The JaneDear Girls’ Susie Brown Dishes on Debut Album, Vintage Style and Taking Musical Risks
The sassy and vocally unified JaneDear Girls are country's hottest female duo, kicking off 2011 with an eponymous genre-bending, John Rich-produced debut album, which was just released today -- not to mention an ACM nod, a Top 20 hit ('Wildflower') and an opening act slot on Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party Tour. The Girls' brunette pin-up Susie Brown takes time away from touring to chat with Taste of Country about collaborating with her other half, Danelle Leverett, her love for Frank Sinatra and vintage style, as well as details about their upcoming new single.
You're currently touring with Jason Aldean on his My Kinda Party Tour, which kicked off a week-and-a-half ago. How's that going so far?
Jason is awesome. I love him as a person and as an entertainer. He's just so fun to watch. The first time we met him was last fall, right before they announced we were going on tour with him. He came up and said, "Hey, I'm Jason," and gave us a big hug. He's just so nice -- and he's really on top of the world, with his last two singles. He has such great music that he was our first pick out of anyone to tour with, and so it was sort of a dream tour for us. I love 'My Kinda Party,' and my favorite is 'Don't You Wanna Stay' with Kelly Clarkson … It's so catchy, and to hear Kelly Clarkson's vocals on [the] track -- she's such an amazing singer that the two of them together ... it's so incredible. It's fun to see them play that song live, too.
You and Danelle Leverett met when you were performing at a Nashville club. How and why did you decide to work together as opposed to pursuing separate, solo careers?
I moved from Utah to Nashville seven years ago, and the first year it was really hard because I was trying to figure out how I could survive and how to balance making time for my music versus surviving. It took me about a year, and I got a call to play with a local singer-songwriter [Ken Johnson] … I was playing [the] fiddle for him, and then Danelle walked into one of the shows with this guy Kris Bergsnes that I had met one other time. And after the show, he came up to me and introduced me to Danelle. He was like, "Hey, I wanted to bring Danelle by because I know that you're looking to meet new people and try to figure out how to write songs." I had no idea how to write songs, [and] Danelle had been writing songs since she was 17.
We started writing a song together [about two weeks later], and it was funny because our voices are so similar that you can't really tell who's who sometimes. The whole verse of the song was in complete unison and then we split off into harmony on the chorus, and so Danelle called Kris -- the guy that introduced us -- and about 15 minutes later, he shows up and he's just watching us play the song down and he was like, "You girls are so much alike, you guys are like sisters! You guys should be a duo. You sound so much alike when you sing, with everything in unison and the harmony." So, really from day one, we decided, "Yeah, let's do it. That sounds fun."
You've already released 'Wildflower' as a single, but what's the next single off of the new album going to be?
Since we've been out on tour, we've played for a bunch of different radio stations, and there's about three or four songs that we always play. And we noticed that a lot of people really gravitated [toward] 'Shotgun Girl.' And we had a lot of friends in the business as well that said, "Hey, that would be a great follow-up single to 'Wildflower' because it's a really fun, up-tempo [song] that you can just put in a car, and I think girls will be able to relate to [it]." Danelle co-wrote that with a friend of hers, Deric Ruttan. It's fun -- I have the first single ['Wildflower'], she has the second single. [We're] kind of switching back-and-forth. Not on purpose, it just sort of happened that way.
Your debut album pulls from various musical styles -- from upbeat, electric guitar driven songs to acoustic ballads. How would you best define your style, and who do you see as your audience since you're pulling from so many different styles?
Well, I would say that Danelle and I are both music lovers. We like all kinds of music. I actually grew up on bluegrass and a lot of really old country like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. I love Frank Sinatra -- I think he's awesome. I've been really into him a lot recently. When I'm home alone, I'll turn on some Frank Sinatra or some Beatles. We love music -- it's a universal language and we try to pull [from our influences]. In our songwriting you can tell, 'cause there's a lot of influences that we have, like you said, and we try to embrace that as much as we can.
I would definitely say country listeners [are our audience]. With the Jason Aldean tour it's been awesome because his audience is all a bunch of people from 2-year-olds to 75 or plus. He has a large college following which I think we can relate to -- also teenagers, young girls, older girls … I would say pretty much a lot of women in general. And it's been really fun out on the road because once people know our song, they come up to the front and they sing it back to us. It's really fun watching the guys sing, "I'm a wildflower" [laughs]. That's awesome! You own it! There was a guy on our Facebook last night that said that he was at a stoplight and he had 'Wildflower' cranked and was singing along, and he looked over and there was a bunch of girls in the next car laughing at him [laughs]. I think it's cool when the guy [can] embrace it too -- I think that's awesome.
'Merry Go Round' has subtle Auto-Tune. What factors led you guys to incorporate it in your recording?
As far as the Auto-Tune goes, there's not a lot of people in country that experiment with that, and we always like to try new things. We try really hard not to limit ourselves. So when you get into a room and you start writing a song, you don't want to think, "Oh well, if I do this, it won't be country." When we get creative, [we] just go with it. And that seems to be helping us out the most, especially with 'Sugar' and 'Merry Go Round,' different songs like that. You just kind of let your imagination take off, and just let it go … If you try and stop yourself from doing things, you can't really let yourself go because you're worried that this isn't going to be accepted.
You have a very distinctive fashion style. You're always sharing tips on your My Favorite Things column on your website, from accessories to your signature red lipstick. How would you describe your style, and what's your inspiration?
In junior high and a little bit of high school, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and she would be ironing whenever I would come home from school, and she'd be in watching an all black-and-white movie on AMC. So I'd go in and watch all of these black-and-white films with her, and she had a passion for all of the vintage fashion because all of the girls were all dressed up in these really cute outfits and paying attention to so much detail in their costuming … And so that kind of rubbed off on me too. I love all the little hats.
I still watch a lot of Elizabeth Taylor movies and I still have a passion for all that vintage style, and so it's been so nice to be able to play around with it lately -- especially because there's been so much out there. It's kind of become an easy thing to go out and find; you can go online on eBay, or one of my favorite websites is Etsy … I have a vintage boot collection that I've collected, about 15 pairs of vintage boots that I wear at a lot of my shows. My stylist actually handmakes all of my jewelry, and she has an Etsy website as well called Candy Charms where you can pretty much buy my same necklaces.
I just made a mic stand for the Jason Aldean tour that's all crystals. It took me about 75 hours to put all of the crystals on. I love creating things, so when it comes to fashion, just being able to experiment with bows, flowers, and accessories ... I love high heels. I just have a passion for vintage fashion.
Watch the JaneDear Girls Perform 'Wildflower' Live at WYRK Radio