Among the bright lights of Nashville, two breakout stars are taking center stage.Twin sister harmony duo, Sarah and Savanna Church, have recently signed with The Valory Music Company, a division of Big Machine Label Group.The girls are currently working with Grammy Award winning producer Julian Raymond on their debut project. With tight, haunting harmonies backed by touching instrumentals, The Church Sisters have been taking Gospel and Bluegrass music in Virginia by storm for nearly a decade. Their new relationship with one of the best labels in Nashville is affording them the opportunity to take on the country scene next. Both Sarah and Savannah Church have been singing for most of their lives, and their new record deal is the result homegrown talent and a lot of hard work prior to arriving in Tennessee. We got to catch up with the Church Sisters as they prep for their new album.
What started as a love for hearing their mother singing around their house while she cleaned blossomed into a passion for making their own music at a young age. When asked, Sarah and Savannah both looked back on their musical upbringing with fondness. “Growing up, our Mom would sing around the house a lot; I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t actually singing when we were young. There was constant music in the background of our lives. I started singing when I was about five and I never had any career plans for it back then. I just loved to do it because I was so inspired by my mother,” Savannah remarked, “I sparked up the courage when I was about seven to join a talent competition in Danville. I didn’t make it in the competition and I was pretty crushed by it. Sarah joined in after that, and she came to it with her own style. She wanted to see if we could harmonize. Neither one of us had any clue what harmonizing was; we learned how to do it, but no one taught us how. We had no vocal training, we were just working on all this stuff as kids in our bedroom. Believe it or not, the first song we learned was from the Disney Channel! We were obsessed with High School Musical when we were growing up, so we picked a song from the movie and worked on it. When we showed it to our mom she was surprised; she looked at us like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The following year we decided to enter the same talent competition I lost. We went in and did a live audition at the radio station, and we made it in and won the competition in our age group.”
It didn’t take long for the Church Sisters to graduate from Disney songs in their bedroom to stunning Gospel harmonies in their local churches and events around Southern Virginia. After they won the talent competition, demand for their music began to pick up, and Sarah and Savannah found themselves a part of a rich musical community that has prospered in Virginia for over a century. “Growing up in Virginia absolutely influenced us. Growing up in Danville was a simple, small town life, but there were a lot of Bluegrass musicians and singers in the area. There’s a lot of Bluegrass, a lot of Gospel, a lot of people that play. Everybody knew everybody in the music circle where we grew up, so it was a tight knit musical community. That’s how we started our band- we started out singing with just our Dad on guitar, then we met some people in the area and formed a small band and it’s grown from there.”
Gospel, especially, has played a deeply meaningful part in the sister’s musical career so far. “Gospel is a very important part of who we are as people. We grew up going to church and faith is a big part of our lives today. When we sing Gospel music we want people to be blessed by it. We want to encourage people because that’s exactly what it does for us. We hope people take the same thing away and are uplifted and encouraged by it.” Sarah and Savannah have covered some of the greatest hymns in contemporary time with a repertoire that includes “In the Garden”, “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night”, and “Where We’ll Never Grow Old”, the last of which was recorded for a project under Grammy Award winning producer Carl Jackson on the 1927 Bristol Sessions. Orthophonic Joy: The Bristol Sessions Revisited is part hymnal, part history lesson. Such well known stars as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Martin walk listeners through the history of the beginning of Country Music as we know it, singing the first series of country songs to be recorded and popularized in a small town on the Tennessee/Virginia border.
Sarah and Savannah explained how they got in on the process, stating that it was part luck of where they lived, and part relationship that got them the project. “We are so amazed at all the people that were a part of it-many of them are big inspirations for us. Virginia Tourism played a big part in getting us involved. They teamed up with Bristol and funded the album. We had a couple friends in the Virginia tourism office, and they wanted some musicians that were from for Virginia to be a part of the album since this is the area where the music really came from. We were really blessed that we happened to live in Virginia! And Carl Jackson has been a good friend for a really long time, so him knowing us was a plus. Carl is a mentor of ours, and he’s big in Gospel and Bluegrass and Country. He’s written lots of amazing songs and produced some really good music, so it was incredible to work with him on this. We worked with him previously, but this was different; this album is dedicated to the history of Country Music and where it all began. It was so special to be a part of somehing that let us go back to our roots. Getting in touch with where our music comes from was really cool.”
As Sarah and Savannah work with Julian Raymond on their debut project with Valory their focus will shift some out of Gospel and Bluegrass in to more mainstream Country. “What we’re doing now is more Country. It’s a little different from what we’ve been doing; a little different from the Bluegrass and the Gospel. It’s still laced with harmonies; we stuck with the harmonies and the family aspect of our music. A good description of it is a teeny bit traditional with a modern twist.” The new album, set to release this year, will have a little bit of everything including original songs the girls helped co-write, as well new songs from some of the top writers in Nashville. The Church Sisters couldn’t be under better direction with Julian at the helm of their new project, and Sarah and Savannah are thrilled to be signed with Valory Music Company.