Interview: Secret Sisters Explore New Paths on ‘Saturn Return’ Album
When Laura and Lydia Rogers, better known as the Secret Sisters, entered the studio to record their fourth album, Saturn Return, they were trying to navigate one of the most difficult seasons of their lives.
"Emotionally, I think that we were kind of all over the map," Laura tells The Boot. "I look back now and think that I was in a little bit of a fog.
"I found out I was pregnant just a couple of weeks before we went up to Seattle to do our first recording session," she continues. "I was so out of it from the physical effects of the first trimester, the shock of what was taking place and all of the stages that were coming."
Lydia, too, became pregnant, soon after her sister. And along with the stress and unknowns of two pregnancies, the Rogers were also navigating their own grief.
"We went through a pretty hard season of loss," Laura notes. "We lost both of our grandmothers pretty close to one another, so that was still present in our minds. We were still just trying to figure out how you go forward in life without the strong matriarch."
The themes of growth, femininity, loss and personal evolution weave through every song on Saturn Return, out Friday (Feb. 28). The record is aptly named after an astrological season that occurs when the planet Saturn is positioned at the same place in the sky as it was at the moment of a person's birth. Brandi Carlile, accomplished singer-songwriter and the Secret Sisters' producer for their latest project, first told them about the phenomenon, which is believed to encapsulate a new season of adulthood.
"She gave us a crash course in what it means to enter your Saturn return and how it can be kind of a bumpy ride, and then it levels out and you make a little more sense of it," Laura explains. "And, sure enough, it was like she prophesied everything we went through. That move from what felt like youth to adulthood was just so tumultuous for both of us in different ways."
It was at Carlile's own Seattle-area property that the Rogers sisters pulled from the tangled emotions that grew from that season to create their most powerful record to date. They had previously worked with Carlile and her creative cohorts Tim and Phil Hanseroth on their 2017 record You Don’t Own Me Anymore. This time around, however, Carlile and the Hanseroths felt it was time to push Laura and Lydia to step outside their comfort zones.
"Brandi and the twins were pretty adamant about us trying to do some stuff individually," Lydia shares. "They can kind of step away from everything, see it from a bird's eye perspective and go, 'This is what's happening. This is how we need to capture it and preserve this kind of special moment.'"
It's a magical combination that works because in part because of Carlile's ability to uplift and support artists while pushing them to reach the next level. "Anytime that we've gotten to do anything alongside her, it really has felt like a mentor who's in a really good place of power and respect and elevation, where she deserves to be," Lydia notes.
"She allows other people -- and especially other women -- that she believes in to come into that space with her," Lydia reflects. She adds with a laugh, "She probably knows better what we need for ourselves than we do. But she allowed us to have that kind of control, and if we felt strongly about something, she let us kind of take our own path."
Saturn Return is filled with those special moments, brilliantly written and performed by the Rogers but sonically cultivated by Carlile. The melodic "Late Bloomer," reflective "Tin Can Angel" and haunting "Water Witch" are all anchored by solo vocals from Laura and Lydia.
"Now that the record is done and behind us, I feel really proud of the fact that Brandi encouraged that, and we trusted her enough to go for it," Lydia muses. "I think it's powerful to hear us individually."
Adds Laura, "It was intimidating though. A lot of our identity as a band was wrapped up in our harmony singing, and that's just kind of what we're known for. It was really scary to come to terms with for a while, because we thought, 'Well, who are we as a band if we sing separately? What am I going to do on stage while Lydia things without me?'"
Although Laura and Lydia both shine individually throughout the record, Saturn Return still features plenty of the goosebump-conjuring harmonies for which they've become known. From the uplifting, groove-laden love song "Hand Over My Heart" to the opening track "Silver," an examination of motherhood, femininity and the circle of life, the thoughtfully layered soundscape perfectly spotlights the sisters' cuttingly honest lyrics.
"This is a chapter in our lives that we experienced individually and collectively." -- Laura Rogers
"There's a lot of full-circle symbolism in the record," Laura says. "But this is a chapter in our lives that we experienced individually and collectively."
Saturn Return may have been birthed from a shaky moment of transition, but the Secret Sisters have now steadily positioned themselves at a new creative peak.
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