The Native Sibling is a Santa Cruz, CA based Brother-Sister duo who have been playing music independently since they were children. Only after playing together at a pub in Ireland last year did they realize that their musical aspirations had drawn close to the same path. After the death of their mother, The Native Sibling did a lot of soul searching that is encapsulated in the collection’s brilliant lead single, “Follow Trees.”
After working together for just over a year they have completed their new video for “Follow Trees“, are on the verge of their first full length album and have their sites set on Red Rocks. BLURPPY got a chance to talk with this talented duo and find out what makes them tick. Get ready to enter the world of The Native Sibling….
BLURPPY: Let’s start with basics, give me your names, ages, hometown and what instruments do each of you play.
NS: We are siblings Ryan and Kaylee Williams. I’m 25 and Kaylee is 23. We grew up in a southern extension of Santa Cruz called Aptos, and more recently relocated to the Westside of Santa Cruz. I have played guitar, drums, tenor sax, and trumpet among other things. Kaylee plays piano, guitar, and flute. Primarily for this group, I play guitar and sing and Kaylee plays the keys and sings.
BLURPPY: Describe The Native Sibling in 3 words.
NS: Family. Healing. Story.
BLURPPY: Perfect, all three definitely come through in your songs. How did you come up with the name The Native Sibling?
NS: I’ve always had an infatuation with indigenous peoples and Native Americans. I enjoy the aspects of honor, pride and familiarity that these communities are centered around. Since Kaylee and I share many of places and memories, the “native” aspect fell into place. “Sibling” is more straightforward. When we stared recording our EP we didn’t have a name yet, and this title sat well with the songs we were creating at the time.
BLURPPY: How would you describe your music to the people reading this interview that have never heard The Native Sibling
NS: At the most basic level, it’s a brother and sister singing harmony over a guitar and piano driven folk tune. Lyrically, we find ourselves talking about experiences we have shared traveling, family issues and conversations we have shared with others. We’ve had many people come up to us after shows and express their connection to our lyrics, which has been a very humbling.
BLURPPY: It must also be extremely gratifying as an artist that you can connect with people, total strangers like that. At what age did you guys gravitate towards and start playing music?
NS: We have both been playing music separately since we were children. It wasn’t until just over a year ago that we sat down, played, and took our writing process together more seriously. We played a few covers in a pub in Ireland when Kaylee studied there and that is what we mark as our moment of realization for becoming a duo.
I had always played in bands throughout high school and toured with a few pop artists more recently. Over the last 4 years, I have been writing and recording my own music as more of a hobby due to a heavy touring schedule with other artists. Kaylee is a classically trained pianist and has always been involved in choir or band in a school setting. She’s been songwriting and performing as a singer/songwriter a few years back. With this history, it’s been great to become comfortable enough to show each other all of our demo’s and song ideas from years past.
BLURPPY: Sounds like it was only a matter of time before your paths intertwined in such a way that would make The Native Sibling a functioning, creative entity. Who are your musical influences? Is your family musical?
NS: We both tend to have slight variations in musical influence. The artists that we can both agree on are Brandi Carlile, Neil Young and Emmylou Harris. I’m also a fan on Bon Iver’s melodies and musical texture. Not all of our musical influences are songs, but rather an inspiration from stories, personal experience, and conversation. Our grandmother was musical and recorded a bit, however, the majority of our family are music appreciators rather than playing themselves.
BLURPPY: I continually hear stories about Neil Young and how he has inspired and mentored people in music. What is your process for creating a song? Does Ryan come up with the music and Kaylee the lyrics or is it a different collaborative effort?
NS: Most of our songs at this point in time start individually. We seem to get a song concept and a few chords together and when the song is about halfway there we bring it to the table. From there, we take the seed of the song and re-write lyrics and melodies and continue to experiment until we both feel content. Being a duo has been beneficial to both of our songwriting styles, as we feel that we have each other to help complete musical ideas.
BLURPPY: Writing can be such a personal, emotional experience so I’m sure it is great having the confidence and shared life experiences with each other to make this process flow better. Where can fans get all your music that is currently available?
BLURPPY: Do you guys have day jobs? I think I saw somewhere that Kaylee is going to college. What are you studying?
NS: Kaylee just graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Hydrology and is currently living and working a few part-time jobs in Santa Cruz. I am a full-time musician in Santa Monica, for better or for worse. I find myself doing a lot of freelance to make ends meet. It’s the name of the beast, I guess.
BLURPPY: How do you balance being artists with everyday things like work, school, etc.?
NS: It can be hard sometimes coming home after a long day of work in a non-creative setting. I think most artists face that and sometimes it is hard finding time and space to be inspired. With Kaylee graduating it has given us a lot more freedom. I finished college a few years ago and I know the difficulty for her to stick with it when touring opportunities and shows would often conflict.
