STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Armed with their debut full length album release “You Can Love Me,” Philly’s “No Good Sister,” featuring Maren Sharrow (vocals), Jess McDowell (vocals and guitar), and Meaghan Kyle (vocals) are poised to take their collective career to the next level.
“We are just so excited that we got to make this record,” says McDowell, from her home in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. “We’ve had these songs for a while now and we’ve been performing most of them live for a good chunk of time now. We were holding back on making a full- length album because we didn’t want to do it too soon, it takes a lot of resources. So it was kind of a challenge getting to a point where, ‘OK we’re ready, we can put all the effort that we need to put in that we can get this funded and get it made.’ It’s kind of an intimidating process because you’ve got this material and if you set about recording it and you can’t fully fund it, like your Kickstarter doesn’t get funded, you end up half way finished or you finish it but the quality doesn’t turn out like you would have liked because you didn’t have the resources that you wanted. You don’t want to waste all the time that you spent developing the material and then release these songs in a way you’re not proud of. We, at a certain point had to take a huge leap of faith that we could do it.”
Emerging from the studio with an impressive collection of eleven songs, “No Good Sister’s” captivating three part harmonies and stellar songwriting will have you hooked from the opening track, “Just Tonight.” Blending traditional country music influences from a bygone era with a touch of blues and rock, the trio takes you on an infectious musical journey that will leave you wanting more. Standout tracks include “Reckless,” “Wrote You Off,” “This Time” and “Fireworks.”
“The high is seeing these songs come to life in album form,” says McDowell. “The songs having that life, and the way they all kind of fit together feels really rewarding at the end of the process.”
“We’re really proud of the record,” adds McDowell. “We think it turned out really well. We’re hoping people are going to love it and be as excited about it as we are. I feel like we put together a really great finished product that is going to serve us well.”
Produced by Philly’s own Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, a highly regarded musician in his own right, No Good Sister found Brenner to be an invaluable asset in the studio.
“He’s done so much for us,” says McDowell. “He came in with incredible arrangement ideas and took what we were doing and gave it a little more direction and a little more vision. He’s been a huge help, helping us create a focus and get serious. He’s a great communicator while giving us feedback in a non-confrontational way.”
Converging in a Philadelphia apartment in 2012, as a creative experiment to explore what their three part harmonies would yield, Sharrow, McDowell and Kyle knew that it was creative destiny that they should meet and No Good Sister was born.
“It’s a really special magical thing when you find that,” says McDowell. “It’s worth keeping it together because it’s just a once in a lifetime vocal blend. I’ve never had a vocal blend like this with two other people. Megan will still say, ‘Oh my God the hair stood up on the back of my neck when we sang this song or that song.’”
It didn’t take long for “No Good Sister” to get noticed. Winning an open mic competition at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington, Del. a month out of the gate, the trio was named “Standout Performer of 2013.” Winning recording studio time, they went into the studio the following year to record their three-song, self-titled debut EP.
Honored by 93.7 WSTW-FM (Wilmington, DE) with a “Hometown Heroes Award,” they were named the 2015 Artist to Watch by Ticket to Entertainment and won WSTW’s Wilmington Flower Market Battle of the Bands.
Rapidly becoming veterans of the road, No Good Sister continues to build an audience throughout the U.S. and abroad performing at clubs, theaters and festivals, including the Martin Guitar Main Stage at the 54th Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Opportunities to share the stage with Arlo Guthrie, Parker Millsap, Shakey Graves, The SteelDrivers, Eilen Jewell, The Kruger Brothers, and Kim Richey, among others continues to fuel the trio’s exposure.
“Sounding classic and vintage country is intentional,” says McDowell. “That is definitely a huge part of my background. There was a long period where I was really obsessed with blue grass, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, and got really into that for a while. Spent a lot of time listening to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Kline and Kitty Wells, all these old country singers.
We all lean this way. The umbrella term that works for us is Americana. Because we’re doing some things that are a little bit country, but then there are other things that are blues or early rock and roll. The main thing for all of us was not to get too pigeon holed into one thing. We wanted to make sure we weren’t getting ourselves into a box where we were required to do things a certain way because that was the style of music we were making. We want to write the song we want to write and have that flexibility.”
“We’re not in our 20s,” adds McDowell. “We’re not hip anymore and we’re not going to apologize for that. We don’t see it as a liability. I’ve had a lot of life experience and I have more to say. Not to say that there aren’t people in their 20s that aren’t experienced and have a lot under their belt, but I feel that I have more to say now and a sense of myself now in my 30s. We’ve all made peace with that because we started out feeling like it’s too late or nobody is going to be interested. We’re grown women and have a lot to say. We’re going to work it as a strength rather than feel apologetic about it. For us, the arts make life worthwhile and worth living.”