For The Jenkins, music has always been a family affair. And you don't have to listen long to their self-titled debut album to uncover a host of family secrets.
The Jenkins, a stunning mother-and-two-daughter trio, blend the pure, traditional harmonies of Kentucky bluegrass with contemporary sounds and themes to create unique and irresistible music. Although they carry on the rich tradition of country singing families, from the Carter Family to The Judds, their music is fresh and different because they sing the stories of their lives.
The Jenkins, the trio's Capitol Records Nashville debut CD serves as a musical diary for the entire family. Nancy and her daughters Brodie, age 17 and Kacie, age 19, penned seven of the 10 songs, all of which stemmed from personal experiences. "We bring the Jenkins family household with us wherever we go with our music," says Brodie. "You can call our songs 'conversations put to music' because they are." Adds Kacie, "When we're singing them, it's everything we've lived through."
But the Jenkins never dreamed that anyone else would listen to their musical family album. After all, they live in the small Northern California town of Sebastopol, Calif., where people make wine, not records. The girls were raised in an old farmhouse on a vineyard, where they stomped grapes and studied for school. Singing was just a pleasant pastime that brought the family closer. "We had no idea that this was going to work at all," Kacie says. "It was just a fun adventure."
However, that all changed the first time all three took the stage in public. What seemed like a routine school production launched the careers of the then-unnamed trio after their impressive performance immediately sparked attention and career activity. Their wildest fantasies soon became a reality when Capitol Records offered them a deal and a chance to share their personal stories with the world.
And share they do. "Blame It On Mama" describes how Nancy used to lull her girls to sleep by singing country songs such as "Fancy" and "The Nights the Lights Went Out In Georgia," reveling the girls with tales of murder and prostitution. For the sassy, rollicking "My Baby's Kiss", Kacie posted her boyfriend's photo in the studio to inspire her to truly embody all of the passion of a young woman falling in love. The sisters wrote "Tame Little Heart" after Kacie complained about a boy who remained oblivious to her interest in him.
"God Only Knows," which is about a young girl asking her grandfather whether her dreams would come true, paints the portrait of the visits Brodie and Kacie used to make to their grandparents. "I feel like it really encompasses everything that our music is about: family connections, stories, love and a sense of hope for the future," Kacie says.
The Jenkins, produced by Rodney Crowell, projects the joy and enthusiasm reflected in the attitudes of confident, coming-of-age women who are strong, independent and secure. "There's an innocence there because these girls have experienced the thrill of falling in love, and they both have been hurt by things, but nothing a good cry and a shopping trip can't fix," Nancy says.
Brodie jokingly complains that sometimes the songwriting can get a little too personal. "After a break-up, she'll come in with a pen and paper and say, 'Exactly how do you feel about this?'" And sometimes, adds Kacie, "She doesn't even tell us she's writing about it. We'll read the lyrics and say, 'Hmm, that sounds familiar.'"
These intimate lyrics about family and love are paired with chill-inducing harmonies that only a family could create. Brodie's voice is buttery and fluid, while Kacie's is powerful and sexy. Nancy's low, vibrant tones fill in the rest to form a sound like no other. "Singing together as a family is one of the most magical experiences you can have," Kacie says. Brodie adds, "It's a weird telepathic connection between us. Kacie knows where I'm going to go and I know where she's going to go."
Nancy Jenkins was steeped in country music because she was raised in the horse country of Anchorage, Ky., near Louisville. Her mother was a concert pianist who loved the old songs and taught her and her older sister to harmonize to the melodies of Stephen Foster on long car trips to visit relatives in Missouri. But she never gave much thought to pursuing music as a profession and instead earned a master's degree in physical therapy and began working with head injury and stroke patients in Texas and California.
Jenkins married Texan Bob Jenkins in 1981 and decided to be a stay-at-home mom after giving birth to Kacie and Brodie. When it came time to getting her young daughters to fall asleep at night, she found that her musical background worked much better than her medical training. "I sang lullabies to them a lot," says Nancy, who would sing songs by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt to sooth her girls. "By the time they were five, they were singing too." The big debut for Brodie and Kacie was in the family bathtub, where they sang Paula Abdul into the Barbie dolls that served as their microphones.
A few years later, Nancy began producing the annual talent show at Twin Hills Junior High in which her daughters performed from first to eighth grades. Brodie sang "Second Hand Rose" when she was a second grader, the same year fourth grader Kacie sang "The Boy Next Door". "People would say, 'You're girls are so small, but they have such big voices," says Nancy. Kacie, who learned to play guitar at age 11, and Brodie, who began playing at age 9, revealed their various musical influences throughout the years, from pop and rock to traditional country. "When I was in fourth grade and my sister was in sixth, the three of us decided to try to sing something together," Brodie says. "We chose "Guardian Angels" by The Judds and performed it in for several hundred people in the school gymnasium." Kacie sang lead, Brodie sang high harmony and Nancy took the low harmony. "It was magic," Brodie says.
The audience obviously agreed because after the show, they were approached by songwriter Dennis Hysom, who encouraged them to consider pursuing a career as a trio. Nancy began writing songs and recording demos with him and his wife Chris Walker in their home studio. A short demo made its way through friends to Peter Bunetta, a record producer in Los Angeles. Bunetta worked with the family for two years, ultimately producing eight songs that he hand-carried to Nashville.
Word soon spread to Capitol Nashville's President Mike Dungan, who, along with head of A&R, Larry Willoughby, flew to California and sat on the Jenkins' living room sofa as the family played three guitars and sang. "We were so frightened at first that we didn't know what to expect, but he hugged us and picked dog hairs off his trousers," Brodie says. After just a few notes, the Capitol execs didn't need to hear anything else; they knew they had just found Capitol's newest recording artists.
--- from the official The Jenkins website