Not the Dixie Chicks: SHeDAISY all abloom
May 20, 1999
By Mary Jo DiLonardo
(CNN) -- When the new country group SHeDAISY splashed onto the Nashville scene just a few weeks ago, critics and fans alike shrugged them off as a Dixie Chicks clone. Both bands are trios, after all, featuring an assortment of attractive sisters. But the similarities end there.
Hot out of Texas, the Dixie Chicks are bluegrass-based with an emphasis on fiddles and banjoes. Hailing from Utah, SHeDAISY has more of a country-pop flavor with an emphasis on interesting harmonies.
SHeDAISY comprises Kristyn, Kelsi and Kassidy Osborn -- three sisters in their 20s who started singing as children in the family car on vacations. Their mother taught them how to sing harmony as they crooned along with eight-tracks of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Broadway show tunes and the occasional Steppenwolf.
Kelsi and Kassidy began singing duets at fairs and nursing homes. Kristyn later joined the act and the sisters convinced their parents to let them take on Nashville. Kassidy, the youngest of the three, was only 12 when the family packed up and began spending summers in Nashville.
"Our parents didn't just drop us off," says Kristyn. "We'd go back and forth to school, until we were finished. Our parents wanted to make sure we were still normal."
A decade later, the girl group is on the charts with their debut single, "Little Good-Byes," a catchy ditty with clever lyrics, fun harmonica and a bit of a bubble gum flavor. The song is only representative of the album -- "The Whole Shebang" -- in that it features unique harmony and a fresh sound. Otherwise, every cut on the "Whole" disc has quite a different feel.
There's a classic country waltz, infectious alternative-pop-country rock and lots of unique numbers that can't be categorized so neatly into one musical genre.
A family that sings together
The one thread winding through it all is the rich blend of the sisters' voices. Like the Judds, family harmonies have always been a hallmark of country music. The Osborns, however, take it a step farther and really put the harmonies in the foreground, coming up with some pretty unusual vocal combinations.
"We do all our own arrangements," says Kristyn. "We spend a lot of time making ourselves overcomplicated and trying to make every song different. We use our voices like instruments. That's where The Beach Boys' influence comes in."
The girls cite musical heroes ranging from Alabama and Patty Loveless to Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls.
The most effusive member of the band, Kristyn, is also the group's songwriter. She has writing credits on every song on the record -- including a song she co-wrote with '80s pop icon, Richard Marx. The lyrics are clever, fun and have a hint of strong-woman, silly-man mischief.
"A lot of people say they sense a little bit of bitterness in the songs," laughs Kristyn. "We didn't set out to do that. We kinda tell it like it is …. It's not men-bashing. We're big fans of men!"
When the sisters signed on as the first unknowns for Disney's new Nashville label, Lyric Records, Kristyn thought maybe they should perform songs by some tried-and-true songwriters.
"I can't be objective about my own work. I thought maybe we need some outside stuff," she admits. "But nothing fit us musically as the way the stuff I'd written with my co-writers did."
The trio held a family contest to come up with a name for the band. They chose "SHeDAISY" (pronounced SHUH-daisy), Native-American slang for "my little sister." At home, the women have a younger sister, Karli, who has hopes of a singing career some day.
Appealing to shedaisies
If the postings on any of the group's unofficial fan web sites are any indication, SHeDAISY so far has found a niche with young female country fans. The appeal may lie with the catchy refrains and pop-flavored feel to their music.
"They really appeal to some of the young women who are responding to Shania Twain's songs," says Neil Haislop, country radio producer and author of "The Giants of Country Music" (Billboard Publications, 1995). "They're bringing a lot of listeners to country music. It's the same thing Shania was able to accomplish."
Although it's easy to see that many of SHeDAISY's songs could easily cross over to pop music, the girls say this wasn't their original intention.
"We always felt that country was the niche for us, the genre for us," says Kelsi. "It seemed to fit us the best. We have no interest at all to go pop."
But like Shania -- and even Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes -- SHeDAISY probably will have no trouble bridging the ever-narrowing gap between country and pop.
"A lot of people say country music is going to be hurt because it's becoming too progressive," says Kristyn. "When we started out, we didn't say, 'How progressive or how pop can we be?' We just said, 'How different can we be.' And if it brings in some new people, that's only good for country music."
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