This one time at band camp, I interviewed this band from Virginia and they were really lovely and charming. Rachel Russell of Sonnet Cottage spoke with me about songwriting, being in band with her sister, Torey, and the release of their new album, “Half Written Story.” Their music is a acoustic alternative folk rock.
If you need more clarification, check out their Bandcamp page. I love Bandcamp because they feature really excellent musicians, like Sonnet Cottage.
1. Do you have a process for songwriting?
Writing starts with either me or my producer, Kent Heckaman. We write songs somewhat independent of each other, and then we come together in the studio to collaborate and refine. The songs are arranged on the fly and then we layer instruments and vocals. What we don’t like later can always be removed during the mixing phase. We look at recording like an artist looks at a canvas – we add layers a little bit at time. We then listen and meditate on the songs for a while before we call them final…many times they look nothing like what they sounded like in the beginning.
2. Did either of you ever think that you would be in a band with your sister?
Torey and I have always sang together growing up – for fun, at church, with friends, etc. But it wasn’t until we were discovered by Kent that we actually pictured ourselves in a band.
3. How long have you been singing and playing the guitar? Do you play other instruments?
Since we can remember as young kids we have sung together, but not professionally until we formed Sonnet Cottage. We play guitar as a tool to write songs, but we are not talented enough at it to play in the studio!
4. Do you have any plans for touring this year?
Our new album “Half Written Story” will be released on June 27th, and we have an official release party at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA on June 28th. We are working at booking several more gigs later this summer and fall.
5. Your album, “Half Written Story,” is going to be released soon. Do you think it’s different than your previous album? (On a side note, I noticed that you’ll beat the Tree House Lounge for your release party. It sounds like the most appropriate place for you guys. And also like it’s the most fun place on the planet. No question, just an observation. )
Side note: Actually we decided to cancel at Tree House Lounge and re-book the release party at Jammin’ Java since we did not think Tree House was large enough for this event…please come and invite your friends!
Regarding comparisons to our debut album “Another Time”, I think we became a little more “alternative” with Half Written Story by virtue of our desired direction and the inclusion of Buddy Speir as our guitarist. Buddy really brings a lot of great ideas and sounds into the studio which gives our “folk” sound a little more of an alternative edge at times.
6. What do you guys do when you’re not doing something music related?
Go to festivals, farmers markets, and eat good food and drink great wine.
7. So I read that Rachel just got married. Congratulations! (also, not a question. Just want to say congrats!)
Yes – Torey got married last summer and I tied the knot on April 11th. I think our dad is now officially broke!
8. If you weren’t musicians, what would you be doing?
Actually, we all have day jobs. I am an Interior designer, Torey is a nurse, and Kent is in real estate development. I suppose if we ever made more than our combined incomes with our music we might just bail and hit the road…you never know what might happen in the future.
9. Has the band had to overcome any major obstacles?
Nope…we just write songs and have a great time at it…no major disagreements, drug or alcohol rehab (ha ha), etc…we’re just a little too preoccupied with our own lives to create any havoc amongst ourselves.
10. If you could play anywhere in the world, what would be your first choice?
Locally: The Hamilton or the Lincoln Center; Internationally: London or Paris.
11. What advice to you have for young people just starting out in the music business?
If you really take your art seriously, then:
Always put your music first…be inspired by others but be unique in your own way…write music and lyrics that are meaningful to you…don’t cut corners with your production…and if you really love it then don’t ever give up!