After spending years touring the world as backup singers for Kelly Clarkson, Nashville-based country/folk/pop duo Jill and Kate (comprised of Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier) decided to head out on their own, releasing their last album Heart of Stone, in 2012. Since the release of that album, the pair have toured the United Stated and abroad, released a live album, launched their own 5K and continued to bond with their already impressive fan base via social media and StageIt. This month, the pair will release their follow-up offering, an acoustic covers compilation that shows them tackling some of the most popular artists in music today.
The duo has been releasing original music for years, but admit that fans have often gravitated to their unique brand of cover songs, making a cover album the natural progression for their next release. “We guess it was just time to mix it up,” They say. “People seemed to be drawn to the covers on our YouTube page and were asking for recordings of them so we thought, why not?! It was super fun and different for us…a chance to be creative in a little bit of a different way than we’re used to. Every song is live and one take. Very raw, very us…we tried to keep them as close to how we do them on YouTube.”
Although the decision to release a covers album may have been an easy one, choosing the songs was much more arduous and they admit that it took them a long time to narrow down their picks, finally settling on a theme of “strong women/ girl pop.” The tracks range from Katy Perry to Kelly Clarkson to Taylor Swift, and the duo admits that they simply chose songs that they love. “The songs that ended up on the album are some of our favorite girl pop songs. Next time, we’ll probably pick a theme. It’s fun that way!”
While they’re already looking ahead to more covers projects, Jill and Kate promise their fans more original music later this year that they admit is a bit of a change for them. “It’s a lot different than our acoustic stuff. We had the opportunity to work with a super awesome producer who is SO talented…it’s been an amazing process. We love creating new music in the studio.” And, while the pair is Nashville-based, they admit that they’re still figuring out their ever-evolving sound. “We love so many genres of music that we think it really comes out in our writing…Sometimes we lean towards country, sometimes singer/songwriter or folk. The pop element runs through all of that,” They say, “Especially recently people have been calling us pop/country.”
As they explore their country side, they recently had the opportunity to showcase their music at the UK’s Country 2 Country Festival, which featured most of the biggest names in country music today, including Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley and more. They simply described their C2C Festival experience as “AMAZING!” admitting, “We didn’t really know what to expect and we were blown away. Country in the UK? YES! They are so supportive, friendly and we can’t get enough of their accents. The highlight was probably hearing the crowd sing along to our song “Skinny Jeans.” Again, those accents. Love them. We also got to meet a number of other acts–some from the US & some from the UK & Europe. That was awesome–Raintown & Striking Matches–they were both SO great!”
Backstage at the C2C Festival with Striking Matches & Raintown.
While Jill and Kate have established a solid fan base in the United States, they admit that they have a soft spot for their vans across the pond. “We have such a huge love for the UK and hope to play over there much more in the future. Having the opportunity to travel across the pond and play music is a dream for us! The UK has also had such an edge on acoustic/singer songwriters…it’s exciting to learn from them. We are headed back in June for a tour and we hope that continues to grow. We love the UK!”
It’s their fans, both abroad and in the United States, that have allowed the talented twosome to make the full-time jump from backup singers to the main attraction. “It’s definitely a transition. You kind of forget sometimes that everything is riding on you…which can make you kinda freak out sometimes,” They laugh. “At the end of the day, we are responsible for making this work. Making sure that our fans are getting what they want is the number one priority. They are the driving force behind what we do It’s fun to be in charge of our own schedule all the time. We get to decide what shows we play, where we go…it’s pretty amazing.”
As a unique way to reach their fans, Jill and Kate launched the inaugural J&K 5K in 2013 with their second annual race weekend taking place this month in Nashville. “When we were on the road a lot, we got into running. We posted a lot of pictures from all of the places we’d run. Fans started emailing and tweeting us telling us they had started running too. So we had this community that was building and thought it would be fun to all come together and run with each other! We made a weekend of it. We have a team dinner Friday, run the race Saturday morning, and we play a show Saturday night. It was SO MUCH FUN last year, we decided to do it again this year. It’s coming up April 11th/12th and we are so excited! Even for non-runners, it’s a really fun weekend to be a part of.”
As they look ahead, I had to ask them about their dream country collaborations and they admit they have so many. Trisha Yearwood tops the list, and they’d love to join forces with the Zac Brown band because they love their harmonies. “Taylor Swift would just be ridiculously fun because she’s such a talented writer.” They both agree, “Umm…Vince Gill & Amy Grant. That’d be the dream right there.”
As their fan base continues to grow and they reach new audiences across the world, they admit that they feel like they’ve “made it” every time they connect with their fans. “Honestly, every time we really connect with people, hear their stories, get to perform for them–hear them sing the lyrics of our songs back to us…that’s the moment…especially when those people are an ocean away from us. That happened in the UK–fans were singing so loudly we almost couldn’t hear each other on stage…haha…it was awesome! Well, and we got a swag-bag from “Banagrams”…you know you’ve made it when… ”
Jill and Kate promise big things for the rest of 2014, including more shows, more music and more of the things their fans have grown to love, including StageIt Shows and monthly releases in their “Songs on the 17th” YouTube Series. “We just want to keep having fun and do what we do.” They promise, “It’s going to be a great year!”
Jill and Kate’s Acoustic Covers Album will be released on April 8th on iTunes, Spotify and anywhere else digital music is available.