Sons of Daughters have eaten the Nashville dirt and grown into their boots.
Chrystal Leigh and Jimmy Thow comprise a modern, gritty, country duo from deep in the heart of … North Van.
“You can’t beat the sushi,” says Leigh. It’s a phrase that wouldn’t normally roll off the tongue of a country artist when describing their hometown.
But the country genre has evolved and become welcoming of cross-over artists, such as Leigh and Thow, who are steadily finding their footing.
Leigh was “obsessed” with Disney music growing up, until the age of 16 when the Sutherland alumna discovered rock ’n’ roll and changed her tune.
Thow, an STA graduate, tested the musical waters with some pop projects in the early aughts, before experimenting with heavier music.
Being part of the tight-knit Vancouver music scene meant Leigh and Thow were destined to cross paths.
In 2013, Leigh was heavily involved with industrial rock music, while Thow was searching for his next musical partner, when the two connected at a Vancouver bar.
“We just had a chemistry and a friendship that blossomed right off the bat,” recalls Thow.
Asked if they have chemistry like June Carter and Johnny Cash, the modern country duo reveals they are not a couple but rather the “closest, closest of friends.”
Five years ago, with that innate chemistry in tow, Leigh and Thow headed to Nashville for a songwriting trip.
In one fruitful month, they wrote 30 songs.
“There’s just a magic in the air here,” says Leigh, speaking to the News this week from Nashville, along with Thow.
But country music stardom doesn’t happen overnight in Nashville, which is famously called a 10-year town.
“You’ve got to come down here, you’ve got to place your roots, you’ve got to put in the work, and you’ve got to say ‘Yes’ to everything,” explains Leigh.
After a management deal was inked, the North Vancouverites were asked to take a leap and move to Nashville to expedite their country music career.
“Me and Jim were like, ‘Well, we’ll leave tomorrow.’ It was a no-brainer for us,” says Leigh.
With whiskey and Cash coursing through their veins, the songs just fell out of them in Nashville.
Country music was built on heartbreak, pickup trucks and fishing holes. These songs subscribe to a certain verbiage and imagery, explains Thow, which may not fit the North Van picture.
But when you drill down to the heart of country music you find nostalgia – real messages of first loves and all the experiences Leigh and Thow had growing up on the North Shore.
Since planting roots in Nashville, Sons of Daughters have collaborated with numerous Grammy-nominated songwriters and taken the stage at the iconic Bluebird Café, among other famous haunts in country music’s heartland.
The Sons of Daughters name was a natural choice, says Leigh.
“We were continuously getting compared to other artists, like the lovechild of Dolly Parton meets Steve Earle or Keith Urban. It’s the idea that we are the sons of daughters of our musical influences.”
The duo recently released three songs: “Can’t Find Love In A Bar,” “Ain’t Gonna Be Lonely Long,” and “What If We Stay.”
A cursory listen of “Ain’t Gonna Be Lonely Long” instinctively compels the listener to tap their toes along to the beat.
“That’s definitely what we’re going for,” says Leigh.
Sons of Daughters straddle the line between country and pop, while carving their own unique sound in the modern country scene through captivating vocal harmonies, swampy guitar riffs and catchy lyrics.
Thow and Leigh’s voices harmonize on another level, they have been told.
“Your voices sound like you came from the same womb,” remarked AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson, after hearing Sons of Daughters for the first time at a private dinner party.
Thow co-produced the three songs Sons of Daughters has released, infusing pop and electronic elements into the organic sound.
“I think country music right now is so wide open in terms of the way you can make it sound,” explains Thow. “As long as there’s that element of storytelling that anchors it in country music – I think you can do a bunch of things and it can work.”
Thow has been entrenched in the music industry since his early 20s and is now starting to see the fruits of his labour.
“The saving grace is that you can at least say that you love what you do,” says Thow. “But it is literally about eating dirt and getting the crap beaten out of you for a long time until you get strong enough.”
Leigh and Thow are now bona fide country musicians.
“Ain’t Gonna Be Lonely Long” is currently in rotation on Vancouver country music station, JRfm.
The duo feel they are missing out by being in Nashville and not hearing their single playing in the car while sitting at Ambleside Beach or cruising down Lonsdale Avenue.
To help abate any homesickness, family members, friends and fans from Vancouver have sent the duo videos of themselves dancing to Sons of Daughters.
“There’s been a lot of love and support [from our hometown],” says Leigh.
With $25,000 on the line, Leigh and Thow need some more support at the moment.
Sons of Daughters are one of eight semifinalists competing as part of SiriusXM’s Top of the Country competition.
Each musical act was given five hours in a studio to record an original song. Sons of Daughters put forth an emotional tune called “Lying next to Me.”
“It talks about being in a relationship with somebody and maybe not being honest, and the kind of unspoken lies and the lying to yourself,” explains Leigh. “All that beneath-the-surface stuff that goes on in relationships.”
The hook of the song, says Thow, is “Cause when you lie, at least you’re lying next to me."
Videos of the semifinalists’ studio sessions, including “Lying next to Me,” are now online at topcountry.siriusxm.ca, where Canadians can vote for their favourites.
The three finalists will perform at a Canadian Country Music Association event, where they will face a judging panel that will determine who takes home $25,000 and a ticket to a prestigious songwriting camp in Nashville.
Sons of Daughters are already set to play some Canadian dates this summer, including a show in New Brunswick where they will open for country superstars Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Bryan.
No matter how far and wide music takes them, North Vancouver will always lead Leigh and Thow home.
“Nashville is so awesome, it’s an amazing place to live, but I find [North Van] – that’s where I have to recharge. It’s where I was raised,” says Thow.