Sure, they may look alike. The fact that Heather and Jennifer Kinley are twins is certainly no mystery. But when it comes to how this set of Philadelphia natives sound, they couldn’t be any more different — from each other or from anyone else in country music.
With a soaring, split-level vocal blend that’s as electrifying as it is all-natural, the Kinleys give the word harmony a new definition. They’re also giving country music fans something to talk about, sing along with and want more of.
If the result of their first single, “Please,” from their Epic debut disc, Just Between You And Me, is any indication of what these two 26-year-olds want more of for themselves, they’re more than ready to step up to the challenge. Already a Top 20 song across the country, their “Please” obviously couldn’t be any more pleasing to their growing fan base.
The Kinleys crossed the Music City border almost seven years ago with the hope of someday making it big in the business. At first, however, the only business they were making it big in was the restaurant business. But spending night after night waiting on tables soon paid off, because it was during the days that they were able to sincerely focus on honing their craft as songwriters and musicians. Additionally, singing together on a much larger scale was no longer a dream waiting to happen. It truly became a mission possible, and absolutely nothing was going to hold this sister act back.
“I’m serious,” laughs Jennifer. “We crashed a whole lot of No. 1 parties when we first moved to Nashville. It seems like the first thing you do when you move here, especially when you’re 19, is you think you need to meet as many stars as you possibly can. I remember going to Alan Jackson’s parties, and Brooks & Dunn we’ve met. Actually though, all that was a good thing because we met a lot of people.”
“She climbed the fence at the Grand Ole Opry,” chimed in Heather about her sister. “That was her claim to fame.”
“I just felt like I needed to get backstage and meet the people that could make it all happen,” Jennifer admitted. “I didn’t want to feel like just a fan, although I was a fan. But I wanted to feel like I was a part of all the music scene, as opposed to sitting out there and wishing it could happen. But we met Restless Heart that way and learned who everybody was and who did what in the business. So all in all, it was a good learning experience.”
The first few years for The Kinleys were learning experiences in more ways than one.
“When we first moved here, we realized that it wasn’t all about just being singers,” explains Jennifer. “We realized that these people were also musicians and songwriters, too. That gave us the encouragement to try and attain some new goals. So Heather really attacked the guitar and I attacked the piano. She just loves the guitar, so thank God she kept practicing. I can get by on the piano, but she can really rock on the guitar. With writing, I really got frustrated with it. I knew I could do it, but I guess I just didn’t have the confidence level I needed because there were already all these wonderful writers out there. So finally, we put those fears aside, stopped worrying about a lot of those things and just wrote what we thought was good.”
What was good ultimately showed up in five cuts on their Just Between You And Me album, co-produced by Russ Zavitson, Tony Haselden and Peter Greene. Quilted with explosive fiddles, chugging guitars and a paralyzing rock-n-roots backbeat, the disc unveils a collection of songs and influences that range from heart-ripping emotions to strong celebration anthems. Then throw into the pot the Kinleys’ across-the-board musical influences, which season the perfect recipe with gritty country traditionalism, gut-lined R&B and an almost gospel-tingling belt of rock.
“Our roots are based in country, so I would deny whole-heartedly that we’re anything but that,” Jennifer admits. “I love country and so does Heather. I love what it stands for and I’m proud to be a part of it. It just seems like the artists in country music are really dedicated to their fans and seem to be just really good people and seem to believe in God. They’re all the things that I liked when I was growing up and the things that Dad always taught me to appreciate. And I do.”
The Kinleys grew up listening to all kinds of music — especially country. But it was several years ago when they realized that music for them would be much more than simply an entertainment option.
“We were probably about 12 years old, when we first saw the Reunion concert for the Everly Brothers,” remembers Heather. “Their tight harmonies just blew us away. We just automatically fell into their parts. Jennifer fell into Phil’s part because she just always liked the higher parts. And I just loved the richness of Don’s voice and started to sing all those parts. From listening to them so much, we started learning all the parts and the harmony.”
“Any song or any part of the song from that Reunion concert, we could do it,” adds Jennifer. “That’s how many times we watched it. We watched it so many times that it was weird. I wanted to sing the high part because it was more comfortable for me in that range. There even came a point to where I didn’t know the melody because I was so used to hearing and singing that harmony part.”
Harmony, for the Kinleys today, however, is obviously much more than simply finding a part. While their Just Between You And Me disc soars with stellar song material and musicianship, it’s their ethereal harmony blend that rivets through the album like a whirlwind of magic. While Heather unfolds a driving gutsy lead throughout much of the package, Jennifer’s blazing high octaves somehow surge in and out like electricity. The result of the high-voltage fusing is scorching hot.
“It really is like being in our own little world, and it’s a very satisfying feeling,” explains Heather of the duo’s harmony. “I just feel very lucky to have someone like her to sing with every night.”
“I agree that you’re lucky to have someone like me to sing with every night,” laughs Jennifer.
“No really,” Heather interrupts, “sometimes there is maybe a note or a part of the song that we can somehow hit, and it’s almost like a third person comes out from somewhere.”
“And that’s really why we’re in this,” adds Jennifer, “is because of that kind of feeling that we get when something like that happens.”
While knowledge about the music business and their singer/songwriter skills have obviously progressed over the years, one element that’s remained the same since they were little girls is their deep love and respect for one another. Both Heather and Jennifer are quick to credit the trait to not only being close-bonded twins but also because they hail from an “extremely loving family.”
“I think it all comes from just knowing each other incredibly well. There’s this bond between us that’s just so incredibly close,” says Heather. “It’s that kind of feeling you have when you’re on a plane or something and you think ‘If we go down, we want to go down together.’”
“I don’t know about that,” Jennifer jokes. “Really, our whole family just has a very intense relationship, and I don’t know if it’s just our family or what. I do know that it’s to the point that if I get married or she gets married, it’s gonna be a group thing,” she laughs.
Playing the cutesy “twin” game, however, was never a comfortable one for The Kinleys, although there was a time when they thought it just could be the niche they needed to make it in the music world.
“We’ve got the pictures,” admits Jennifer. “When we moved here, we were actually wearing these frilly dresses that were exactly alike. And we had the perms and the big hair. We were probably 19 and thought we may as well play up the whole twin thing. We thought just maybe it was just unique enough. But when we got to Nashville, we were actually pleasantly surprised that we could really have our own identities. I really appreciate that, because we are separate people and are very different. Plus, it took an incredible amount of pressure off because we didn’t have to worry about getting every curl just alike anymore.”