The three sisters of SHeDAISY — Kristyn, Kassidy and Kelsi Osborn — have steered their way back to the country charts with their latest hit, “I’m Taking the Wheel.” Here, they visit with CMT Radio about losing their slick sound, signing and selling autographs and the secret to getting mall discounts in Nashville.
CMT: After listening to Fortuneteller’s Melody, it seems like you took a different approach to this album.
Kassidy: Well, I think the first different approach that we took was using a different producer, John Shanks. He is just unbelievable. I think that all of us were really hesitant to have a production change like that because it is such a big deal, and we’ve had great success with Dann [Huff] in the past. So it was a big step for us. But Kristyn had formed a relationship with John Shanks earlier on with writing. She thought this could be something that could really work. We were really worried about how we were going to hit it off, if we were going to be on the same page, and it just worked great. The very first day Kelsi and I met him, we started recording the album.
Kelsi: We didn’t get a lot of prep time to say, “Hi, I’m Kassidy, and I’m Kelsi,” to get to know him. We built a relationship as we were recording. The process was really fun and so different than the norm and what we’re used to doing in Nashville. It was so formulated, and there were set times, and we just went in unprepared with the arranging that we usually do. A lot of the songs that made the record were written as we were recording. We didn’t go in saying, “OK, here’s the 11 or 12 songs we are going to cut.” … What you hear is really raw emotion, learning these songs right up front. The process was just so different. It was challenging for us.
Kassidy: There’s not a lot to hide from on these tracks. I think the vocals stand out. … It’s more about the songs than anything, more than the production. With John’s background and our background, it was a good combination. It’s a different sound than I think we’ve all heard from us before. I think, in turn, that made it fresh.
It may also be the most country-sounding album you’ve made.
Kristyn: I think you’re right. Oddly enough, it’s coming from a guy that has not been embraced by country music yet. As a songwriter, he’s written some really big country hits [including a co-write on Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You”], but as a producer, he’s been in many different worlds. He’s very organic in the nature of what he does. I think that just translates in our format. People don’t understand that, at the core of it, there are very similar lines that run parallel through different formats of music. He’s actually much more organic of a producer than many, and he makes more organic records than a lot of people here in Nashville who are considered country producers. … He challenged us to be really spontaneous and focus on songs rather than bells and whistles.
This one doesn’t sound as slick as your previous albums.
Kristyn: Definitely not. It has been frustrating for us in the past because we kept wanting people to embrace the songs and the vocals. We couldn’t quite get a grasp on the fact that sometimes people wouldn’t hear the songs … because of that part of the sound of the record. We hear the songs when they are in the rawest form, which is a guitar vocal. So we couldn’t figure out really where the song got lost in the translation. But this time we got to present them in the bed of music we want.
How was it being on the road and recording at the same time?
Kelsi: Kass and I took some time to really go and visit a lot with radio, sitting and talking with them. Besides touring at the same time, Kristyn actually had a few months to focus on some writing. We were able to separate some time this past year, and then when we went into the studio, we blocked off the whole month of November and a few weeks in December to finish the record. This is the quickest record we’ve ever done, in about six weeks. But we cut out in L.A. and then we cut some here [in Nashville].
Kristyn: In between, we’re going back and forth doing gigs.
Kassidy: There were shows, but sometimes it would be hard to go back and focus on old songs when we’d have all these new songs in our brains. … We thought it was going to be a little more difficult than it was, but the timing turned out to work out perfectly. The traveling is the only thing that gets to you. (laughs) You’re just worn out, but they both went really smoothly.
Who would be your dream writing partner?
Kristyn: Seriously, and I’m not exaggerating, I’ve gotten to write with three of my favorites. I’ve gotten to write with Jann Arden this year, and Jonatha Brook and Sheryl Crow. I have one person left on my list, Mike Reid. He and I have talked about getting together. I’m feeling pretty lucky. … I never could have done that 10 years ago when I was struggling to get anybody to sit down with me at all. I feel very fortunate.
Is it true that you all used to work in mall department stores?
Kassidy: We all shared one car, so we needed jobs all the same hours, if possible, so we could share. It just happened to work out that way. We realized early on that you could not have somebody related to you at the same department store. That’s why we had to do all different stores. We were like, “Well, if we could just get our younger sister Karly out here to come get a job, we’ll get all the discounts in the mall.” … I think having normal jobs like that, you just appreciate what you have now. We’d get done with those jobs, and it would just be hell, and then you’d go, “OK, we want this to work.” We wanted music to work so much more after doing those jobs.
Do you think those kinds of things helps you remain grounded?
Kassidy: Yeah. I think it does because you’ve had to work for it. You’re paying your dues, so to speak. We have been raised well. We have a great family, and they keep us very grounded, and we keep each other pretty grounded. We’ve had success. We’ve had failure. We’ve had it all.
Kristyn: That’s a bigger key right there. You can’t rest on your laurels very long, and we learned that really quickly.
Kelsi: We’ve seen some people in the industry that we knew in the beginning that have changed with success. We’ve always said we are never going to allow ourselves to be that way because people remember those experiences. We just want to leave people with a good feeling when they meet us and know that we are normal, down-to-earth people, and we’re relatable.
Kassidy: And we know that your face looks the same going up as it does coming down, so we keep that in mind at all times.
How do you feel about signing autographs when you’re approached in public?
Kristyn: These people helped you get where you are.
Kassidy: Even if you’re having a bad day and don’t feel like being social, you know how important it is to them to even see you. And you’re thinking, “But that was nothing, I did nothing.”
Kelsi: Or a smile or a hello.
Kassidy: Yeah, it’s important, and they’re very grateful and they’re gracious and they’re supportive.
Kristyn: At some point, you have to let go of the fact that you can’t differentiate between real fans and people that have the blue pen that just want to use your autograph on eBay.
Kassidy: Yeah, there are quite a few of those.
Kristyn: You look at that blue pen, like, “I know what you’re going to do with that.” But as soon as someone doesn’t want your autograph, then you know that you’re career is not where you want it to be. You just have to remember what it was like to work in the mall.
How much did the autograph go for on eBay?
Kristyn: Like 85 cents, last time we checked.
Kassidy: And I think it was our parents.
Kelsi: Mom and Dad bought that.
Kristyn: Mom and Dad buy all of them because they don’t want us to feel bad.
Kassidy: They’re so nice. They’re good like that.
Kristyn: It’s all good, it’s all fine. It’s funny to watch. You can’t turn down that face when they want their name on it and they’ve been listening to your records. You’re just really grateful you get that kind of fan. We get a lot of those people that have stuck with us through all the ups and downs.