The Whitmore Sisters — Interview
While the Whitmore Sisters have always loved each other, they admit to not always having liked each other. Venturing into adulthood, however, brings perspective, and with it, Eleanor and Bonnie discovered a newfound appreciation and understanding for each other, both in the people that they are and in the music that they make. Now, finally together on a project that is the sum of its two parts, The Whitmore Sisters are set to release their debut album, Ghost Stories, which will arrive on January 21 via Red House Records.
I recently sat down with the Eleanor and Bonnie to discuss timing, a future filled with sister harmony, and the history of their musical harmony.
Americana Highways: Your debut album, Ghost Stories, is set for release on January 21. Do you feel a certain level of creative stress with putting this record out into the universe because, in a lot of ways, it will become the first impression that many music lovers have to who the two of you are as a duo?
Eleanor Whitmore: Creative stress, that’s a paradox! Making art with my sister is honestly one of the most satisfying collaborations of my career and that’s saying something. I suppose there is a lot of pressure to reveal the project because I have high hopes and this business is full of heartache and disappointment, but I’m fiercely proud of it and am cautiously optimistic. We see this as something that has been a long time coming and we can already feel the excitement from fans of our other endeavors.
AH: Would this album have existed had it not been for the pandemic? Did the circumstances of 2020 set things in motion for the two of you to join forces on Ghost Stories?
Bonnie Whitmore: I think it would have happened, but being forced to slow down gave us an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. We really have to thank our producer Chris Masterson for the push. Timing is everything, but so is having the time to be creative. We took advantage of it and made something special.
AH: With the record basically kicking off 2022, what are you hoping the New Year holds for you both creatively and personally?
EW: We’ve pretty much fully integrated our projects and touring schedules together at this point. It began before the pandemic, with Bonnie joining The Mastersons at Sunset Sound for the recording of our No Time For Love Songs album. Live, we’re able to present three separate acts with just three people on stage (with Chris Masterson). Bonnie was out singing her songs supporting The Mastersons when the world shut down. After being forced apart in 2020, we have a lot of gratitude for being able to make music together again. We have a lot of touring planned, but we’re taking care to schedule breaks and recharge. After jumping back to work so quickly in 2021, I’m hoping 2022 will lead to more balance and sister harmony.
AH: Going back to that idea of first impressions, what would someone learn about the two of you in sitting down to listen to Ghost Stories front to back?
EW: One of the coolest things about a song is that it can take on a completely different meaning to the listener, so I don’t want to spoil that by saying too much. The opening track, “Learn To Fly,” is very autobiographical being that we are both licensed pilots. Our mother being an opera singer and our classical background really shines through on “Superficial World Of Love.”
AH: The album highlights your amazing harmonies. How far back have the two of you been working to perfect that sound? Was it something you were developing even as children, perhaps even unknowingly?
EW: Bonnie joined the family band on bass at the age of 8 and I was 13 then, so that would mark our professional start together. I’d name myself as the band leader because I can remember telling everyone what part to sing! I was obsessed with harmony singing.
AH: What are you most proud of with the album and why?
EW: I’m proud that we finally made it happen after talking about it for so long and that the majority of the songs are ours. Bonnie and I had co-written very little before this and I’m amazed it came together so quickly.
AH: Bonnie, you have put out four solo albums prior to Ghost Stories. What do you hope fans of your solo work will discover in these songs that perhaps they weren’t able to tap into when Eleanor was not a part of the musical equation?
BW: They were solo works, but Eleanor contributed to all but one. We have always played a part in each other’s projects, but there’s something symbiotic about us uniting this time. I’m not sure what will be discovered, but I hope it’s a celebration of us as a unit together rather than comparing us. For me this project feels inevitable and predestined. Some may have wondered why it took us so long, but we needed the time to grow up and branch out on our own first. I think it’s kind of a superpower that we have now. Emmylou Harris speaks of the third voice that is created when two voices are singing and become something greater than the sum of its parts.
AH: What would young Bonnie and Eleanor think of this album if they had a chance to hear it when they first picked up an instrument all those years ago?
BW: We have always loved each other, but didn’t always like each other. We were in a family band after all and we’ve grown up a lot since then. Our mom took us to a lot of classical performances, but our first concert was The Judds and the magic of blood harmonies really resonated with us. I would think they’d be proud and probably a little mystified as to how it all finally came together.
AH: You come from a musical family. How have your roots shaped the music you create, both solo and together?
EW: I think our musical background and our parents’ unconventional style of parenting has given us a lot of confidence to make the kind of music we make in that we aren’t afraid to break the rules. Having both a classical and folk/singer-songwriter background, combined with dad’s covers of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the ‘80s country and pop music we were listening to on the radio, gave us a lot of inspiration to draw from.
AH: We are just a few months away from ringing in 2022. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions that you’re going to put into effect and if so, how do you plan on sticking to them?
BW: I think resolutions are great for reflection, but can be a trap for failure. As someone who has depression, I do what I can not to feed it so easily. 2021 I quit drinking alcohol and managed to stick to it for all of this year, but I didn’t start out day one saying I was going to go for the whole year. I agreed to 30 days and then kept going just to see how long I could. So far so good.
One thing I used this year, and I recommend for those who are wanting to set those intentions and keep them, get a planner. I use one design by friend and all-around badass BettySoo called Work/Play/Everyday.
For more information on The Whitmore Sisters, visit www.thewhitmoresisters.com.