BLURPPY: Tell us a little bit about your Kickstarter project that you just launched.
NS: We are making our first full-length record this coming March and April. It’s a culmination of songs we have written over the years and more recently. We feel really confident about them and can’t wait to record them with producer Daniel Mendez. We feel fortunate to have a platform like Kickstarter to raise funds for something we would otherwise be unable to create. You can find out more details and donate HERE.
BLURPPY: Who do YOU listen to? What’s on your iPad, iPhone, or whatever device you are addicted to?
NS: My current playlist consists of Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka, The Avett Brothers, Nick Drake and The Gaslight Anthem.
NS: The late Johnny Cash would be a dream. At the moment would be Mumford and Sons, Iron and Wine or The Avett Brothers. They all seem like very genuine people that could connect beyond the music.
BLURPPY: Kaylee, what is Ryan’s biggest strength that he brings to The Native Sibling and Ryan, same question for you towards Kaylee.
NS: (Ryan) Kaylee has a way of telling stories through song that leaves me deep in thought by the end. I think she really encapsulates the female reaction to life events as well, which is something that interests me. Let’s not forget her voice as well, very soothing and unique.
(Kaylee) Apart from the difference of a lyrically masculine perspective, Ryan has a gift for instrumentation and creating a soundscape for our songs. His work creates the heartbeat for many of the tunes.
BLURPPY: Sounds like the ingredients for a successful career together. What is one of your live shows like?
NS: It’s typically just Kaylee and I. We have been experimenting with adding a violin. We try to keep the show intimate, with acoustic music that seems to be the best approach so no nuance is lost. I can’t fully explain the feeling, but it’s happened a few times recently. It’s a complete connection to the audience, in a very effortless and enjoyable moment. It’s what makes playing live worth it and makes perfect sense all at once.
NS: We just wrapped up a West Coast run a few months ago. We have our sights focused on the album right now. We look forward to getting some dates later this year.
BLURPPY: Does The Native Sibling have a ‘dream venue’ that you would like to play someday?
NS: I can think of a few. The Rio theater in Santa Cruz, purely because of hometown affiliation. The Fillmore in SF and to the biggest being Red Rocks in Colorado. If we’re dreaming abroad, the Royal Albert Hall in London.
BLURPPY: Red Rocks seems like a PERFECT spot for you guys. When you guys play there, I want tickets! Have you guys ever toyed with covers? If so, what song(s)? If not, what song(s) would you LIKE to cover?
NS: We did a live version of Mumford’s new song ‘I Will Wait’ which was a lot of fun. We also occasionally mash up an old folk song into an original. We’re have a few ideas of covers that are lingering in our minds, but haven’t been recorded or performed yet.
BLURPPY: What has been the biggest challenge to date for The Native Sibling?
NS: Living apart. We spend a lot of time on the phone and emailing back and forth. At the same time it can also help us to focus on tasks individually, just less distraction.
BLURPPY: Aside from music, what other interests do both of you have? How do you spend your time away from music?
NS: (Ryan) I have always had a passion for motorcycles, our dad is quite the traveler by two wheels and it rubbed off on me. I raced motocross for a while in high school and have taken more interest to riding street now. Kaylee and I enjoy traveling a lot. We go on little camping trips and adventures frequently. Kaylee also enjoys painting and sustainable living.
NS: We want to focus on giving this project the most fair and honest chance we can. In making this record, we hope that to open up more opportunity for touring and promotion. We always want to keep the focus on the songs and content we release.
BLURPPY: I really loved your video for ‘FOLLOW TREES’. Any plans for another video? If so, which song?
NS: We have talked about video ideas and have made a pact to take our favorite song or two from this new album to create a visual companion. I’m looking forward to that process a lot, but it’s uncertain which songs will be picked.
BLURPPY: Is there anyone special you would like to thank for helping The Native Sibling get this far?
NS: I couldn’t be more grateful for the talented and dedicated friends we both have. They help us so much on aspects of this project that we cannot do ourselves. Their support in coming to shows and making them all a unique and special moment has been wonderful. Our Dad also has always been more than understanding and supportive about what we are doing.
BLURPPY: Nice to see the Dad shout out. If you weren’t a musician, performer what would you like to do?
NS: Something that leads to traveling a lot. I’ve had many jobs that are stationary and I find myself getting restless after the six-month mark. Beyond that, all I can focus on right now is music so it’s hard to see myself anywhere else. Kaylee also feels the traveling pull, therefore might try using her Hydrology degree in an abroad setting to help with water treatment and sanitation. She also has the dream to one day have her own piano studio.
Blurppy would like to thank Ryan and Kaylee for their time and wish them all the luck in the world. They DO have something to say and they ARE saying it in a very special way. You can follow them on FACEBOOK and be sure to stop by and check out their KICKSTARTER PROJECT. They are already 25% of the way there but EVERY dollar helps.