot of different ways. I can’t say we’re always professional when we create together, but it is effective and productive. We’ve played music together our entire lives, but this is our first project truly together. So far it’s been one of the most rewarding musical experiences we’ve had, and considering how many projects we’ve been involved in over the course of our careers, that’s saying something.  

Photo by Vanessa Dingwell

Eleanor is based in LA right now and Bonnie is in Austin. Do these two cities, with their respective entertainment culture, play a role in how you two worked together to make the sound of this album what it is?

Eleanor: We made the record in LA. I’ve always been intrigued by the evolution of country music on the West Coast and how that differs from some of the country music we grew up on living in Texas. Lots of harmony singing to be found in both styles, but we dig on The Beatles and music from across the pond just as much. I think when you combine the wide musical styles of our father’s folk music and our mother’s opera training, we have a lot to draw from and I wouldn’t limit it to where we hang our hats. 

There are two cover songs on this project of yours, and while both are immaculate, we are wondering how you came about choosing those two to be intertwined within your original songs.

Eleanor: A while back, drummer Will Rigby (DBs) sent The Mastersons the demo that Paul McCartney made of “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” for The Everly Brothers. We always loved the song but never recorded it. Aaron Lee Tasjan reminded us of The Everly Brothers version (produced by Dave Edmunds) and it made sense to pay homage to one of the quintessential sibling harmony groups. 

Bonnie: We were still looking for a song with some tempo for the record and Aaron graciously offered to let us cut “Big Heart Sick Mind” which fit the vibe perfectly. 

To us, Ghost Stories is the perfect, most suited name for this upcoming LP. By chance were there any other titles thrown around or considered? On that same note, how do you think Ghost Storiesencapsulates the record as a whole?

Bonnie: Several songs we collected in the beginning were about loss and we were already planning on titling the record Ghost Stories before we wrote the title track, which expands that theme outward to loss on a larger scale. Not all the songs are about dead people or meant to be sad. Loss is universal and everyone has experienced heartache. The fun part about writing and recording is that you can dress up a sad song in whimsical production and offer some comfort to the listener. 

There are 11 tracks on this album that comes out in January. When it does drop for all of us to hear, is there one standout track that you find is all encompassing of what The Whitmore Sisters are about?

Eleanor: The standout track for me is “Learn To Fly,” because it’s the most autobiographical and could only come from the two of us.

Bonnie: “Superficial World of Love” is the standout track for me. Our classical training along with the fact that our mom is an opera singer, is a little more evident on this one and Eleanor’s string arrangement takes it over the top. 

Your voices and instrumentation and overarching musicianship stuns right out of the gate. When did you two realize that combining your own skills and experiences, as well as your own artistic styles, could craft an entire piece of music? Has creating alongside one another been something you have always done or enjoyed?

Eleanor: We’ve always loved singing together and have talked about making a sisters record for years but have been so busy with other endeavors. It took the pandemic for us to make the time to finally make this happen and we have to thank Chris Masterson for pushing us to finally do it. I’m glad we waited this long because we have all the experience of previous recording projects and the time developing our own set of skills to really take this over the top.