When “Wildflower” was released last year, the talented duo the JaneDear girls (Amarillo, Texas native Danelle (Dan-L) Leverett and Alpine, Utah native Susie Brown) unleashed a song that mixed a rockin’ groove with a message about being from a more rural area where a girl is able to become a ‘wildflower’ and bloom into a beautiful one because of that upbringing. With the song inside The Top 15 at country radio, we recently had the chance to sit down and discuss their path to becoming recording artists, along with how they go about creating their music, how they found their self-titled album’s producer John Rich and, finally, a little bit about their unique style and fashion sense.
Matt: When did you first listen to country music?
Susie Brown: I grew up playing bluegrass and was in a family band. I grew up listening to Garth, Shania, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Alabama.
Danelle Leverett: I started listening to country about the time I heard Keith Urban.
Matt: What instruments can each of you play?
Susie: I started out on fiddle when I was four and my mom got me a mandolin when I was 8 and then a guitar, then I learned to play upright bass at 10 and then my mom bought me an accordion after that.
Danelle: I play the guitar, banjo and harmonica.
Matt: That certainly is more instruments than many other artists seem to play. Certainly helps to make your songwriting more interesting, I bet…
Danelle: Yeah, it makes it fun.
Matt: How did you guys come to meet?
Susie: I moved to Nashville about seven years ago and got my first gig playing for a local singer/songwriter. I was real excited because it’s hard to find them here in Nashville (because of so many artists). I was really excited to get paid 50$ a show and Danelle happened to come to one of the shows I was playing at and a guy named Kris (Bergsnes) introduced her to me and said “you guys are about the same age and you should get together and hang out sometime.” Danelle then called me a few weeks later….
Danelle: To go swimming…
Susie: to go swimming and we went to go but we ditched swimming to write our first song together because we both had our instruments in our car. We invited Kris to finish it and even on that first day he realized that we were a duo saying, “you guys play a like, sing alike, talk alike,” so it was pretty cool.
Matt: How long was it before you met John Rich?
Danelle: I met John even before I even met Susie. I met him a few weeks after moving to Nashville. And he’s from Amarillo and I’m from Amarillo. He started calling me “West Texas” and kind of embraced me as a big brother, mentor type. So I’m very fortunate to have ran into him.
Matt: So, because of that connection, how quick did it take for you to be able to be realized by him as a duo?
Danelle: it took us a while because the first songs that we sent him, that we wrote within the first few months of being together, he told us they weren’t that good and to not play them for anyone and then about three years later he caught our show when we were playing live and that’s when he really decided that we had what it took to probably get a record deal and he produced some demos for us and helped us get a record deal and became our producer…
Matt: and that’s exactly the kind of advice you want to get when you’re starting out, to get honest advice about your music. You may not have wanted to hear that from him but it still probably helped you to strive to be better?
Susie: Absolutely. Even 5-10 years down the road you want to continue to get better and better, you know.
Matt: How was it like working with him in the studio?
Susie: John is awesome in the studio. Because he’s an artist himself, he knows what it’s like to want to put in your own feeling into each song because each song is your baby, and we wrote every one of the songs on the album, so we really wanted to be a part of bringing it to life in the studio. So he was great about us listening to us and letting us be us.
Matt: And that’s pretty evident when listening to your record. I can hear some of his production style in there but it’s not like it’s a big and rich record or a John Rich solo record…
Susie: Yeah, he didn’t push his own style on us. He just enhanced our sound.
Matt: How many songs did one or both of you write on the record?
Susie: Some of them Danelle wrote, some of them I wrote, some of them we wrote together with our co-writers.
Matt: You guys have a distinctive look and style, how did that style come about?
Susie: Well, I grew up coming home everyday to my mother watching old black and white films on AMC so I fell in love with the 40s and 50s style. And I’ve always had bangs since I was two years old so the last few years have been really fun to kind of experiment with our styles now that we have the ability to go out and shop to really enhance what we do. Because Danelle and I really do have different styles and its fun to play off of that and tie it together.
Danelle: We’re just really lucky to be signed to a label that lets us sing what we want and wear what we want. Because we’re really opinionated and we are kind of unique and different and I don’t think it’d have worked if we would’ve tried to be anything but who we are.
Matt: Right, and if they had an image stylist or consultant who said you can’t look like that and won’t get anywhere…
Danelle: Yeah, Susie and I both have people who help us buy clothing and they really do know us but if they get something we don’t like, we’re not forced into wearing it. At the end of the day, we have a certain vision for our music and our fashion as well so it’s important that we continue to move forward the way we envisioned it, you know?
Matt: Right, because it’s hard to separate yourself from the pack if you look like the pack…
Susie: Yeah, it’s been fun just because we can completely been ourselves and can go any direction we want with our fashions and we got to hand-pick our stylists so it’s been great to have the freedom to do what we want…
Matt: You’re lead single “Wildflower” has had a slow but steady rise up the charts. How does it feel to have your song warmly embraced by fans and country music radio?
Susie: I think it’s the best thing in the world, it’s so cool to be embraced by radio and have them play your songs and then to get to go to that area and play some shows and everyone there is singing along, it’s just a really cool thing.
Danelle: It’s the most humbling, honoring experience in the whole world…
Matt: I spent the holiday season in the Salt Lake City area and heard “Wildflower” quite a bit…
Susie: Oh really? Cool!
Susie: I grew up listening to KUPL and KSOP.
Matt: Having seen your live show, I know its fun. How would you describe it to somebody who has never gotten to experience the show?
Danelle: I’d say high energy, rockin and fun.
Susie: Come out if you wanna have a good time.
Matt: How invaluable has social media been to the JaneDear girls as you get to know your fans?
Susie: Oh, man! That’s been a huge, huge part of our career. We love our Facebook fans! We go on pretty much every day and Danelle and I will go around answering everyone’s questions and see how they’re doing and it’s a really fun thing to have them hear your song and like it enough to come on to Facebook and say hello to us.
Matt: What would you like to say to fans that may be learning about JaneDear Girls for the first time?
Danelle: Most importantly, we’re personally excited to be able to meet all of the fans on the road this year. After the show’s over on the tour, we go out to our merchandise area where we love to meet and talk with everyone there.
Contest: Jane Dear Girls Prize Pack