I had a chance to speak today with Jessica Lovell, the fiddling third of the sibling trio, The Lovell Sisters. She was making final preparations to leave for their European tour, which begins this Sunday (8/31) in Norway.
We talked in some detail about what the three young ladies have been doing for the past year or so, and got an answer to the question they have been hearing from their fans for the past two years… “When are you guys going to have a new CD out?”
The only studio recording they have released came in 2005 (When Forever Rolls Around), not long after they won the National Teen Talent Competition on Prairie Home Companion, and only a short time after the three of them embraced bluegrass music, leaving their classical studies behind.
Big things have happened for the girls since then, and their sound has matured as their professional life has expanded. A new album seemed like an obvious next step after being invited to showcase at IBMA in the fall of 2006, and by the middle of 2007, Jessica said that it looked like all their hopes were about to be fulfilled.
“We were working with a manager who was shopping us to labels in Nashville, and we had met with five of them who were serious about signing us. After a lot of thought and discussion, we decided to sign with Lyric Street Records, which is a division of Disney.
They had paired us up with producer Mark Bright, and everything seemed perfect. Mark had just finished producing Carrie Underwood, so we knew he could work well with female artists, and he had previously produced Mountain Heart, so we knew he was great with bluegrass and acoustic instruments.”
As they got closer to start recording, they started to get nervous about the direction things were taking. It was becoming clear that the label had chosen a path and a sound for the Lovells, and that the artist’s input wasn’t a high priority.
“It really hit me when Mark Bright mentioned one day that when he worked with Rascal Flatts, the biggest problem he had was convincing them not to record any of their original material. That hit me hard, as we wanted to do exactly that!
I don’t mean any disrespect to Mark or Lyric Street. They were great to us and treated us very fairly. It just started to look like we were heading into a place where we would lose control over our music.”
The Lovells consulted with their attorney, who was able to negotiate a release from their contract with Lyric Street in December of 2007, something not many young artists would consider. Turning down a major label and an established producer?
“People were telling us we were crazy! But to me, selling out means doing music you don’t believe in, and we didn’t want to start out like that.”
As 2008 began, the girls decided that the only way they could get the music recorded the way they envisioned it was to produce the next album themselves, and they were determined to finish it entirely before talking to any labels.
Jessica said that they have spent most of the summer in the studio, finishing this next project.
“We started recording in in mid-May, and are nearly finished now. Between May and the end of August, I’ll bet we put in 3 solid months of recording. We wanted to get everything just right, and it has turned out to be exactly what we wanted it to be.
We’ve been working with Brent Truitt in Nashville, recording in his studio and with him co-producing with the three of us. He makes us feel so comfortable in the studio when things get intense, and gets great tones on everything.
When we get home from Europe, we have just a few overdubs to finish, and we’ll be done. It should be mixed and mastered by mid-October.”
Gary Paczosa, who has worked extensively artists like Alison Krauss and Blue Highway, will do the mixing.
Most of the tracks were performed by The Lovell Sisters – Jessica on fiddle, Rebecca on mandolin and Megan on resonator guitar, with all three contributing on vocals. Their regular road guitarist, Matt Wingate, recorded on this project, with Viktor Krauss on bass. A few other instruments were used on selected tracks – cello, piano, organ and accordion.
Percussion is also used on this record, but Jessica said they wanted to be 100% certain that it complemented the sound and wasn’t added just to have drums.
“John Gardner played the drums, and we had him come in and cut after all the rest of the tracking was finished, so he would hear the rhythm we wanted for each track. He has this incredible way of ‘sneaking in’ the drums, filling spaces in the rhythm section without getting on top of anything else.”
She said that they are about to sign with a new management company who will shop the finished CD to labels, with the hope of seeing it released by the spring of 2009.
The sound of the new CD offers glimpses into the varied musical styles that appeal to The Lovell Sisters, with elements of bluegrass, pop folk and Gospel showing their impact. Several songs are Lovell originals, and two instrumentals are included.
“We love this record. It shows how much we’ve grown in the last two years. It sounds like what it is – a five piece acoustic band – very much like our live show.”
For the next two and a half weeks, touring in Europe is all the girls will have on their minds. They have stops scheduled in Belgium, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. A number of songs from the next show will be previewed during this tour, and they will also mark the European release of When Forever Rolls Around in Norway.
The full tour schedule can be found on The Lovell Sisters web site.
“All in all, it’s been a very interesting past 12-18 months…”
I should say it has.