SHeDAISY sisters say music has depth

Pop masquerading as country?

Posted: Wednesday, July 03, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When their debut album, ''The Whole SHeBANG,'' was released in 1999, SHeDAISY was pegged as a lightweight, poppy Dixie Chicks knockoff.

The cutesy, puzzling name -- pronounced sheh-DAZE'-ee -- didn't help.

But the three Osborn sisters -- Kristyn, Kelsi and Kassidy -- shrug off criticism that they make shallow pop music masquerading as country.

''After about 2 million records sold, you get pretty OK with it,'' says Kristyn, 31, SHeDAISY's chief songwriter. ''It comes down to the fans, because they're the ones who bought the record.''

The Osborns, whose new album, ''Knock on the Sky,'' was released Tuesday (June 25), came to Nashville 12 years ago and scored a record deal.

Back then, the Dixie Chicks were still in Texas and lead singer Natalie Maines was years away from joining.

''We've seen people come and go,'' said Kelsi, 27. ''It's almost amusing to us sometimes, because some of the people who are negative, they haven't been here as long as we have. We keep thinking we'll be patient, and they'll figure it out eventually.''

The sisters began harmonizing as children while riding in the family car listening to tapes of the Beach Boys and show tunes. They quickly exhausted the performance possibilities near their home in Magna, Utah.

''We sang at (Utah) Jazz games, old-folks homes, fairs, church parties and singing contests,'' Kelsi said. ''We couldn't play nightclubs because we were too young, but we did casino runs. ... We couldn't hang around, but they let us in to sing.''

Their parents agreed to let them move to Nashville while Kassidy, now 25, and Kelsi were still in school. Relatives rotated the duty of visiting to watch over them.

Within three months, they scored a record deal with RCA.

''We were like: 'This is easy, this is cool!''' Kelsi said. ''We were so dumb, it's ridiculous.''

They recorded an album as The Osborn Sisters, which has never been released. That album has some hallmarks of the future SHeDAISY sound.

''There was harmony all over the place, which is still what we do now,'' Kelsi said. ''Sometimes you can't tell who is singing what part, which is the same now.''

Although they were dropped by RCA, they decided to stay in Nashville.

''We wrote songs and we played out, met people and made contacts,'' Kristyn said. ''It was a period of pure learning. We thought there was another chance for us, we just didn't know when.''

They worked at mall stores to support themselves, and Kristyn took classes in music publishing.

Eight years later, they started looking for another record deal. In 1999, they became the first artists signed to Lyric Street's country division. Many Lyric Street executives had moved from RCA, but none of them immediately connected SHeDAISY to The Osborn Sisters.

''The Whole SHeBANG'' resulted in three Top 10 singles: ''Little Good-byes,'' ''This Woman Needs'' and ''I Will ... But.''

The sound was unique: girl-power lyrics, complex and busy arrangements with lots of studio sound effects and nonstop vocal harmonies. Sales were good.

Still, many critics and industry insiders were dismissive. The sisters were called ''Dixie Chicks lite'' in Nashville, and many wondered why a group that seemed more like Britney Spears than George Jones was calling itself a country act.

''Anything that relates to Middle America, to me, is country music,'' Kristyn said.

Some of her lyrics on the new album are darker this time around, inspired by her divorce this year.

In ''Keep Me,'' Kristyn writes: ''This can't really be what life is all about/Learning how to live just to live without/The travesty's the irony and the irony is you/I've traded in my sanctity for a cheaper shade of blue.''

Too dark for the sunny SHeDAISY image?

''Oddly enough, we don't really have that image with the fans,'' Kelsi said. ''THEY get it. It's more the industry that has made us appear to have a fluff image. The fans ... are the ones who brought up some of the darker sides of the first record in a way that even we sometimes didn't recognize.''

As for SHeDAISY, it's an American Indian word meaning ''my little sister.''

''You should have heard the names we rejected,'' Kelsi says. ''Our dad came up with Wide Load, which is not a good name for three women.''

Kassidy chimes in: ''Somebody else suggested Salt Lick. SHeDAISY sounded really good next to that.''

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